Why floristry skill has to be promoted

The announcement that Philippa Craddock has been chosen to do the flowers for the wedding of Harry and Meghan created a bit of a storm on the social media channels, not least the claim that she was self-taught.

“Hurrah” said the fellow self-taught brigade, “who needs bits of paper”; “Boooo” said the holders of copious bits of paper to whom using anything but the right wire would be considered sacrilege “that’s not being a real florist.”

Me? I chuckled. Not just because I discovered Miss Craddock left a very glowing testimonial on the website of the woman who, by her own admission, taught her a lot but to my mind self-taught is a dangerous phrase that can lead to misunderstanding whatever the dictionary definition may say. Because the implication is you’ve done it all yourself. And that is bunkum.

OK, a person may not have gone to college but they will have been ‘taught’ by a variety of external sources and people. Books, magazines, even our website, are read by hundreds of thousands who want the mass of information other, more learned people than them, have put together. Self-taught people go to demonstrations, often Google something they aren’t sure of and YouTube is a boon these days. Then there are the FWACERS*1 who just asks every question they have on Facebook knowing that some kind soul will answer.

On the practical side, work experience will have shown these self taughters many of the shortcuts their employers have learned over the years; heck just visiting florist shops will have given many a hint and tip for free; none of it done in a formal, long term classroom style but to me still taking and learning from other people’s experiences and past mistakes!!

And that is why I hate the phrase ‘self-taught’ being used in some self-righteous way. I am guessing that it is all part of this new wave and, in my opinion, somewhat sad rejection of formal training and qualifications; that if you say you are self-taught you are, in some way, better/more creative/cooler/edgier than mere mortals that went to college or uni.*2

But whilst I know college training can be tedious, laborious and, for many employers and students, a bit out of touch with commercial reality, truth is a good college foundation - or even a decent short course - can, and does give an all-important base. Back it up with decent bench training from florists who have at least 5/10 years under their belt and you have a truly rounded education that ensures both creativity and commercial viability.

Which is just as important to floristry as any other profession. We may not be doing brain surgery but actually the occasions we make flowers for are hugely important and, in the case of weddings and funerals, there’s only one chance to get it right; nothing worse than a floppy bouquet or a tribute falling apart and of course everything has to make money.

I am not, in any way, knocking Miss Craddock’s*3 skills but I am getting more than a little weary of this belief that doing flowers is easy peasy, lemon squeezy and that anyone with an ounce of artistic flair can do it. In my opinion if we in the industry don’t respect the need for proper knowledge and skills then why should consumers? Indeed if we don’t protect and stand up for our skills then our very profession is at risk as every Thomasina, Deidre and Harriett starts thinking they can do it.

*1 Florists without a clue

*2 No, I didn’t go to college or uni but not only do I wish I had but I am eternally grateful and fully acknowledge everyone who has shared their knowledge with me throughout my career.

*3  Since I wrote this a month ago the Royal Wedding has taken place ... Miss Craddock and her team of florists did a spectacular job.


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash