Working as a florist is a fantasy of many; days spent floating on intoxicating clouds of exotic blooms, mindfully trimming a stalk here, pruning a leaf there, and finally stepping back to admire the entire spectacle of your work. But to Emily Davies, the founder of South-East London florist, Athlyn, this dream is a reality. The self-taught florist is revolutionising floristry through creating radical fantasies in her bouquets. Athlyn brings delicate petals together with unpredictable textures, and combines classical techniques with bold colours to challenge traditional floral tropes and create impressionistic experiences in her work. Here she talks about learning her craft, the ancient culture of flowers, and her goal to create a surreal experience for her customers, as well as sharing her tips on how to design a creative bouquet yourself.

How did you get into floristry? 
After working in galleries for a few years in my early twenties I ended up working as creative manager, part of that role involved running floral design for weddings. I had never done floristry work before, but as soon as I got my hands on the flowers on my first day I immediately thought to myself ‘wow this is it’. Flowers have this healing quality, I want everyone to be able to feel that.

I founded Athlyn in 2019 after a couple years of experimenting and freelancing for other florists.

How does your creativity relay into your floristry? Do you have any particular inspiration points when you are creating a bouquet?
I’m obsessed with creating narratives for everything that surrounds me, so to be able to visually tell a story through flowers is important to me. Flowers can act as a messenger for so many different feelings; they hold such an importance across different cultures all across the globe and have such rich histories that I feel should be reflected within my work. 

I tend to draw references from everywhere, drawing on details within fashion, literature and contemporary culture and translating what those moments would look like within a natural landscape. 

Working with flowers is a really intimate process for me and there is something about the delicate nature of working with ephemeral material that makes it special and I want the people who see my flowers to feel that sensation too.

Create a beautiful bouquet at home with Athlyn

How do your bouquets differ from traditional floristry? 
There are a lot of constraints within floristry, these can start with  working with perishable materials, seasonality and then also the traditional rules of the trade. I’ve always been interested in challenging these and being self-taught I developed my own processes of working. I like to create pieces that give people something new to look at and blur a sort of sense of reality for them. I want to create a radical fantasy through flowers, something unpredictable. I select odd or unusual stems and will manipulate flowers while incorporating more traditional craft techniques like dyeing, threading, painting or braiding.

What are your favourite flowers to include in a bouquet and why?
Always anthuriums, I just love how people react to them and there are so many different varieties. 

I have a thing for marigolds, I always buy them for myself. Chocolate cosmos, fritillaria and carnations too - I like frothy flowers, anything hairy or fluffy as I love working with different textures. It’s those contrasts between tender petals and a flower with an unusual texture, like celosia, that you get to create something a little more interesting.

There are so many tropes around flowers and sexuality but a rose at its fullest, just at the point of decay is truly alluring. I love alliums too, they give you so much and create the most beautiful silhouettes and depth to a piece. 

How do you think flowers can affect people's moods? 
Nature is intimate to us, it is a part of our rituals, it can heal our bodies and transform spaces. We have a really emotional connection to flowers, they can act as a muse or messenger so I think to give someone flowers can be something really special.

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Tags: florist , athlyn