Willow Crossley is a British designer, writer and floral artist whose meadow-relaxed flower arrangements have decorated our showroom for summer events. She invited us to her house in Oxfordshire to see her work and hear about her new book Inspire.
How did you get into floristry and was it something you always intended to do?
I’ve always adored flowers for as long as I can remember; I grew up in Wales where my mother, Kate, was a serious gardener and the house was always full of flowers. I had a eureka moment though writing my second book, Inspire, a couple of years ago. Career wise, I was spreading myself very thinly doing a bit of everything- styling, fashion, personal shopping, writing etc and it was all a bit, bitty. I then starting working on the ‘Flora’ chapter and something just clicked. It made me so happy. So calm and just like it was meant to be. So I stopped everything else and focused on the flowers. And I haven’t looked back since really.
What did you do before flowers?
Mostly fashion. I went to the London School of Fashion and did a degree in Fashion Promotion – basically styling and journalism. I then worked on a few magazines in the fashion and beauty departments but never really got very far. And then I followed my boyfriend Charlie, now husband, to a vineyard in the South of France. I set up my blog, Willow Rose Boutique there and my first book, The Art of Handmade Living sprung from that.
You’ve written two books, one on handmade living and one on nature. How can we, as a commercial, excess-loving society, do more to embrace the handmade and the natural?
Put down the technology. I think the more time you spend outside surrounded by nature, the more you learn how good it can make you feel. We’re all so used to being glued to our phones and laptops every waking second that we need to almost schedule in time to shut it all down and get outside. Or even if it’s not going outside, take time to do something creative – be it sewing or knitting, writing, making jewellery, anything – it’s extraordinary how calming and stress relieving it can be.
How do you live with nature?
Every surface of our home is covered with some sort of natural creation. Be it flowers, plants, shells, feathers – the boys cant walk past a feather without presenting it to me like they’ve won the lottery – twigs, leaves – we have a Clematis plant weaving it’s way into our bedroom from outside as we speak. I’m trying to train it to weave its way around all the frames on the walls. I basically like to bring the outside, inside at any given opportunity. And most of my days are spent outside, rain or shine.
You live in Oxfordshire; did you make a conscious effort to be away from London and city life?
No, not at all. I love London. When I was little, growing up in the country, all I wanted was to be stomping up and down a pavement surrounded by skyscrapers and shops. We moved here purely because we found our dream house and we knew one day we were going to move. We also found out we were having another baby, another boy and therefore our little cottage in London was going to have to go anyway. Saying that though, having been here for a few years now the idea of living in London again slightly fills me with dread.
You have three boys. What do they love most about living in the countryside?
The space. They’re like small, explosive energy balls and need to run around 24/7. They’re at the stage too where everything becomes an imaginary weapon – everything they touch gets turned into a sword/gun/shield and I’m always made to be the ‘baddie’. So there’s a lot of walks, park life and hanging out in the garden, purely so the house isn’t smashed to smithereens.
We’ve been conditioned to believe in the romance of flowers, and their potency as a beautiful gift. What do you think it is about flowers that make us so delighted?
Their simple beauty. The fact that they’re living things. How they change in front of your eyes I think is just so magical.
What are your favourite flowers to work with?
Lilac in the winter, foxgloves and peonies in the summer and dahlias a bit later on. And then berries in the autumn.
What are your favourite flowers to receive?
Something deliciously scented makes me really happy. Narcissi from the Isles of Scilly are heaven sent in the winter but I think if I really had to choose, English grown garden roses would be my top choice.
What is next for you? How would you like your business to grow?
I’m writing a new book, all about flowers which will be out in September 2016. My business is slowly growing and I’m being asked to do more and more events which I cant do alone any more. So I’m looking for assistants as we speak and then later down the line I’d love to have a big team, maybe a shop where we’d work from and be able to do much bigger scale jobs… and then there’s also a flower box subscription somewhere in the pipeline. I love to dream!