To celebrate Christmas this year, the window displays in our shops have been created by London-based floral designer Frida Kim. Her delicate arrangements are made from carefully sourced materials, and are informed by Japanese philosophies and aesthetics.
Using dried blood oranges, fresh pines, bright Celastrus seeds and twinkling lights, Frida's Christmas installations will be suspended in the windows of each of our shops until Christmas.
What does nature mean to you, whilst growing up and today?
Nature has always been mysterious to me. Until I was 6, I lived in the rural countryside in Korea, so I spent many hours in the garden. My grandmother had a fruit farm, I have fond memories of playing around in her gardens eating the fallen fruit without any shoes on. After that, I moved to the city, and although with less green open spaces, my connection with nature always remained.
How did you first get into Floral design, where did your love for flowers begin?
Before I moved to London in 2012, I ran my own custom jewellery business. Many of my pieces were inspired by the details of flowers, trees and nature. I had always been drawn to floral design, and surrounded myself with flowers. Receiving flowers from friends and loved ones in my opinion is the very best gift you can be given. When I got to London, I reinvented myself, and took intense classes in Floral Design.
Are there differences between the flowers that surrounded you in Korea, compared to British flowers?
Korea is a mountainous country with beautiful trees, especially pine trees and many species of wild flowers. In the cities, most people live in tall apartment buildings with little green space. And in the countryside lots of houses have small flower pots. Up until the 90s, Korea had mostly oriental-inspired and traditional flower arrangements. I remember the arrangements being very compact and colourful.
When I moved to the UK, it was such a difference. The flowers were like heaven, growing so naturally, and so many different types! Today, Korea has much more variety from green houses, and many Korean florists are coming to the UK to learn and see the unique English gardens for themselves.
Where do you go in London to find inspiration?
London is full of so many galleries and museums, filled with endless creativity to learn from. The RA, Tate Modern and of course the V&A always have open doors and are personal favourites of mine.
I also love to spend my time in the many beautiful parks and gardens we have in London, we are spoiled for greenery. The Chelsea Physic Garden is London's oldest botanical garden, once used to grow medicinal plants. Kew Gardens and Richmond Park are especially nice to visit on the days where autumn is turning to winter; everything is so momentarily full of life and flux.
Can you tell us a little about the materials and colours you use in your work?
In my designs I love to work with all different types of materials, including both fresh and dried flowers. I also love to use branches, grasses, berries, dried fruits, herbs and I always spend time collecting the right mixture of materials.
For the TOAST Christmas installation, I focused on a range of shades from green to grey, playing with the tones of each. The use of different textures from each material created a unique depth to the installation, allowing it to breathe in the space around it.
I started to collect the materials for the installation in August. About half of the materials came from markets within London, and I dried a lot of the fruit myself. Some of the berries even came from the garden of my sister in law in Belgium.
I wanted the piece on the whole to evoke the feeling of clouds. Clouds have always been something I find so interesting. The structure is light and soft, and when suspended in the windows they dance around freely, and move naturally in the air that they hang in.
Is there a specific flower you love for its particular scent, colour or versatility?
There is no one flower that pops out to me, but there is a seed that I particularly love Honesty seed, also known as Lunaria. The seed pods are flat, transparent disks that almost look like paper. I just love it, both the texture and the sounds it creates. I also love Ranunculus and Helleborus and any wild flower really
What is the one tool in your workshop that you couldn't live without?
There are two: scissors and metal wire.
You ran an Ikebana workshop at TOAST, could you tell us a little about the philosophy of Ikebana and why you are drawn to it?
Ikebana is the art of flower arrangement in traditional Japanese culture. When ideographically written in Japanese, the phrase means to make flowers live. But the meaning behind the art form is far more than the physical action. Ikebana involves the spiritual connection one might have while observing flowers as they live, grow and change throughout the seasons. Buddhist beliefs and divine themes heavily influence the creation of flower arrangements in this style.
How are floral designers alike thinking about sustainability?
The biggest issue for me in floral design is the material we use. I never use oasis (floral foam) for my arrangements as it has such bad implications on environment, as well as our personal health.
Secondly, I try to use local and seasonal flowers as much as possible. This can sometimes be hard for me as I am a city florist, and I'm constantly looking outside of London, but it proposes a good boundary for me to work within too.
There is one flower farm in particular that I like to source my materials from, Nettlewood Flowers in Teddington. They are a small-scale producer, and sustainably grow cottage-garden flowers with such care and attention. They always work with the seasons as best as they can.
How do you decide on the different types of stems for your arrangements?
I often think of arranging flowers like poetry, and I follow the Japanese wabi-sabi philosophy for inspiration.
The philosophy accepts imperfection and impermanence, and the aesthetic celebrates roughness, minimalism, asymmetry and modesty. An important part of this concept is the appreciation of preserving the honesty of natural objects and processes.
With that in mind, I tend to combine fluffy flowers with more firm ones, and I contrast round shapes with more sculptural forms. I'm always putting different sizes together.
You don't need many stems to create a nice arrangement at home, sometimes just 2 or 3 stems can be the most effective. You can start by collecting a few small vases, bottles or jars. Pick out some stems and make little groups, ordering them together in your vessels.
Sometimes I use the off-cuts when wrapping gifts and making cards. You can be really creative with dried flowers, especially in the winter months.
Do you have some simple tips for drying flowers at home?
For drying flowers, it is best to hang them upside down, tied together in bunch with some simple twine. Strip off any extra leaves and hang them somewhere fairly dark, dry and away from the sun. They will take about two weeks to fully dry, and will retain their colours. You can also leave the flowers in water, until they become paper-like.
What types of flowers are best for drying?
More woody flowers and stems like roses, chrysanthemums and lavender dry really well. More delicate flowers are best suited to be pressed, between the pages of heavy books.
Ranunculus, Ammi (laceflower), Sweet Peas, Helichrysum, Globe Amaranth and Eucalyptus are some of my favourite types of flowers to dry. There are many grasses you can dry too, the fluffy grasses in particular add such a beautiful texture to arrangements.
Once dried, the flowers can keep from anywhere between six months to one year, and sometimes longer. You just have to manage the humidity of the room, to make sure they don't turn too soft.
What is the best advice you have been given that you could pass on?
Find and be yourself. Use flowers as a language to tell your story.
Images by Aloha Bonser-Shaw and Madeleine Michell.