'A Guide to Floral Mechanics' by Sarah Diligent and William Mazuch was published this month, to long-awaited delight by the sustainable floristry community. It is a journey I have not only followed closely, but have also had the privilege to become involved in, being one of the Kickstarter campaigns supporters in the first phases, and then excitingly as editor in the final stages.
Right from when I read the first pages, and saw the accompanying beautiful, yet instructional illustrations, I knew this book was going to become a much-loved handbook for new and established florists alike for many years. It is the missing piece that connects the Constance Spry manuals of old, with a thoroughly modern, ecologically aware stance.
As a hobby florist currently trying to learn how to create floral arrangements from my fledgling cut flower garden, it has been a revelation to see 'behind the scenes' and truly understand how these works of art are created. Not only that, but how they are created with care for our environment. It's high time we consigned the plastic filled Oasis blocks to history, and this book shows you exactly how you can go about it, with no detriment or limit to the designs that can be achieved.
What's more, the book doesn't lecture or dictate the type of floristry you should be doing, each chapter is filled with solely the mechanics and instructions for the types of displays that can be achieved, it doesn't seek to tell you what style you should be striving for, thus making it accessible to everyone from an occasional arranger like me all the way through to experienced florists with decades of experience. From those cutting stems from their back garden for the kitchen table, all the way through to magnificent opulent wedding arches and beyond.
I took the opportunity to explore with Sarah and William how they found the experience of writing and illustrating their fist book, as well as what their hopes for sustainable floristry are for the future.
Sarah: "When I started my floristry career I felt that there was a big disconnect - in an industry that is all about nature, I realised that a lot of processes weren’t very ‘green’ so I started looking for books on how to work sustainably as a florist. Long story short, I couldn’t find all of the info I was looking for easily. Whilst teaching sustainable practices at my flower school, I found that many other florists were also looking for a concise source of information."
William: "I found the same."
Sarah: "When we met at British Flowers Week in 2018, we briefly discussed the idea of putting together a book that included the information that both of us had been looking for. About six months later we started to write that book."
William: "We agreed on many of the aspects of the book – that it should be clean, clear and straightforward without being prescriptive about floral design in itself. This book was to only be about the mechanics. There wouldn’t be any colour in the book aside from the cover."
Sarah: "Which we spent a long working on. We didn’t want it to be a coffee table book, we wanted this to be a functional manual."
Sarah: "I think there has been a massive resurgence in the use of British flowers; a discovery of local growers, and in the same way that people became interested in where their food came from, the same is starting to become true of flowers. A result of working with homegrown blooms and flower growers is a return to true seasonality and celebrating things as they come in and out of season. I think we’re all looking to reduce our consumption of plastic. Particularly in light of David Attenborough’s documentaries. What starts off as a personal thing quickly spills into business if it’s something you and your customers feel passionately about."
William: "The awareness of quite how much plastic waste there was became apparent to the general public globally when the plastic bag charge came about. It’s nice to see that awareness is spreading to other industries including floristry."
Sarah: "There has also been a leaning toward more natural floral design as well as a movement toward seasonality and sustainability. There has definitely been a leaning towards more naturalistic floral design."
Sarah: "We hope that by setting out clear, easy to follow alternatives to standard methodology, people will give it a go and find that it’s worth it. For every arrangement in which single use plastic aren’t used, that’s less plastic in landfill and fewer microplastics washed into the waterways. Future generations may be very grateful not to have to deal with the repercussions of our dependency upon single use plastics."
Sarah: "I will be excited to see what is developed going forward."
Wiliam: "The benefits of single use plastics are that they are cheap, and only need last so long as they are in use. In the case of floral arrangements, this is not longer than a week. Better biodegradable cellophane which doesn’t cost the world would be a good start. The world of floristry is not short of brilliant minds and entrepreneurs, so I have no doubt that new methods and products are on their way."
Sarah: "We have rounded up our favourites in the ‘resources’ section of our book. One which springs instantly to mind is the #nofloralfoam movement on Instagram run by the lovely Rita Feldman in Australia."
I can also heartily recommend Sarah's fabulous Facebook Group for Eco Friendly Florists and Flower Growers Collective.
William: "Quite how much of a huge undertaking it would be!"
Sarah: "Everything! On a serious note, I wish I had better understood how many different parts there are to self-publishing a sustainably made book to a high standard. Had I been more aware, I probably would have given us an extra year to write it."
William: "I found the waiting times the most difficult. There might be a few days between sending off a test sheet to be printed and receiving it. In that time, there’s not much we could do. We wanted everything to be done well – I think there’s a bit of a stigma associated with self-publishing, and I was keen that the final product would be polished."
Thank you Sarah and William for this wonderful insight.
You can buy your copy of the book over on their website www.floribundarose.com/thebook