Creativity Found

Laura Reed – paper florist at her own wedding and believing that, like nature, you can't get it wrong

January 30, 2022 Laura Reed Episode 39
Creativity Found
Laura Reed – paper florist at her own wedding and believing that, like nature, you can't get it wrong
Show Notes Transcript

Ever since being awarded the coveted Creative Shield in Year 6 of middle school, Laura Reed was considered the ‘arty’ one in the family, and was lucky enough to have a good arts experience at secondary school too. Next came her art foundation course, which took her creative explorations in a different direction than she had originally envisaged. 

The ebb and flow of going where life takes you continued, as Laura took a job after uni that led to bigger and brighter things in the world of visual merchandising and window designs.

As we have seen with other guests, a successful design career often means that your role at work becomes less and less creative, so Laura filled the creative void with her own crafting projects at home.

Fast forward to making plans for her wedding, and, out of desire and financial preferences, Laura hand made decorations for the big day, including crafting flowers from paper. 

Little did she know that this personal project would take her in a different direction again, and that in a few years she would be making paper flowers for other couples’ weddings and window displays, publishing a book teaching others all about the craft, and even creating acrylic templates for students of her paper crafting workshops.

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Artworks: Emily Portnoi emilyportnoi.co.uk

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Claire Waite Brown:

For this episode, I'm speaking with Laura Reed, who's home crafting projects took on a whole new dimension when she made the flowers and other decorations for her own wedding. Hi, Laura. Hi, Claire, how are you? I'm good, thank you. You have left a stable full time job and are working part time as a freelance while also designing and making bespoke decorations teaching workshops and writing a book on the subject. What is the creative discipline you are embracing?

Unknown:

My specialism is my paper florist mostly. And then the freelance sort of job on the side is designing retail window displays.

Claire Waite Brown:

Brilliant. Are you from a creative family and was your education creatively influenced,

Unknown:

I would say I'm probably known as the RT one in inverted commas in my immediate family. But that's only from sort of a academic job point of view. I think my family are all quite creative. My sisters are both got proper jobs. But when I when we were growing up, my mom always used to sort of encourage us to make things. My mom's quite good seamstress and she's passionate knitter. She'll always say that she's not creative. She just follows instructions. But I disagree. Yeah, I've sort of been known as the RT one for a while. In middle school, I won the creative shield in year six. And that sort of started me down a path in a way to kind of realise that maybe this was what I should be doing something creative. And yeah, so I sort of carried that on throughout school, and then studied foundation at Kingston, and then went on to do a furniture and product design degree.

Claire Waite Brown:

Okay, so when you went to your foundation, you've had quite a good experience at secondary school hadn't. And I, I believe that you were interested in fine art and textiles, maybe going forward in graphic design, because that's what you'd had experience of. So what what changed that foundation that led you then to go to furniture design,

Unknown:

think it was just the opportunity really, so I just assumed that I would do fashion or graphics or fine art, like you say, and to get onto a degree course you had to do a foundation. So it was just kind of, I'll do that to do that I hadn't really considered that I might change directions, for the point of foundation is to kind of have a go at all of the different disciplines. And it wasn't until I was sort of made to for one of a better word, have a look at 3d three dimensional design, that I realised that actually, it kind of incorporated a lot of elements from the other disciplines that I liked all into one. So it sort of had the problem solving side for textile design. But it also was more creative. And you could be quite conceptual with it. So yeah, sort of. It was an unexpected turn when I was in my formative years.

Claire Waite Brown:

But it's obviously the 3d design is going to become very important and it's obviously useful in what you're doing now. Why do you think you chose furniture design.

Unknown:

Again, that was just really having been exposed to it during my foundation. So the the course that I did was a very conceptual course. So it wasn't really about so much about making furniture, it was more about the ideas and how people use it. So that, for example, my final projects in my third year, I made a dining table that converted into a desk, I made a set of handbags knitted from plastic carrier bags, and then a more sort of installation hanging mobile piece. So it kind of is a furniture and product design course. But it wasn't so much like design a chair design a mobile phone, I think it was the course that made me want to do that course, if you see what I mean. Because it kind of it takes a lot of the books as for me, because I wasn't really so interested in getting into nitty gritty about construction. It was more about the ideas and the design and problem solving that appealed.

Claire Waite Brown:

Yeah, I can understand I can see how that would appeal the actual thinking and coming up with new ideas. Yeah, definitely. And then I'm going to say, what happens then. So after university, you had it all planned out?

Unknown:

No, not so much. As soon as pretty standard after university, I didn't have a clue what I really wanted to do. And you're not all that employable straight from university, it would turn out, you're kind of led to believe only that you go to university to get a job, and then you leave university. Okay, so I got a job just in the local large out of town retailer addressing window displays and mannequins, kind of just felt like it wasn't just a shop job for a bit one of a better expression, I thought it would have at least some creativity in it. And I needed to get a job. So I started there basically, although I didn't love the job itself. Every every every stage has led on to the next stage essentially. So it exposed me to the world of visual merchandising and retail display. And then I sort of worked my way up slowly over the next sort of 10 years to be working in house at a retail High Street retailer, designing window displays for the global brand. So sort of every stage really right from school onwards, in a way it's sort of, there was never really conscious decisions of where I was trying to get to. It's like, okay, this is the next thing. And then okay, that's led here, which has led here, which has led here, there wasn't really ever grand plan. And I did there is one now

Claire Waite Brown:

looking back on those steps, then how does a person go from being in the shop window to then being behind a desk designing shop windows for all the shops?

Unknown:

Well, I guess, job dissatisfaction, for not wanting to be too negative I, I didn't really enjoy the actual being in the store. It wasn't very well paid. So I was kind of just looking for the next step. Yeah, like I said, it was a local, it wasn't a big out of town shop, but it was just the local one. So I started going for job interviews for regional visual merchandisers and window dresses up in London. And it was during an interview for there, I took all my design portfolio, which might have been quite arrogant, really, in retrospect. And one of the people I went for an interview, he said, Well, have you ever thought about actually designing the windows? To which I said, Yeah, but I don't really know where to start. So they gave me some contact details for different design agencies. And I just got in touch with them. And eventually, I got a job at one in Wales. So like I say, it's sort of it wasn't like, I left university knowing I wanted to design window displays. It was just the next step. And yeah, so I worked for that agency. Then I moved, we moved back to London, and I worked for a different agency. And then yeah, like I said, my last proper job was in house at one of the big brands that will remain nameless. And it was only really, then that I sort of started to think that maybe self employment might be the way forward.

Claire Waite Brown:

Okay, so I know you were dabbling in your own creative hobbies. During this time. You're busy working in the design industry, which is considered to be a creative industry. Do you think that you perhaps weren't being creatively fulfilled in the day job? And is that why other things were bubbling under?

Unknown:

Yeah, quite possibly, I think, to go back to the last again, proper job as an example, like, although on paper, I was the, I couldn't think what my title was now was something that sounded fabulously creative. Really, in reality, it was sort of one day a month coming up with ideas and the rest of the time was speaking to suppliers speaking to mark different markets, getting artworking done, it was all quite I wouldn't say boring is not the right word, but it wasn't creative. And while I do quite like doing some of that too. a certain extent I quite like the methodical nature of it. The the ratios were all out of whack for me, basically, it was just a lot of admin and not a lot of creative. So yeah, I sort of I carried on dressmaking knitting, doing sort of different bits and bobs, just as hobbies in the background. And then the catalyst to really becoming self employed was getting engaged. Pinterest was quite new then. So it was all quite exciting. And it enabled me to kind of pull together a lot of my interests and hobbies into one big ass projects of our wedding basically. So yeah, that kind of gave me the creative outlet that I wasn't so much getting at work.

Claire Waite Brown:

Yeah, you've mentioned the wedding. And you've mentioned bits of knitting and bits of other stuff. But what was it that you actually did for your wedding? And why?

Unknown:

So the wedding, it did incorporate lots of crafts, but I would say that there was definitely a skew towards paper craft. And to be honest, mostly for cost reasons. I just, we didn't want to spend loads of money on our wedding. I knew I wanted to make a lot of stuff. So it kind of started there. And I made 120 paper flowers for table centres. I had sort of drops of paper flowers hung across the room instead of bunting. Because back then bunting had been done quite a lot. So I wanted something slightly different. I wasn't thinking I want to design decorations for weddings, it was just all this is a fun project. Let's see what happens like we're just crack on basically see what happens after the wedding. And I really enjoyed it. So yeah, I kind of focused on paper craft for because because it's accessible, like papers, cheap papers, easy to get hold of, we use lots of different papers. So I used the papers on the table centres were made from music scores, and a Haynes manual, because we're quite nerdy, like technical drawings. So they were all kind of upcycled paper, which made it even more cost effective. And I sort of I had done a bit of paper modelling at university. So sort of when I was doing the dining time, for example, made lots of little MCATs to kind of work out how things would open and things. So it was kind of, again, a marrying of this sort of marrying, it's a good part of the technical background side and problem solving with something more creative. So it was kind of putting the two together.

Claire Waite Brown:

Yeah, I love the idea of the music scores in the Haynes manual, if that makes it completely you doesn't it? So it's wonderfully personal. And it sounds like it's gonna look fabulous and be really, really unique. Had you been making flowers before?

Unknown:

No, no. So I didn't make any I hadn't had never made a paper flower. So the ones that I made for our wedding weren't designed by me so much. They were just tutorials that I'd found online. I didn't actually design any flowers myself, till quite far after the wedding it like a year or so after the wedding, when our wedding planner asked me to make some poppies for a shoot for a styled shoot. So it's kind of again, step by step. It's just kind of evolved slowly over time. Really?

Claire Waite Brown:

Yeah. What happened immediately after the wedding.

Unknown:

So when I was setting up, I've always been quite nerdy. So I was quite thorough in my planning, and the setup. And then on the day, our wedding photographer, was quite gushing about it all and said how amazing it was. And she sort of said you should be doing this is a job. And although they're not good enough, and then she put some sneak peek pictures up on her social media. And one of the big reading blogger got in touch with her and asked to feature it. So yeah, we got married in August. And then I think it was featured in September. And sort of in that time, there was a bit of a mad scramble to get a website going because I hadn't, I hadn't done our wedding with a view to using it to get work. But suddenly, that's I had that. So I needed to get a website up and going and, like make the most of the opportunity of this blog post. And yeah, off the back of that blog post, I got a couple of orders. And then I got more orders and then more orders. And then it's sort of got to the stage where I was working full time. And doing this in the evenings and weekends and it got to the stage where I just couldn't do both. So I had to take the leap basically,

Claire Waite Brown:

creativity found.co.uk is the place to go to find workshops, courses, supplies, kits and books to help you get creative. So if you're looking for your own creativity found experience, go have a browse to see what's on offer so far. And if you can help adults to find their new creative passion, please get in touch on social media, or through the contact details on the website. How did you feel about me? Making that decision? How did you go about physically making that decision and becoming a non full time employed person

Unknown:

and it was quite scary because I been bought up to sort of value work and being employed, which is obviously no bad thing. So suddenly it felt like I was taking a step away from that. So it was scary. And I, it took me a couple of weeks to actually get the courage up to hammer noticing, had to keep rewriting and reprinting out my resignation letter. Usually up to that point, if I was resigning from a job, it's because I had another one to go to. But this time I didn't. So it was a bit like it was terrifying. I was had to give three months notice, because it was quite a senior role. Because it was so long, I was like, Well, another day won't make any difference. It's fine. I'll just put it off another day. So yeah, I kind of I'd had built up a few contacts in the industry by that point. And I was quite lucky to secure a retainer contract straight out of being full time employed. So I had a retainer contract, which sort of bridge the gap a little bit for me, and maybe made it a little bit less scary. And that only lasted a year or so. And I've not had another sort of long term contract like that again, but I've always had enough work. So I think I just needed to almost just do it to prove it to myself that it was possible.

Claire Waite Brown:

Yeah, no good for you, it does often take that person to just bite the bullet and go for it. Going back to the proper job, despite them not always being your favourite jobs to do are there some of the skills or learnings from retail design work that have benefited? What you're doing now?

Unknown:

Definitely, definitely even like not talking about the freelance work now, which is I basically do very similar work to what I was doing, when I was full time employed. But there's the other side of it, the paper floristry having the commercial experience, even just things knowing like how to invoice people how to file things correctly, in a business so that you can find the things and I mean, obviously accounts, I did learn how to do until I had to do it. But there's a lot of background practicalities of having had a proper job that I can, I can definitely see the value in having done before I became self employed. If I went straight into self employment from uni, it would have been a disaster to be honest, because they don't really teach you that stuff. And also just like speaking to suppliers and understanding how what formats files need to be in to speak to suppliers, and then use and all this kind of stuff, the wedding and now my business. It allows me to sort of apply the skills that I learned in a more creative field. So yeah, definitely. Although I didn't love them at the time, they definitely had value. Yeah,

Claire Waite Brown:

yeah. Brilliant. You've been sharing your skills and knowledge now with workshops, and your first book blooming paper, how does teaching and sharing compare with making? And how do you balance all of those aspects? So the actual making and creating teaching and planning workshops, or, for example, during the work on the book, and whilst also doing your design retainer work?

Unknown:

Yeah. And with difficulty. The teaching workshops, I've had people sort of say to me for a while, or you should teach workshops, and I was always a bit cagey as I don't want to tell people buy secrets. And then I sort of got to the stage where I realised that people who want to learn how to make them are not going to buy them that they're a different market. So I sort of let go of the fear. And I think I taught my first workshop must have been just after Aiden was born, and she's four and a half. So it's been four years now. And I've kind of evolved the, the format as I've gone along. So I haven't taught workshops with COVID for a while, and I had another baby at the beginning of the first lockdown. So the workshops have kind of taken a backseat at the moment. But because of that, it's given me the time to do the book and also design these template kits that I now sell. So it's sort of, again, not no grand plan. Just circumstance has meant that okay, I'm not doing workshops, what else can I do? And then the freelance work in the background is just kind of always rumbling away. Basically, I have one or two main clients that I deal with. And I just do a couple of days a week and then fit in everything else around that. The book was, that was hard to do that that was a lot of work to fit in. So yeah, I'm quite looking forward to that actually coming out this month.

Claire Waite Brown:

Do you have any preferences? What do you like to do if you could do Do one thing all the time? What one thing would you choose?

Unknown:

I think I could do one thing or the other? Or maybe that's a skill? I don't know. I don't think I think there's aspects or I've kind of enjoyed all the aspects depending on what mood I'm in, if you see what I mean, if I had a new couple for a wedding, going through the concept design with them, and finalising ideas is really satisfying, then making the things that we've designed is satisfying, and then seeing it on the day is great as well. So I, there isn't really any element that I hate or love above anything else. I quite like the monotony of sitting there and folding hundreds of paper flowers sometimes. And then sometimes that's the last thing I want to do. So I think there's there's pros and cons to all kinds of stages of projects. Really.

Claire Waite Brown:

Yeah, I completely understand that was a, that was a mean question for me. Do you have specific papers or techniques that you always use? And tell me a bit about how you've learned the techniques and how you've learned to design your own concepts?

Unknown:

Yes. So the from a sort of technical point of view of the paper engineering of paper flowers, I'm self taught. So just from experimentation. So like I say that first request for puppies, I just looked at lots of pictures of puppies on Pinterest and kind of sketched out petal shapes, cut them out and sort of experimented to check. See, if I fold it like that, what shape does it make, so it was all very experimental. And I still, if I'm designing a new flower, now, I still use that technique. So whereas if I'm making 100 flowers, I have to don't hand cut all the petals, I've got a plotter that I cut everything out on. But if I'm designing a new flower, I'm much more likely to use scissors and hand techniques to kind of experiment to get things right. I design everything in Illustrator, which again is another thing that I wasn't taught at university, that was something I learned on the job doing retail display design. So again, it sort of swings back there. I've experimented lots of different bits and bobs, my preferred tools are knitting needles, again, probably because what I had on hand, but they're quite good, because because they come in so many gauges, if you're making a big flower, you can use a nice big 10 mil needle, if you're making a little one, you can use a little two mil needles are there, I use those for a lot of the forming. It's all sort of self taught and experimental. There is actually without wanting to sound like a salesperson, there's a chapter in my new book that goes through how to design your own flowers. There's one example that uses a vintage illustration of a flower, where you can kind of trace shapes from the petals of that illustration, and then experiment with how they would be formed. And then there's another example where I've actually taken a garden rose and taken it apart, like ripped the petals off, which are a bit mean at the time. And then used the actual physical petals of a real flower to get the shapes for paper petals to then recreate it on paper. And then obviously, the more I make, the more I learn. So the less experimentation there is, the more deliberate design decisions there are. As far as papers, I tend to just use a mixture of everything really, the only, only real caveat to that is if you're making a really massive flower, it's better to use something slightly heavier weight. And if you're making something really tiny, it's better to do something very lightweight. But I tend to be drawn more to colour and texture to add different feelings and textures to the final displays than I'm drawn to. Everything must be 300, GSM sort of thing. So yeah, I kind of take papers from different companies, different finishes and mix it all together, basically. Yeah. And

Claire Waite Brown:

you mentioned about the design chapter in your book, which sounds really, really useful. What else can people expect to find in the book?

Unknown:

That's a very good question. So there, yeah, like I say, there's a chapter about how to design flowers. Then there's a chapter about techniques, so different ways of curling petals and folding petals, and then different ways of attaching petals to stems. Then there are tutorials for I forget how many I'm going to say between 10 and 15 different flowers that sort of take the techniques from the techniques chapter and apply them to flowers. When I teach workshops, we go through two flowers together. And then people get a chance to apply the techniques to make up their own flowers. And that's sort of what this this chapter enables you to see how using the same techniques, but just altering them slightly can give you a completely different flower. So for example, one of the main ways to make a petal from flat to 3d is to give it what I call a dart because I'm from a sewing background. So if you did a long Dart, you'll end up with a shallow petal, and if you do a short Dart, you end up with a steep one. So you can end up with a completely different flower just by altering something tiny. Which is why my mantra is always it's not wrong, it's different because you can't actually do it wrong. It just, it just be just be different. But like, isn't that what nature is? Like? You know, it's so you can't? There's no right or wrong answer. And that's kind of what I like about the craft. Anyone can do it. And you can't you can't do it wrong. And so yeah, they you go through how to make there's a poppy, two different types of roses. The daffodil, there's lily of the valley, lots of different flowers anyway. So yeah, after the tutorials on the individual flowers, there are seven projects, guided projects that you can make. So there's a bouquets, a table arrangement, a wreath, that kind of thing, that you can then use the flowers from the individual flower chapters, and use them in projects. And then the final chapter sort of shows you how you might apply them to larger scale installation. So something more similar to the commercial side of design that I do. So there's a window display, they're designed for like a local cafe, that is was designed specifically for the books. So you can kind of see from the initial drawings to the design work to the manufacture, and then the installation. That's it in a large nutshell.

Claire Waite Brown:

It does sound like it's got everything in it. And as an editor of such books, you sound like you must have been a very good author,

Unknown:

Laura, and quite nerdy, so I think I did, okay.

Claire Waite Brown:

You've done all the experimenting for other people, as you've already mentioned, and now you supply kits. Tell me a bit more about those.

Unknown:

Yeah, so they're not kits in the traditional sense of like, I don't cut out all the petals for you and tell you, you need to make this they've actually risen from a need. Again, it was a sort of a step by step thing that led on led to producing them is when I first started doing workshops, I did used to cut all the petals out beforehand. But then it took so much time. And then by the time I got to the workshops, I just wasn't to be brutally honest, I wasn't earning enough to make it worth my while. So I started thinking about a ways to cut out some of the prep work. So I designed and manufactured a little acrylic template kits. There's a set of different petal shapes and base shapes. And they're all strung together on a ribbon. So for my workshops, I hand one out to each attendee. And then I say, right, we need to draw six of petal one, and then three of petal two, didn't ever do like sun or flower that would make anyway. And then people at the workshop started saying, Oh, can we buy these? And I was like, no, because it was something I had just made 10 sets to take for workshop sort of thing. So then I was like, right, okay, I need to work out how to do this. So I got a load made. And people would buy them after the workshop. And as I write I need, I should probably be doing more with this, there seems to be a demand. So I then I started designing that instruction booklets to be able to sell them online to people who hadn't been to the workshop as an isolated object. They're sort of meaningless. But if you got instructions, or you've been to a workshop, and you've been taught how to use them, then you can see why people might want them. So yeah, then I started to sell them on Etsy last year after making these little design these little illustrative booklets. So that was kind of again, another precursor to the book in a way. Because when I when I make flowers, I'm like, oh, that goes like that. And then you tweak that a bit. And it goes like that. Whereas I had to actually sit down and be like, right, okay, what to think about someone who's never done this before. And you've got the shapes will have to be refined to make sure that the overlaps would have worked, blah, blah, blah. So you get this set of templates. And then it's a little wooden stick that for a curling tool in there. And like I say, these little booklets which are sort of like a mini book, I think I undersell them with all of the leaflets. But there's one which teaches you how to make stem bases to be able to put stems on your flowers. And there's one booklet that goes through the different techniques of how you can form the petals to be able to make up your own flower. There's I don't go through a specific cloud. And then there's another booklet which gives you guidance on how to design your own flower. The need forced me to do stuff as is tends to be the way

Claire Waite Brown:

it is the way Oh, lots of people from someone who initially didn't want to share their secrets now got workshops, the book templates, you've got so many ways for people to learn this technique from

Unknown:

and I think we do that more now than actually designing and making for people which kind of suits my life stage. Now, like I said, I've got two kids. Stanley's 18 months ish. And he has just started school so like, life is chaotic. So there's the days of God where I used to be able to do 17 hour days, I just, it just can't. So it's sort of, again evolved out of need, because I can't, I can't be working 17 hour days anymore. You're also

Claire Waite Brown:

enabling people to keep going at this craft, once they've started, whether it is on the workshop or straight from a book, you're helping them to keep growing and developing themselves as well, which is fabulous.

Unknown:

Yeah, that's the the thing I like about doing workshops, like I always get a bit nervous straight before, which sounds really silly. But I was like, Well, what if everyone hates it? What if they, they've come and they've paid this money, and they think I'm rubbish. But it was never happened. I've I've taught quite a few now. And they always go quite well. But like, everyone at the end leaves with at least three flowers. So we go through the two that we meet together, and then one more at least, but some most people leave sort of five or six. And they're all completely different. And that's what I really like is that we will come together, make two together, and then everyone just chats. And I'm on hand to kind of help, obviously, but everyone has learned enough, like you say, to carry on, and then design their own bits and pieces. So yeah, having that and being able to send the book or the kits to people who can't come to workshops, or who wants to continue on when they get home. It's sort of it's yeah, it's worked out nicely.

Claire Waite Brown:

Yeah, it's brilliant. I think it's fabulous. How can people connect with you, Laura?

Unknown:

So I'm on Instagram under law redesign. And then my website is Laurie designed opodo, UK, Instagram is where I'm probably the most prolifically up to date. But then there's also my website.

Claire Waite Brown:

Brilliant Thank you ever similar. Creativity found isn't openstage Arts production. If you're listening on Apple podcasts, please subscribe, rate and review. If you would like to contribute to future episodes, visit K O hyphen F fi.com/creativity found podcast. If you contact any of the artists featured sign up to their workshops, or buy their products don't forget to mention creativity found the podcast on instagram or facebook follow at creativity found podcast where you'll find photos of our contributors artwork and be kept abreast of everything we're up to