Fresh from the launch of her stunning debut faux flower collection for OKA, we caught up with Willow Crossley to ask the super-talented floral stylist and author a few questions about her life and work. Willow has styled flowers for Mulberry, Jo Malone, Liz Earle and a host of other A-List clients; she has also published three books (the most recent Flourish, came out earlier this month). She is mother to three small boys and lives with her husband and family in Oxfordshire.
Where are you right now and can you describe the view from the nearest window?
I’m at my kitchen table - I am making arrangements for a workshop that I am doing tomorrow and I am looking out at my garden. I wish I could tell you that it’s immaculate but it isn’t, it’s completely littered with more guns and tractors and small boys toys than you can imagine.
Can you describe your signature style in three words for us?
Whimsical. Wild. Natural.
Can you tell us a bit about your collaboration with OKA and the inspiration behind the bunches that you’ve created?
OKA approached me and asked me to create a line of arrangements for them using their existing faux flowers. They were happy to let me do whatever I wanted. They’re very like my usual fresh flower arrangements; very wayward, very loose, there’s nothing tight about them. I’ve named them after three of my favourite places.
What was it about OKA that made you want to work with them?
I love that OKA is such a British brand. Their product is brilliant and I think they have such great style. I also love that the company was created and is run by three friends, it feels like a big family so it’s really fun working there. I am so happy and proud to be associated with OKA; it was such an honour to be asked to collaborate with them.
Where do you start when you’re creating an arrangement?
My starting point is always the brief – I work on events so the client will usually come to me with a vague idea of what they want and I will start there. I start with colour and scale, and then I’ll think about containers. It’s a very open process; I am not formulaic. Often my first arrangement on an event is a total disaster! I have grown to realize that it often takes one of those and then it all comes together. I am such a perfectionist that it’s never a particularly relaxing process but I’m getting more able and my knowledge continues to grow. In the beginning I used to have sleepless nights and I’d have to get up in the middle of the night and run out to check that the flowers weren’t all dead. I don’t do that so much anymore! That’s the thing with flowers, you don’t know what nature’s going to do and ultimately, it’s beyond your control.
Is your approach different when you’re arranging faux flowers?
With faux flowers my creative approach is exactly the same but they are much easier, less temperamental. They don’t drop their petals on the floor on me and they live forever (and I don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to check that they’re all still alive!) I can arrange them and leave them and they’re much more malleable. But in terms of the creative process it’s the same formula.
Any tips when it comes to finding the right vase for a bunch/arrangement?
To me the container is just as important as the flowers. Try to think outside the box when it comes to vases and containers. You can pretty much use anything with a hole in it by lining it with something watertight. Empty ice cream tubs and yoghurt pots are great for this. Generally speaking, the wider necked a vase, the more flowers you are going to need. Jam jars are brilliant vessels. Bonne Maman jam have especially nice jars - I quite like leaving the paper on too. I have this game where I try and use anything I can as a container, I will take the boys round the supermarket trying to find the weirdest thing we can as a vase.
What is the weirdest thing you’ve used as a vase?
I do a lot in Olive Oil bottles and Olive Oil drums are really lovely – if you go to Greece or Italy you can bring them back, they’re amazing and very beautiful.
Which is your favourite season and why?
Late spring/early summer – purely for the choice of flowers – Foxgloves make me so happy, as does Solomon’s Seal. That time of year when everything is very fresh and springy and full of optimism and your garden is beginning to give you things, I love that time.
What plans have you got for decorating your home this Christmas, can you share any tips or ideas?
I tend to stick to greens and keep it quite tonal. I have 3 small boys so I’m trying to be a bit more relaxed this year and let them do more of the decorating. We do garlands up the stairs, holly and ivy behind the paintings and a Christmas tree with white fairy lights covered in baubles. We’ve got a great collection of Christmas baubles (we picked up a lot when we lived in France, they have such chic ones there) and I love the new Faux Succulent Wreath and Pine and Cone Garland, which is great for the fireplace or staircase.
I am usually very busy in the run up to Christmas (and this year is no exception as my brother is getting married in December and I am doing the flowers) but my husband is amazing at decorating and he really goes to town at Christmas.
What is the best advice you’ve been given about flowers?
Don’t be afraid of waste; don’t include things just because you have them. Don’t be scared to edit and don’t be scared to leave space in your arrangements.
What is your best-loved possession?
Anything in the world? It is really materialistic to say shoes? If not I’ll say my suede, gold-studded Chloe boots that my husband bought me for Christmas three years ago.
Seaside or rolling hills?
Up with the lark or last to bed?
Up with the lark
Dogs or cats?
Pub lunch or picnic?
Pub lunch. In our pub to be specific, The Bull Inn in Charlbury (bullinn-charlbury.com). The food is incredible.
Box set or good book?
Trainers or high-heels?
Poolside or fireside?
Twitter or Instagram?
Spotify or the radio?
I’ve just discovered Spotify – I can’t quite get over the genius of it.
Find out more about Willow’s beautiful pre-tied faux flower bunches here.