The power of flowers lies in their ability to bring joy, take our breath away with their beauty, and in the moments of silence as we take in the perfection of a single bloom, smell their perfume or admire a lush arrangement created with an artist’s eye for beauty. Catherine of Gathered Floral has a talent for bringing the romance of flowers into the modern age with an artistic eye that draws inspiration from fine art, vintage elements and from nature herself. There is a softness to her designs letting the blooms and foliage speak for themselves, combining colours and unexpected elements like fruit, berries and sprigs of leaves and buds that add the wild element and ‘wow’ to her designs. How can such ethereal and fragile blooms bring such joy to so many people? Catherine lets us peek into the magic behind the blooms!
How did you come to be in the floristry profession?
I actually applied to work in a florist shop when I was doing my Maths Degree, straight after school, however, back then you had to be an apprentice to work in a flower shop. In hindsight, I wish I could undo my choices, but the corporate world opened many doors, including overseas business trips and being able to educate my son in one of the finest schools in Sydney. Everything has a reason, and I’m grateful that I’ve retrained as a florist. I’m not sure why I chose floristry – it just felt right.
What was about floristry that inspired you to take the leap from a corporate position to opening your own business?
Basically, life is short and you only get one go at it! I had achieved my ambitions in my corporate life and wanted to discover another side to myself. I’m not afraid to take the lead, so it felt like a natural progression to open my own business. I’m really enjoying this next ride!
What draws you to all things botanical?
It’s real and tangible and fragile. It’s peaceful and tranquil and it’s good for my soul. I struggle daily with anxiety and I find anything botanical is calming. It’s my happy place.
How would you describe your style?
Predominately my style is messy, it’s soft and it’s romantic and it’s also rambling – like it’s hard to know sometimes when to stop adding elements. I’m very drawn to fine art florals – specifically the softness, the lighting, the ebbs and flows and you’ll see a lot more of this in my designs going forward.
How do you achieve the ‘soft, romantic vintage’ style you are known for?
Essentially through colour, specifically through the hues and tones. I prefer to move from one colour to another without causing the eye to jolt. I love a design that leaves you wanting more; this for me, is rambling design at its best. When I think of a soft romantic vintage garden – I see rambling roses, flowing foliage over archways, pretty iron lace and timber fences. The gardens are sometimes contained behind a clipped hedge. It’s neat and it’s messy at the same time. It’s cohesive and unpretentious.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Inspiration can come in many forms such as lace fabrics, especially lace flowers that have been sewn onto silks. I’m very drawn to linen – its authenticity speaks volumes. The movement of fabric has always interested me. I love anything vintage that also has a floral design component, even wood carvings on fireplaces. Inspiration is everywhere. From a practical perspective, the Masters Artworks Exhibition in Sydney was awesome in almost validating my naturally messy style!
Do you have favourite flowers or greenery that you find yourself drawn to?
Roses are definitely my favourite bloom. They come in so many colours, hues and tones. Some are simple, like Iceberg, with it’s beautiful textured centre to others which have fluffy layers and a delicate smell, like O’Hara. Local roses have the sweetest scent and delicate petals, Julie would have to be my favourite local rose. David Austin roses are so amazing, even though they re short lived, their beauty is divine. My favourite blush roses are Quicksand, Cappucino and I’m always drawn to Vandella, an ivory rose. For foliage, I love texture and variegations and wispy trailing vines and I love to include fruit in my designs whoever possible.
What are the sorts of décor elements you design for a wedding?
As long as the mechanics are sound, I can design and make anything that can be constructed with flowers and foliage. Archways are one of my favourite things to make – the fuller the better – it’s feels like I’m creating an opening into something new. I made one last week under a huge weeping branch (aptly named the Wedding Tree)and it was almost magical. But that was probably the amazing venue – The Secret Garden, in the Southern Highlands.
How do you achieve that slightly wild look in a bouquet?
It just sort of happens! At Pearson’s Flower School I was told early on, that I was the ‘wild child” in the class. I always felt so constricted in class, having to keep designs tight, neat and small. I felt a sigh of relief in Wiring class, when the teacher would let me run loose on the trailing bouquet. I would always say, “I promise the next one will be smaller, or neater, or simpler!”
To achieve the slightly wild look, you have to be prepared to be messy, to not have a complete plan on where your design is going. Let the natural direction of the blooms and foliage dictate where they will be placed. Flowers grow in groupings, so they should be placed together in the bouquet,
rather than dotted and scattered throughout. Nature is not neat and that’s its beauty.
How does foraging inspire your work?
I’m always on the lookout for interesting textures. I like foliage that is rustic, variegated, loose, bendy and untamed. It’s tricky though, because not all foliage will survive when cut, so I always need to experiment and do a ‘droop test’.
Foraging inspires me to design or mimic nature. For example, rarely do you see straight natural paths, or neatly clipped hedges. There are peaks and valleys and outliers and meandering paths. Colours and hues and tones of one another, with the occasional loud focal. Subtle changes in colour tones draws the eye from one area to another. There are no red stop lights (literally).
If a bride wanted just greenery in her bouquet and decor, what elements would you use to make it breathtaking?
No flowers? Banish the thought! I would still lean towards a few full focal blooms, but the bulk of the design would be foliage based. Good design for me, comes from the ability to bring design elements cohesively together. The foliage lines and textures are the framework. There has to be troughs and it is in these troughs, that I would place a sneaky full bloomed rose deep into a design to create interest and depth. It’s not a focal, so you don’t know it’s there. Alternatively, paint large leaves in accent metallic colours. Breathtaking to me, is creating an unexpected element or moment.
How do you ensure that you stay up to date with the current trends?
Instagram mostly, I follow some truly talented creatives in the northern hemisphere. This then links me to various blogs and articles. Also, I prioritise saving up to attend workshops or mentoring sessions, with those that I admire. I recently attended a 1:1 workshop with Cara Finch from Trille Floral. I’m excitedly looking forward to meeting Katie Davis from Ponderosa and Thyme In November this year.
When you design a ‘look’ for a wedding what elements do you consider?
Having recently completed a styling course by Ginny Au called Process by Design, I want to understand how the bride and groom want to feel, and also how they want their guests to feel on their wedding day. I send my clients a list of adjectives to choose from e.g. romantic, elegant. I then use these words to complete a Mood Board. I carefully consider texture, pigment, light and movement and translate this into the design to describe the mood. The design process then considers the colour palette, lighting, tablescapes and textural elements to ensure that I can achieve the client’s ‘look’.
How is that look achieved with so many variables at play – the flowers available at the markets on the day, the climate on the day, the venue for example?
The venue or location is pivotal to achieve an harmonious design. I like to bring in elements from the environment, e.g. many old venues will have rambling foliage which can be translated into the design. Of course this is not always possible, but it’s magic when it happens. In designing towards a mood, I always explain to my clients that its best not to dictate the type of flowers. Market flowers change from week to week and the surprise finds are always the best. Mother Nature is unpredictable and generally knows best. I love that in autumn and winter climates, the colours become warmer, rich and deeper and vice versa in the warmer months.
What do you love about your brides’ responses to your work?
My heart is usually pounding when I hand over the bouquets. It’s an honour to make the bridal bouquet. And yes, the bride’s face when she sees the blooms, absolutely makes my day.
How do plants and flowers come into your everyday life at home?
When I lived in the suburbs, I had a rambling garden, but now since moving to the inner west in a tiny property, there is no room. I take interesting plants and grow them at my mum’s place. This year I’m growing scented sweet peas which are starting to sprawl and climb. I live with 2 males, so its purposely not full of florals. The wallpaper in my bedroom is definitely unapologetically feminine and features peonies, blossoms, vines and tiny birds. It’s a timeless vintage design by GP & J Baker, called the Emperors Garden.
Do you try out and work on new ideas in your leisure time, or do you like to do something completely different from your profession?
Having been a shop owner for the past 2 years, I haven’t had a lot of leisure time. Now with the transition to being a studio florist, I’m very drawn to learning modern calligraphy. My hand writing is very neat (so I’m told), and I’m keen to learn this art. I would love to hand over my bouquets with beautifully written tags – a keepsake of the florals maybe. I have always loved textured paper. In fact, I hand made all of the invitations and envelopes for my own wedding. I also hand pressed the flowers which were placed along the bottom border to resemble a garden, then I hand wrote them all. I remember learning to write in a specific design style which has stayed with me to this day.
With her creativity and a passion for her profession, we can look forward to many new and wonderful creations coming from Gathered Floral in the future. To find out more about Gathered Floral visit the website.
Headshot by We Are Origami Photography
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