Philippa Craddock is best known for creating the floral displays for Prince Harry and Meghan’s Windsor wedding, and we invited her to collaborate with glass artist Jochen Holz for the first in a series of expert collaborations. The end result, ‘Glass Meadow’, is a breath-taking landscape of 21 borosilicate glass vessels and cut flowers, currently on display in our Mayfair store. Here our Creative Director Catherine Lock and Philippa discuss the project and the intersections between craft and floristry.
Catherine: Thank you for embarking on this journey with us, it's actually the first time we have collaborated with someone outside of the craft world to create a product. I would love to talk to you about 'Glass Meadow'. Why were you keen to collaborate with The New Craftsmen? What drew you to what we do?
Philippa: I love collaborating with different people, people who are just fantastic at what they do in their field. But also those who are authentic and have a vision which they don’t deviate from. And that is something that The New Craftsmen celebrates, you don’t hide away - 'this is who we are and who our makers are’.
C: One of the things which is incredibly important in this kind of collaboration is that that there is a sense of shared values. That you feel you are both on a similar pathway and have a similar mission in a way. At The New Craftsmen we have three words which we use as a mantra for our values: humanity, integrity and imagination. I feel these words could represent you too. You have great empathy towards people and you give people a lot of space to be themselves and you are incredibly clear on your ideas. Do you have a mantra which guides you in the decisions you make?
P: There is an amazing quote I saw in the Design Museum which spoke about how designers have a significant responsibility within society. It is exactly that. It's the emotions that design evokes that fascinates me. Even people who are not design focused, they are sometimes completely unaware of how their emotions are impacted by a particular space. It changes everything. I also firmly believe you must never take yourself too seriously either, whatever the medium is that you’re working with. So I feel incredibly grateful and lucky to be able to work with some incredible flowers. But it is the flowers that do the talking. I can’t dictate the shape and I don’t want to, I have to be honest and true to that particular flower and how it wants to be. And it is the flower that is the hero rather than the designer.
C: It really is. But it is also that intimate knowledge and love that you have for your medium that allows you to be really imaginative with it. So I think whether you’re taking a single stem or creating an epic installation, it takes equal imagination and skill to be able to confidently put it out there and create that sense of atmosphere. I don’t think that is something that just anyone can do. That is another reason why it is such a splendid thing to collaborate with you.
Let’s talk about Jochen because he is not the obvious choice, I think, for Philippa Craddock. This is an interesting one. What drew you to his work?
P: I think that is absolutely true. I like pushing myself. I love doing things that are different. I fell in love with Jochen’s wine glasses, so brave and ingenious, his ability to turn having a glass of wine into a special moment really struck me. Then I met him in person and he is such a kind, gentle, collaborative man. I also love being taken out of my comfort zone. I like to challenge things. Coming to work with you and Jochen was such an exciting opportunity to do exactly that.
C: What would you say you have learnt through this collaboration?
P: It’s been fascinating so see such contrasting working practices at play. My starting point is nature that I tweak, cajole and manipulate, whereas Jochen starts with a very fixed scientific shape and then manipulates it to create something organic and haptic in its irregular forms. Almost the exact opposite. And because of it there has been a huge element of surprise along the way of not knowing what to expect, which is exciting. Flowers are so ephemeral and I love the permanence of the vessels and that you can keep creating new displays.
C: What do you think the expert element has brought to the vessels in ‘Glass Meadow’?
P: Conventional vessels are often not truly designed with a deep understanding of floristry and how to make it simple and really easy. These vessels really take into account how flowers actually fall.
C: There is a really interesting intersection between craft and floristry. I feel that both disciplines are really capturing peoples’ hearts and minds. For me, craft and floristry are having a bit of a movement. Would you agree?
P: It’s a good question, one that’s quite difficult for me to answer as I’m engulfed in that world. When I first started floristry everything was very compact and nothing looked very natural. I think over the last five years it is gradually becoming more about capturing a snapshot of nature, and bringing that inside. I think there was also a belief that floristry was very difficult, and there was a sort of a mystery behind it. I hope that with the help of several of us florists, people are beginning to realise how easy it is. People also feel the need to get back into nature, especially with the increasing presence of technology and social media; whether that is through gardening or floristry. Just having those quiet moments to yourself where you can become immersed in something that is real and alive.
C: I certainly feel that it is one of the reasons why craft has become such a big thing. It’s an analogue, or mainly analogue, skill in a very hyper, slightly bewildering, technical world. Everything has become so intangible, but with craft you come across something visceral again. The same senses come into play with something like floristry. It is the coming together of the smell, the colour, the textures and forms which somehow engage the human spirit.
P: Yes, absolutely, I think that is right. It is that need to strip things back and rediscover the simplicity in everything. Floristry is a process and you can’t rush it. As you remove the leaves, cut the stem, and put then into the vase and you can see a beautiful curation come to life. The other beautiful thing about floristry is it goes in a few days.
C: Impermanence. Yes. I love that.
P: I absolutely love the fact that it is completely unique just for that moment. It creates a feeling. And this will never be recreated again because you can’t combine those fragrances with those particular flowers and a particular group of people. It is all of those things coming together which creates that bit of escapism. I like to make people feel safe in an environment, because when they feel safe they relax.
C: Similarly with craft, when something is made by the human hand, from the depths of someone’s imagination and skill, it can change the atmosphere of the room. I often talk about how when we are holding a cup which has been made by a ceramicist, we’re holding their expression and their personality as well. So I wonder when you started your career as a florist, how much of it was your own expression, your need to be creative and to make something that speaks to who you are as an artist, as well?
P: Yes, I think that is really interesting because I have never really thought about that. I look back ten years ago and I was just recently married, had my first child and I was still trying to find out who I was. I had always been brilliant at art but I’d never found a medium that I absolutely loved and completely got. I remember picking up flowers for the first time, and my knowledge of flowers was absolutely minimal. I knew what a tulip was and what a rose was but it really didn’t go beyond that. Suddenly I discovered something that just made sense, even if I didn’t know how it worked. When I started, our designs started appearing in publications or in showrooms and it was amazing because people would identify designs as being my designs. It’s really a positive thing when somebody says they can identify your style. I think as an artist you don’t feel like you do have a style until somebody says that back to you. And I love that.
C: So what does the future hold for Philippa Craddock?
P: Over the last ten years we have built a brand that is (I hope) loved and trusted. So continuing to do weddings, events and our flower school, as well as creating a series of products. To be able to have items that people can buy for their homes that are integral to what we do. And that is a really fun process. Seeing how it develops and how it evolves.
C: Great. What we plan to do, bit by bit, is more wonderful collaborations but in another category or field. It could be food, for example. Who would you most like to pass the mantle to?
P: I would like to pass that on to Diana Henry. Because she is a phenomenal cook. And I have many of her books. She is very honest and down to earth in her recipes, and I think it is something very raw and natural about her.
C: I’m going to investigate.
P: I rather like her. Yes, there you go.