60 Seconds with Chris Ablett
MISS ELLE’S DESIGN FLORIST, LEVEN
Meet Chris Ablett, a third generation florist with a first class degree in Floristry. A former clinical psychologist, Chris is obsessed with floral design and likes nothing better than working up ideas with wool and wire. Especially for his own wedding next year…
Why did you decide to join the GFG?
As a florist, being part of GFG is like a restaurant getting a Michelin star. It’s a sign of quality. You’re looked at for your designs, your business acumen, how you brand your business. I’m very proud to be a GFG member. It’s an important logo to have. You have been accredited by your peers and it’s a big thing for someone like myself to have that accreditation and I think it’s something that other florists should strive for. Everything I have goes out with the GFG sticker.
Best business decision?
Moving to a studio. It was scary. Not having a shopfront you worry about not having a window to the world but the beauty of it is, it is enabling us to go out and do more wedding fairs and bigger things.
Worst business decision?
There are small decisions for us that cost us money. We’re quite high end so we always went with high end products. We stocked some candles that cost an absolute fortune and we just couldn’t sell them.
If you weren't a florist, what would you like to do?
I loved the clinical psychology but I couldn’t do it physically with my spine disorder. If I wasn’t in retail floristry I’d love to teach.
Describe your perfect day
I like coming in, getting the new stock in, getting it conditioned. After I’ve done all the orders, I love creating new ideas and designs. Floral design is a big passion of mine. If I can grab some wire and some wool and play with an idea, I just love to do that. At the moment I’m planning my own wedding, so that’s a big part of a perfect day, ticking something off the list that needs doing!
What's your greatest indulgence?
My cats. I have two, Whisky and Trixie. Whisky just had the colour of a nice single malt which is my other indulgence! I’m quite keen on the Yamazaki which is a 12-year-old Japanese single malt. Every now and again, if I’ve had a strong Mothers’ Day or something like that, I’ll treat myself to a bottle and have a couple of drams with one or other of the cats on my lap. Roaring fire, wintry night, pour yourself a small malt and a good book – there’s nothing like it.
Your biggest pet hate?
My pet hate is people going into floristry who aren’t trained. Untrained individuals thinking they can do what professionally trained florists can do. You don’t have to go to college to learn floristry, you can be bench trained and learn on the job, but its pretenders to the throne that are my biggest annoyance.
What do you find most difficult?
Arrangements in foam I’ve always struggled a little bit with. When I had my spinal surgery I lost a bit of spacial acuity. Although I can do them well, it tends to take me a bit longer and I stress a little bit.
Is the customer always right?
In front of the customer, the customer is always right. One of my best complaints, they rang me two days after Valentines Day and said I’ve done everything I should and they’re dead! So I said I’d come over and have a look and I found the bouquet sat on top of their Aga! I gave them a replacement bouquet and gently suggested that they didn’t put them on top of a heat source next time.
Best piece of advice for someone starting out?
Get yourself into a shop before you even start a course and basically suck it and see. Then you can find out whether you’re going to enjoy the trade. A lot of people think it’s so easy, you can just stick flowers in foam and it’s a real lovely job. Then they come and see you cleaning the buckets and getting all the nasty stuff out of the way!
What are you most excited about in the next year?
I’m going on Fusion Flowers summer school which I always get excited about. And we have a flower festival at Burton Constable Hall and are doing an installation to represent one of their paintings.
If you were stranded on a desert island and you're only allowed one flower?
That’s an easy one for me that would be Astrantia. I love it, it looks so delicate but it’s really good for hand-ties and for gluing and it just looks amazing in the garden as well. It comes in a range of lovely colours like purples and pinks that I like to work with.
What are the local businesses you'd recommend?
FRESH EVENTS – Lisa Burke makes beautiful handwritten signs for coffee shops, weddings and parties.
POMA – They sell gelatos and ice creams and have another cafe with all Italian pastries. They’re absolutely lovely. They have a Poma pod which is on a trailer and they take their gelatos and ice cream all over the place.
91, Walkergate, Beverley, East Yorkshire.
BEVERLEY ARMS HOTEL – It’s just been pulled down and rebuilt and it’s astonishing. They’ve spent an awful lot of money and it’s the jewel in Beverley’s crown. I couldn’t recommend it enough, the service is impeccable and the food is amazing.
We do every aspect of floristry. The traditional if it’s wanted, the contemporary if it’s wanted or a fusion mix of the two. We do specialise in artificial faux botanicals as well. We pride ourselves on our customer service and our designs are tailored to what the customer wants. We’ll always make sure they get exactly what they need and we’re a friendly, family-run company into its third generation. We’ll only take one major wedding for a weekend so we don’t overstretch ourselves and we want to make sure that each wedding is done perfectly. We also offer classes so that people can make their own arrangements.