What Would They Know? Alexandra Strain of FIR Floral Design

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Polka Dot Bride
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Flowers have the power to surprise and delight and there are very few brides who don’t exclaim in awe over the flowers their florist presents them with on their wedding day. Alexandra of FIR Floral Design is a person who understands the power of flowers, leaves, seeds and pods put together in unexpected combinations, that quite simply take your breath away. Botanicals express the personality of the bride and whether they are a monochromatic, delicate pastels or vibrant hues, it takes her artist’s eye for the unusual, to know that gumnuts will look beautiful with grevilleas and roses, or that subdued greens will make oranges and yellows pop. It really is the flowers that are the crowning glory to your wedding dress, and with them the hopes and the dreams of the marriage to come are expressed. Here is Alexandra’s story.

What is your background in the wedding industry?

I was originally introduced to the wedding industry through my job as a bridal consultant at a local wedding gown shop. It was around this time that I really became fascinated with everything weddings and got a job as a casual at an events stylist. This is where my love for flowers came along, working with the florists and seeing how they set up and really created the mood of an event.

Image by FIR Floral Design

 When did you start FIR Floral Design? Why floristry as a profession?

I started FIR Floral Design in late 2016 as I really wanted to take on board everything I could learn from my floristry jobs I had at the time. I decided to study and become a florist not just because I love flowers, but because I have always seen myself doing something creative, something that is always evolving and changing yet never goes out of fashion. Flowers were always a happy treat for me at the end of a hard week. So I thought that it would be nice to give that feeling to someone else, and make it my profession.

Image by FIR Floral Design, Image by Arianna Harry Photography

Do you work from a public studio space?

Unfortunately not at this early stage, but I have always seen myself in a tiny botanicals store somewhere unexpected and inviting. This is a long term goal of mine.

How can brides find you?

You can find me online at www.firfloraldesign.com, where you will find a rough price guide for weddings and events, along with my online flower delivery shop (launching Feb 2018). I am also on Instagram and Facebook. But really the easiest way to meet me is just to email me and arrange a coffee to chat and discuss wedding/event plans.

Image by FIR Floral Design

 What is the story you are telling in your work?

When ever I tell someone about my own personal style I seem to always use the world ‘Ethereal’. Ethereal in meaning is ‘extremely delicate and light in a way that seems not to be of this world’, and I really do believe this to be a big part of how I look at flowers. To me flowers have always been not of this world, they all open differently, they all age differently. So I think every piece is telling something different, based on how it all comes together and what the client wants.

Image by Chloe Smith Photography

Where do you find the inspiration for your projects? And then, what is it about each flower or leaf that inspires you to create the unusual colour and form combinations in each project?

I can really find inspiration from anywhere, a colour, a fabric or a season. I have always had a love of textures most of all, whether it be all the different textures in grasses and trees growing in the bush or pebbles and sea sponges found at the beach. Trying to mix these textures to me really depends on what a client wants as a focal point. If this focal point is a beautiful garden rose, you don’t want that delicate garden rose competing with another silk like bloom, you instead want it to be the show stopper. Pairing it with a lace texture such as queen annes lace or the bold points of a pin cushion native really makes the individual flowers sing.

I am also a big believer in tonal work – at times my work can have a lot going on, so I do not like to use more than three colours – many times I will use a single colour in different shades. I make my textural elements the greens or the daintier fillers of the piece, so that more often than not, the focal bloom or shape of the overall piece is what you first look at.

Both images by FIR Floral Design

Are the brides you work for, looking for something different? How do they express this to you in their discussions/meetings with you?

I think most brides want to have something different, even if they are the classic bride. I think with great resources like wedding blogs, Instagram etc, brides can definitely get overwhelmed by a lot of beautiful inspiration. I think the most important thing that I discuss with brides is tones and texture, and whether or not what they have envisioned will go with what they and the bridal/groom party are wearing, along with the overall mood that they are wanting to create.

Your combinations of botanicals are really unusual – roses with native flowers, gumnuts and grasses for example. Does instinct play a role in putting together these combinations (as you create each piece)?

In most cases I tend to design based on colour tones, once I have figured out my tones I then will figure out (based on season availability) what I can work with. From there designs always need to have varying textures to keep the work interesting. Unless stated otherwise I try to cover all bases, fluffy, spikey, smooth, something with clean lines, and something dainty that can dance above the rest of the flowers. This is a mixture of what I have learnt, my natural instinct and what I observe from nature. I don’t discriminate when it comes to flowers, I think anything mixes well as long as you you keep your colour tones right and the piece has a natural flow.

Image by Chloe Smith Photography

Your work looks generous and voluptuous, yet at the same time delicate. How did your style evolve?

I think current and past floral trends lent towards big voluptuous bouquets that were quite large next to a bride. I loved this trend as I think flowers can be quite a show stopper in a wedding. However, with fabric being one of my inspirations, I look at the finer details, a bloom that will compliment the lace in a dress rather than compete with it. By using only a few bigger ‘feature blooms’ I can then create my light ethereal look with a variety of interesting dainty blooms. I think the key to my look is creating interest with mixes of foliage. Foliage’s that have small leaves and lots of movement to them when the bride moves or the wind blows.

Are the unexpected elements in your work, really your signature?

I believe so, I tend to create layered work, with a base, a middle and a few dainty ‘dancing’ flowers. I really love it when someone looks at a piece two, three or even five times and finds a flower they didn’t see before, in a spot they weren’t expecting.

Image by Arianna Harry Photography

What do you enjoy about going to the flower markets before the wedding day?

The element of surprise. I usually will know straight away what I need to order for a particular event or design, but sometimes going and actually seeing what is available can be a different ball game. There are times when I go in and there will be a bucket of something quite unusual and I almost always want to try and use it. And sometimes a visit will be the thing that inspires me the most, seeing in full what a season has to offer.

Are there more new and interesting finds at the markets now that inspire your work, or do you have a network of specialist growers who you source unusual elements from?

Sometimes my unusual elements will come from a walk in my own garden, I think it adds a personal touch to the work I do. And usually when I source something very unusual from my suppliers it’s a complete last minute thing that I see from the corner of my eye, and its a light bulb moment, its like the missing piece that I needed. I think again this is why I love my job so much, I’m always learning, and always discovering something new.

Is every floral creation loosely planned (such as colour combinations) or do you deliberately plan everything down to the last detail?
A loose plan is always in place, but of course with nature you always need to be ready to have another plan. After a meeting with a client I will usually have an idea, based on the client and their event, of what I will be making. But when it comes to actually making the piece, I tend to look at it like one big puzzle, I will know when something fits and I won’t try and force a stem in a way it hasn’t already grown.

Both images by FIR Floral Design

Any tips for brides who might want to preserve (elements of) their bouquet?

I personally love drying flowers, however not all flowers dry well. My suggestion is to pull apart the bouquet and save the elements that will dry (just ask your florist, they will know!) by hanging it upside down with string in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight. Over the next few weeks the flowers will start to dry and change colour. I love doing this, it really gives the flower a whole different life, even if its completely dried!

You hold flower crown parties? Who might these appeal to?

Anyone! If you like crafts, flowers, gaining a new skill that you can use in other ways than just making a flower crown, than its something you would enjoy. To me putting together flower crowns is like knitting, only I never really got the hang of knitting! They are great for a start of a hens day, so afterward you can wear your creation to wherever the night may lead you. The parties are also a great activity for race days, birthday parties etc. since I come to you, the possibilities are endless.

Image by Chloe Smith Photography

What do you enjoy most about working in the wedding industry?

Really for me its as simple as being able to say, that a couple liked my work enough to let me be a part of their day. I put a lot of myself into my work, so it means a lot to me to be able to share in a couple’s big day.

What do you do to wind down from a busy week?

I would love to say something interesting but, since I get up so early in the morning, the end of my week usually entails a glass of red and falling asleep on the couch by 8.30!

Thank you Alexandra for sharing your story. Adding a spray of something here, or a delicate leaf there, and suddenly you have the ethereal look that Alexandra is known for creating. That’s magic! To find out more about FIR Floral Design visit the website.

Headshot by Chloe Smith Photography

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