What Would They Know? Cat Shipton of Woods & Bloom

by | Flower Wisdom, What Would They Know?, Wisdom

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Polka Dot Bride
1
COMMENT

Beautiful design whether it’s in furniture or in flowers always catches your eye and Cat of Woods & Bloom is all about the beauty of the design of your wedding botanicals. Whether it’s adding an extra twig, or subtracting that flower stem, Cat uses her well trained eye to create stunning works of art through her flowers. What a joy to carry something that reflects you, and that you just love. After all, it’s probably the only day you’ll officially carry a bouquet – so why not something that takes your breath away? We invited Cat to share her ideas – and her thoughtful comments make great reading!

Where is your business situated?

I have a large airy studio at my home. I find this suits my event centric business model better than a shopfront. I like the flexibility that a home studio affords me as I can work late into the night when I need to. It’s also easier to take a break to refresh and renew when I don’t have regular shop hours…or also travel further for event work.

Image by Laura Slade Photography

Who or what has been your biggest professional influence?

My decision to go floral foam free in my designs has been the biggest game changing influence in my professional life. This practice sits more comfortably with my value set and I think has freed up my creativity further.

How has your training in your younger years influenced the work you produce today?

My training started early before I turned 5, picking flowers almost every day with my grandmother…being taught to look at the beauty in each individual bloom, and appreciate the quirks in twisty stems. This way of looking at blooms and foliage continues to underpin my work today. Thanks Nan!

Images by Megan Willis Photography

How has your style matured since you first started your career?

I’m grateful for all I’ve learnt from on the job learning over the years. I started formal traditional floral work at 17. I gained some great fundamental skills over the years on the job and with course work, but it’s the intentional learning and teachers I’ve sought out in the last 4 years that have accelerated my techniques and ultimately helped me develop my own style. I could list every influence and guide I’ve had but in the end, I’m guided by what makes my heart skip a beat. I think it’s more a matter of trusting my own instincts that it’s more than OK to be combining unexpected textures and colours, and that not following all the traditional rules is a good thing. I’m also more conscious now of building design that engages the senses on multiple levels.

How would you describe your style?

I think there is a strong botanical influence that comes from seeking out lots of different forms and colours of foliage and blooms. This grows from being attracted to the wildness and weirdness that nature provides.

How do you keep on learning – is it a lifelong quest to keep your ideas fresh?

A quest is a good way to describe it because I’m quite committed to keeping on learning new techniques. I do try to attend a workshop every 12-18 month to keep things fresh.

Image by Figtree Wedding Photography

You mention eco-friendly practice – what does that mean for your business?

As previously mentioned I avoid floral foam. I seek to lessen using product with a negative environmental impact. The majority of botanical material I use – probably 90% is local to my region, SE QLD or Australia. I favour low spray or no spray product. I have an extensive hire collection of vintage and recycled vessels and props that suit most couple’s needs. I compost most of the green waste or use it as mulch under my trees.

You love to use unusual colours together such as rust and grey or apricot and deep red. Does this happen organically because you love colour, or are your colour choices deliberate for each project?

It’s a little bit of both. If I’m on a shoot I often am able to put together colour combinations that I’m drawn to that may not be widely chosen. In turn these images often attract couples that would like me to put together colours that reflect their preferences and might be an extension of what I’ve portrayed. I still get plenty of requests for classic white, cream and green, or blush and pinks, but I think people can see I’m open to exploring the less classic combinations too. I think my love of colour comes through in all my work, whether it’s gentle or bold.

Image by Shae Estella Photo

You also use lots of unusual plant material to give your arrangements that point of difference. Are these planned or do you find that ideas come to you as you work, adding bits and pieces as you go?

I ran away from a Masters program where I was working towards being a reference librarian in favour of my current career in floral event design. I am at heart a curious researcher. I seek out people passionate about growing a wide variety of foliage and flowers beyond the flower markets. I see this network of growers as part of my botanical archive that I can dip into to mix and match to suit individual couples event design needs. So, it’s a very deliberate strategy, but in the moment, I may go forage to give a design a few more twisty stems, or decide that a design is best served in practice by subtracting something that in theory I thought would work. I’m a big believer in giving flowers enough room to keep their individuality and love a bit of negative space. I love leading the eye around a design to see all the different bits and pieces.

Left image by Chesterton Smith Photography, Right image by Dearest Daria

How long does it take to create pieces and set up for the wedding? From sourcing the flowers to the end of set up…describe your day.

This is a harder question than you may think as the wedding day is the end point florally of months of work. The wedding day florals shorter cycle begins two days before the wedding. I’m usually picking up orders from the markets and growers, and adapting designs to the available product. Sometimes demand outstrips supply and I need to find substitutions. Or sometimes nature is both bountiful and fickle. Flowers aren’t blooming in their expected seasons. I advise couples that I will look for the best quality I can find, closest to creating the overall design feel I can. This can take a few hours as I add different hues and textures till the mix is right. Then it’s travel time home and a few hours where I prep the flowers and foliage in a form ready for the next day. I usually also prep vases and vessels with greenery and prep candlesticks if needed on this first day too. The next day is full production mode, where I create arrangements that are able to travel well. Then I usually create bouquets in the cool of the evening and corsages, floral head pieces and boutonnière early on the morning of the wedding to ensure freshness. I double check the bouquets and add or subtract as need be. I find sleeping on a design very helpful as my mind problem solves as I sleep. Then it’s a careful packing bouquets and bouts and material to be installed on site. I try to deliver bouquets and hair flowers in time so that photographer can take shots of bridal flowers incorporated into hair styles, the first look at a bouquet or a loved one pinning a boutonnière onto the groom. I like to set aside 5 -10 minutes to show the bride and her maids how to hold their bouquets. Then it’s off to bump in the ceremony and reception site florals, usually in a tight two-hour time frame. I’m often putting cake flowers on while the ceremony is on, as many cake makers deliver around that time. If the weather conditions aren’t too harsh I often recycle flowers from the ceremony to use as a bonus to the reception floral designs. By this time, it’s often 4 o’clock and it’s time for a late lunch and cocktail … Later in the evening it’s back to bump out …or sometimes if it’s a very late reception the venue allows you to pack down in the morning. So, all in all wedding day florals occur mainly within a fairly full on 72-hour time frame.

Images by Shae Estella Photo

What do you see the trend in designs for weddings in 2017/18? What’s the next big thing in floral design?

If anything, I think that individualism is the trend. Maybe because that’s my particular focus, that’s what I notice. But I do see couples really incorporating colours meaningful to them. We live in such an image rich world that Pinterest, wedding blogs, Instagram and Pantone led colour schemes do inform couples choices though. I have noticed more requests for black and moody colours have increased, but so too has greenery driven design…I have noticed people have become quite discerning with florals and aim more for one big ceremony statement installation rather than lots of little aisle posies.

Please describe your flower crown workshops…

I got a little caught up in work and renovating my house this year and delayed the launch of my flower crown workshops till 2018. I’m aiming at holding workshops in the city, country and coast where you can bring different generations together to have a cup of tea or a glass of champagne and something to nibble on while you create something pretty to wear in your hair. This type of workshop can provide an alternative to a big hen’s night, or it can be the precursor to going out for a night of dancing with flower crowns made by you till the sun comes up …

Left image by Shae Estella Photo Right image by Trevor Mark Photography

Every bridal couple has a ‘story’ . How do you interpret that across all the botanicals for the wedding? Where do you begin with a couple, what is the process of discovery?

It begins at the enquiry stage as I gather information in emails and a phone call. If clients are able to we often meet at their venues. After giving a quote and taking a booking fee I draw up a more comprehensive proposal based on their preferences. I try to get to who they are as a couple, what their values are, what drives them, what brought them together, what brings them joy, what connects them to their family, friends and community. Usually choices they’ve made regarding venue choice, photographers, gowns and suits, numbers of guests help guide floral choices too.

Image by Megan Willis Photography

Are you able to leave your work ‘at the office’ or are you always surrounded by flowers?

To a degree, I’m able to leave my work at work, but it’s a way of life to me. When I’m out walking, I’m looking to what’s blooming in people’s gardens or looking for forageable material. When I go on holiday I’m often incorporating a design workshop. I’m partial to the odd ‘Margarita management meeting’ with my fellow floral designers…

How do you spend your relaxation time?

I read a lot. I make time for family and friends. I travel to New Orleans whenever I can to refresh and renew my spirit. I try to seek out all sorts of live music. I love talking with other creative people. I like exploring art galleries. After a year of renovating I’m looking forward to entertaining more this summer and in 2018. I like trying new recipes and cocktails too… I’m trying to walk on the beach more in the evening and the rainforest of a morning. But it’s as with all things, finding a balance between work and relaxation. If I don’t relax my work suffers. So I’m working on bending time to fit in all the things.

Thank you Cat for sharing your story. I love the description Cat gives of preparing for, and on the wedding day – it shows just how hard our wedding vendors work to create the perfect day for you. To find out more about Woods & Bloom visit the website.

Headshot by Erika Parker Photography.

COMMENTS

MAKE A COMMENT

We ask that the comments you leave on our site are respectful of each other and the personal stories that are told. We reserve the right to remove any comments that do not fall within our site policies.

*

Trackback from your own site.