Set design, art direction, styling and floristry, there seems little that East London creative Emma Weaver can’t do. Tired of a life of shoot styling, prop design and endless days on set, Emma turned her hand to the art of flower arrangement late in 2013, enjoying fast-tracked success thanks to her undeniable aptitude for all things green.
Aptly titled Palais Flowers - Palais is French for Palace - Emma’s studio is wild and filled with quirky brick-a-brac, rare flowers and freshly cut foliage bursting out from every nook and cranny. Her handcrafted bedroom, artfully situated within her floral studio, is reminiscent of a cabin in the woods; an ode to her handiness with tools and ability to source raw materials and construct beauty from them. Glasshouse took a peek inside Emma’s world last week with a visit to her studio, to find out more about her inspirations, her work and her all time favourite flowers.
Growing up in Shakespeare’s idyllic hometown of Stratford Upon Avon, Emma and her family were always connected with the outdoors. Growing vegetables and keeping flowers as a child, Emma attributes her innate knowledge of plants to her country upbringing, the depth of which even surprised her when she eventually went to train professionally.
“I’ve always had an interest (in flowers) and as soon as I thought ‘I want to do that’ I started to realise I already knew the names of loads of flowers and plants.”
After graduating from high school, the creatively inclined teen thought it only natural to pursue a career in art although quickly realised she’d struggle to earn a crust in the art world’s cliquey and frustratingly slow moving circles.
“I went to Saint Martins and studied Sculpture and the whole time I was wondering ‘how will I ever get a job?’ And then I thought I would try to get work in set design so I started assisting on loads of adverts, music videos and a couple of feature films”.
Armed with a newfound career path and thanks to her maiden job on a Kylie Minogue music video, Emma quickly ascended to the upper echelons of London’s best prop and set designers. But despite her successes, the burgeoning florist didn’t feel fulfilled by her role.
“Everyone who does it, that’s their whole world. I didn’t mind prop making, I just hated being on set… and I feel like if I do have to work a lot of hours, I should really love it. I just never really loved it”.
Finally throwing in the towel in mid-2013, Emma decided to pursue a career in flowers, something she’d always been quietly interested in.
“I went to a flower school in Knightsbridge. It was very 90s and traditional but gave me the skills and confidence to start up immediately. We were taught a lot about the business behind the flower industry, which has been so important in the start up phase of my business”.
Flower lovers from all walks of life made up the course, from car retailers to bankers to IT professionals, with most of the students still professionally employed and toying with the prospect of floristry as a career change. But for Emma it was love at first stem.
“I was like ‘I want to do this now!’ It’s was a very expensive course and very fast paced but definitely worth it.”
Thankfully, Emma’s investment paid off and she opened her own outfit, Palais Flowers in 2013. Based in the heart of East London’s Limehouse, the talented arranger picked up clients fast, mostly doing weddings and other boutique events since starting her business. But where on earth do all the flowers come from? Ethical flower sourcing is something Emma feels strongly about, building a business off the back of seasonal retailing and a strong network of local growers.
“I am working on a couple of homegrown flower projects, which is really fun. I think it is so important to know where the flowers come from and how they are grown.”
Buying from London’s Covent Garden, Oxfordshire and Cornwall as well as other counties with in the UK, Emma has crafted a reputation as an expert in sourcing, with a focus on wild and untamed aesthetics (“we love herbs and anything that grows on the side of the road” her website proudly states) as well as strong roots in traditional design. The most traditionally focused events are, of course, weddings where Emma’s skill set can truly shine. A wedding is one of the most memorable moments of many women’s lives but the flowers often receive the least planning and prep.
“It seems kind of silly because the one thing you remember about the wedding is the photographs. In London, everyone wants a really cool trendy venue, then maybe the dress, then food generally, then flowers – for me, that’s odd.”
People who are serious about wedding flowers however, have found a haven in Palais Flowers.
“Pink, white, burgundy and navy are popular wedding colours. If I were getting married I would do blue and white and loads of foliage…”
Just like any type of creative consumption, flowers are influenced by transient trends, much like the worlds of fashion, art and beauty. When asked about trends Emma quipped:
“I mean, I don’t feel like I’ve been doing it long enough to make an informed judgement on that. But trends are quite instinctive by nature and I guess peonies and delphinium are really popular right now, and everybody loves hydrangea and anything in pastel shades. Dior did a big show with orchids recently so now everyone thinks orchids will be cool again. I’m not sold on them just yet…”
A quick wiz around Emma’s studio leaves no doubt that the florist has her finger on the pulse, the room is literally bursting with unusual shades and rare breeds, but with so much time spent around flowers of all shapes, sizes and colours is it possible to ever pick a favourite?
“I really like scaboisa, they’re a really big UK flower. I used to love hydrangeas too but you end up getting sick of flowers that everyone likes. Chocolate cosmos are also seriously cool”.
The curse of the trend strikes again.
Despite currently focusing on weddings, Emma is no one trick pony. She’s worked with jewellery companies, fashion and beauty brands plus decorated restaurants and venues, and she’s keen to diversify even further. One thing that sets her apart is her connection with edible flowers, an interest she’s started to monetise by offering edible arrangements and cake decorating.
“Each flower has a very specific taste, so we’re picking the flowers for the cake flavours based on that”.
Thanks to Emma’s careful eye and love of her craft though, her edible flowers are of the highest quality. It’s yet another discerning and finely honed skill that is all but unique to the florist, and is set to guarantee Palais Flowers a long and prosperous run.
With some many fast-fashion florist dominating the high street, Palais Flowers is a truly special and undeniably rare find. The daughter of cottage gardeners, who went on to study art at St Matins and work for Miley Cyrus (but that’s a story for another time!) has finally found her feet amongst the florals, curating a wild and beautiful world in which all are welcome.
You can find Palais Flowers online at www.palaisflowers.com
Photography: Jessica MacCormick, follow her on instagram
Interview conducted by Olivia Crighton
Hair (colour, cut and styling) by Olivia at Glasshouse Salon