I had taken a few flower classes overseas before this, but none had really shaped my floral journey as much as this 1-to-1 masterclass with Hye Ji.
By then, I had been a year into weddings and was looking for some extra guidance with hanging installations, which were all the rage in 2019. I also wanted to try a more wild style, which I'd constantly gravitated towards but never had the chance to try out (cappucino and quicksand palettes, looking at you), so i left that entirely up to her to decide.
Back then, Hye Ji owned a chic storefront in an Itaewon neighbourhood near the House of Pancakes, but her interior was furnished exactly like a rustic English house. We sat at her raw wood dining table next to the fireplace and looked through images, talking about the importance of having non-flower references to inspire shape, line and texture. I saw my first forget-me-nots in the cutest blue, nigella and got uncomfortable with the dried white amaranthus. And then we built, quickly, while her cats watched.
She reaffirmed that there is no "right" way to do a certain thing - like to perfectly spiral a bouquet, which I was obsessed with then, because she does hers "X" style where stems are stacked and crossed in no particular order except how the flower stems speak to you. That hanging installations come possible only with venues intentionally designed for them and that some artfully-placed branches stay for the sole purpose of photos because flowers and structures just have their limitations.
Her words hit the perfectionist in me hard. As artists, there truly is no greater critic than ourselves. Ask any florist and they might tell you frankly a stray comment that has stuck with them for life. For me, it was one client calling my arrangement "pathetic". "Never apologise for your art", she'd told me after I confessed over tea.
Even now, this still sticks with me: with budgets, seasonal floral unpredictability and variations in interpretation, professional florists like me manage more than just art. We need dignity and confidence in our work to make a business last and if that will not come from a client, it has to come - reasonably of course - from ourselves.