Q&A with Anna Potter,, author of “The Flower Fix”

Anna Potter is the florist behind the Sheffield flower shop Swallows and Damsons. Her style of arranging has a luxe and wild feel that uses containers of all sorts and moves beyond the confines of blooms in her decoration – incorporating foliage, fruit and vegetables, sea shells and most things that grow out of the ground. In her latest book, The Flower Fix, Potter presents inspiring modern arrangements that will bring a floral boost to your home with 26 tailor-made combinations of flowers. Read on to learn more and enter below to win one of three copies from Quarto Publishing Group.

1.  In your book you talk about the many benefits
of flower arranging.  What does flower arranging mean for you and do for
you on a personal level?

For me, flower arranging is a place somewhere
between chaos and order, where the wild rules and the only thing for me to do
is pick out the tones in a room, position a vase or imagine a narrative.

Over the years my preferred style of arranging
has shifted from using the flowers I like, in the type of vessels I like, to a
less controlled flower-led approach where more attention is paid to the natural
curves and bends of certain flowers that might be better suited somewhere I
wouldn’t have instinctively thought. Flowers I don’t really like to make
arrangements with, when used in new and different ways that reflect their
natural qualities and the environment they are in, are powerful enough to
change an opinion entirely.

How does your book help those looking to play, experiment and create atmosphere
with flowers?

The book describes and suggests many ways we
can be creative and playful with flowers, and helps to think of
outside-of-the-box arrangements and creations.

I spend so much time planning to the very
finest detail weddings, events and the family calendar that every now and then
it feels in equal parts creatively freeing and terrifying when all the spinning
plates stop and all that’s left is some ingredients, a space and world of
possibility. It’s in these times I’m reminded by Carl Jung’s words “The
creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play
instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects
it loves.”

Even if not by default I would recommend to
anyone this practice. An exercise in unplanned creative play, whereby expectations
and preconceived ideas are left at the door. To go as far as even the daring
possibility of not photographing the final piece.

You have owned a florist shop since 2008 – Swallows and Damsons.  Tell us
about your journey to becoming a florist – how did that happen?

My flower journey really began when I was just
a small child, we had a big garden growing up and my Nana used to grow many
different varieties of roses which I used to enjoy picking and pulping the
petals into perfume. I’ve been entranced with flowers ever since.  I completed a degree in Fine Art and after
that was fortunate enough to get a job at a small flower shop in Sheffield. It
was there I realised floristry was the perfect fit for me.  I worked with florists who had differing
styles but eventually began to feel creatively frustrated. I wanted to work in
a more natural, garden style and there was nothing really around like that at
the time. I founded and opened Swallows & Damsons just over ten years ago
so I could create the style of flowers I was drawn to. We still remain a little
shop in the heart of the community creating bunches for all life occasions
whilst reaching a worldwide audience on Instagram and working internationally
on editorials, weddings and commissions.

4. You have an amazing following on Instagram for Swallows and Damsons– 181k followers.  What do you attribute this successful following to?  Why do you think people connect to your photographs the way they do?

Thank you so much. At the time we joined
Instagram it was much different to how we know it now, so timing has really
been on our side. I think engagement on other accounts, quality photography and
creativity, as well as positive messages grounded in reality have all played a
part in our growing following. I think people connect with our photographs
because they’re quite different to other floristry photographs out there.  We only ever use natural light in our
arrangements. I love one directional light, like an old Dutch Masters painting
where half of the arrangement is almost covered in shadow. It adds a mystical
element where the viewer can really use their imagination.

Where are the flowers from your shop Swallows and Damsons sourced from? 
Do you maintain personal flower gardens that you take cuttings from for your
shop? What flowers do you recommend be grown in a personal flower garden for
those wishing to foray into flower arranging?

We use a mixture of wild and foraged and shop
bought blooms. Foraged branches and foliage add a wild and an unruly backdrop
for the more structured blooms. Most of our designs incorporate elements of

I have a small wild unkempt garden at home where
I grow special varieties of flowers that are difficult to get hold of from
flower markets or growers. They have to be kept out of the reach of two
adventurous children who, like myself, are curious and enjoy dissecting them.

Some favourite flowers for arranging of mine
that are grown at home are bearded iris, tulips, dhalias, cosmos and astrantia.

What are some secrets to making beautiful flower arrangements? 

Flower arranging can be a contemplative practise considering each
stem, its curves and bends, getting to know the weight of a heavy bloom and how
strong its stem is – all have huge implications as to where best to place them
in a design where they’ll best be seen. Working with a natural product is an exercise in letting go of control.
If something happens to it that you don’t expect or even ‘a mistake’ then if
you embrace it and it can lead you somewhere you haven’t planned. The more
controls you impose then the less creative it becomes. You can miss something
new that way.

So much of the media is about creating the
‘perfect’ body, face, lifestyle and this notion is counter to a natural style
of floral design. There’s individuality in a misshapen bloom, potential for
amazing shapes in a wonky stem, detail and pattern in a battered and torn leaf.
The weathering and time worn marks are a testament to the miracle that even
through the harshest conditions of breaking through the dirt and being blown
and beaten in wind and hail or scorched in drought, a bloom in whatever shape
or form is to be celebrated.

So by letting go of what we are told is
desirable, fashionable or something of beauty we are free to create a bouquet
unique to ourselves, whilst celebrating nature’s truly marvellous treasures.

Enter to win one of three copies of The Flower Fix!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight (EST) on Sunday, June 16, 2019 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

What flowers do you feel create the perfect flower arrangement?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See rules for more information.)

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