Kate Southon of Millicent Green shares her story of changing direction at 41.
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.……”
I have always loved this Dr Seuss quote from “Oh, The Places You’ll Go.”
Not knowing what I wanted to do, I wandered through a double degree at Monash University in Arts (Psychology) and Business (Management) Whilst this gave me some great experiences and I worked with some wonderful people in Global Marketing for wine and streetwear, I could never say that I ‘loved my work’ and was so envious of those who did.
After becoming a mummy to Mary (Now 8) and Hugh (now 6) and my husband had a successful plumbing business, I was able to explore what it might be that would make me happy. I am very lucky and grateful that our income was not reliant on me so I had the opportunity to do this.
I have always appreciated and had an eye for form and beauty in things with a special love of botanical arrangements, greenery, herbs, cottage gardens and unique blooms. My floral journey began with a one day workshop with Debra Hayes in 2016 where we visited the markets and chose our own selection of blooms to create with ! It was amazing!
I believe so strongly in face to face connections and old school conversations so just like Dr Seuss said, “I had feet in my shoes”, and I hit the pavement to speak with florists, young and old about their journey, the industry, and different pathways that I may take. This lead me to my very first job at a beautiful retail florist and I have been lucky enough to be working in floristry since then..
One challenge I have faced has been acceptance by some formally trained florists and my own anxiety with a lack of confidence having not followed a more formal path.
A turning point for me was attending the masterclass in Sydney with Mr Cook, Aleksandra and Jardine Botanic when Sean spoke of his background and how he began his career. I felt like he had given me a ticket to say “It’s ok, you didn’t go to Tafe but floristry is a trade and you can learn on the job.”
I have invested many hours volunteering, attending paid workshops and courses to not only learn and build my confidence but so that if someone is to pay for my services I know I can deliver a level of quality that they deserve. Regular freelancing work with Rachel from Soul Flora, has also taught me a great deal.
Being new to the industry I have found costing/ quoting challenging, as well as my lack of knowledge regarding flower types/ names/ behaviour and seasonality.
How would you describe your style / philosophy.
Hmmmm this is the first time I have been asked this! I guess I thought about it when I was creating my name “Millicent green” . Millicent being the name of the beautiful tree lined street where my mum grew up in an old Victorian house in Melbourne. My Nonna always had the most beautiful garden.
My style is definitely “of nature” – nothing, stiff or forced, I struggle with the term modern, as I lean much more towards designing pieces that are natural and freeflowing. The colours I align most with are vintage, creams, peaches, ‘dirty pinks’ and brown. I love using dried flowers. My least favourite colour is and always has been bright purple!
Where does your creative inspiration come from?
I think consciously and subconsciously my inspiration comes from florists who I admire and connect with, – from Gaby Neylon making bunches for a local store with the most incredible flair for colour and texture, interstate with Jardine from Jardine Botanic and overseas to Katie from Ponderosa and Thyme. Without doubt we are inspired seasonally, as we have seen recently through autumn with beautiful maple, peach and burgundy’s which has been one of my favourite colour palettes.
Your flowers / suppliers? Where do you source your flowers?
Usually from large wholesale suppliers we have here in Perth, Floraco, Everbloom and Tesselaar.
What are your thoughts on local, field grown flowers?
I think striving for more local, field grown flowers is a wonderful thing. Not only to support farmers, shorten lead times to the end customer. Here in Perth many of the local growers have had to close due to price competition from the larger wholesalers which is a real shame. Much of our stock is imported either from overseas, or the East Coast pushing up price and reducing quality/ freshness but necessary to meet volume demands.
Tips to brides who are in the planning stages?
From what I have learned so far it would be to go to your florist with a feel, a look, a colour scheme and let her work her magic. Flowers and supply are seasonal and inconsistent and to be too specific in exact details can lead to anxiety and some disappointment. A wise lady once advised me, to decide what you want to focus on at your venue, – is it a large installation ? If so put your money toward that and make it the best it can be, you don’t need much else. Simple beautiful styling and lighting can be key to creating a beautiful space.
Avoid clear marquees in summer!!!!
Most memorable gig?
That would be a freelance job for Soul Flora with a beautiful brief and then trusted autonomy with a fellow florist to do the job whilst the owner of Soul Flora departed to manage another wedding! It was a hot and sweaty marquee job but I was so proud of the outcome.
To be a truly collaborative florist and creative, I want to work for people, with people and have people work with me! Not limited to weddings but taking a broader approach to events, markets, retail spaces, homes, workshops, – connecting with community through all aspects of life.
Finally I really hope to inspire young people to do what they enjoy and choose their own path even when you are told “no”. At school, I was steered towards a “career” with “employment opportunities” when what I should have done is chosen a course that I would enjoy, with like minded people, and then see where the path lead. And if you are already on your path and are unhappy, it is never too late to change!
Kate is a freelance florist working in Perth but moving to Melbourne soon!
Millicent Green – firstname.lastname@example.org
Feature image: 1:1 class with Zinnia Floral Designs photographer Natasha Pawlowski