Dandelions & Grace, a love story with France
Claire is the lovely lady behind Dandelions & Grace. She designs flowers for weddings and events as well as providing arrangements for private villas and yachts. She is based on the French Riviera and covers all of the Provence area. I met Claire for the first time through a mutual friend, Jules. Jules had organised a social meet up between women entrepreneurs before Christmas (back in 2019 people, 2019 !!!) and she helped us make beautiful Christmas wreaths. Claire is British, and studied French and business at university in the UK and her course included a year of study in France. Once her degree was completed, she decided to come back to France as she loved it so much. She moved in 2002, and is still here 18 years later ! Like many women who become mums, Claire decided to pause her corporate career and do something she had always longed to do but never quite had the courage to!
When we met for our shoot, we chatted a fair bit about working again and the questions surrounding our skills, competence and confidence, as work is picking up again slowly. It seems that the impostor syndrome has been showing up after months of down time. I definitely felt it on more than one occasion in the last few months. Have you felt wobbly too ? How have you coped with it ? I hope we are able to be gentle and trust ourselves; we may feel a little rusty but we are here, showing up and making it happen.
I was lucky enough to create a flower bowl under Claire’s guidance, and also photograph it in her atelier. Claire’s generosity and softness, combined with her sense of beauty and her skills make her THE florist you want to have preparing your blooms on your special day. And also a great person to have a
coffee cuppatea with and a good natter.
And here are Claire’s words :
“I have loved flowers and have been passionate for all things floral design as long as I can remember, so I decided to enrol on a professional floristry course in the UK. After completing the course, I returned to France and worked as an assistant with an event florist before setting up my own company. I run my company from home, in Plan de Grasse, and (as we have grown to know more about that in the last year or so) it can be tricky as work tends to spill into the house. For me, that literally means an ever growing collection of vases taking up an increasing amount of space!
I often get told it must be so lovely to be a florist working with beautiful flowers.
It is! Selecting flowers from the market, getting creative and designing is the best aspect of my job but is only one part of it. No two days are ever the same. Like all small business owners you have to wear multiple hats, and I am also responsible for marketing and website design, photography, social media, accounting…. the list goes on! All these aspects need time and focus so I can appeal to clients and build my business. I love the flexibility being an entrepreneur brings, but there are also challenges that come along:
- Finding the right work-life balance can be tricky and at the beginning Claire remembers saying “yes” to everything even if it wasn’t beneficial to her brand or bank balance ! Her busiest time is during the summer months with most weddings and events taking place over a weekend which means she is rarely with my family other than when she takes them along to help!
- The quieter months drawing up proposals, updating my portfolio images etc… is mainly spent on my own in front of a computer and can feel a little quiet after the buzz of the summer. Thankfully, I have a community of florists that either I met in person through work or on social media and the virtual support is always a welcome boost!
Being asked to ‘do’ someone’s wedding flowers is very special and I feel a sense of privilege along with a rather large amount of responsibility!
“I must admit my stress levels are high in the lead up to the main event. It takes so much careful planning but with the Riviera summer heat those plans have to be implemented in such a short space of time.”
I order my flowers from the wholesale flower market in Nice where there are selections of local growers and flowers from Holland. Floristry styles are slowly evolving in France but initially my flower requests were met with rolled eyes and the customary shrug of the shoulders! I have had endless sleepless nights before going to collect an order never quite sure if I would receive anything resembling my request. But being a florist has made me very adaptable!
Trying to keep flowers looking their best in 40 degree heat will always be a challenge and I will invariably look considerably more frazzled at the end of the day than they do! Unfortunately, the image of wafting through flowers in pretty summer dresses is a myth! I am lucky to get to work at some amazing venues across the riviera and also with some really fabulous clients some of which are now friends.
2020 was a tough year and unfortunately like many industries it has impacted the events industry dramatically. The first lockdown was personally very difficult as I saw all my guaranteed income for the year disappear : all my confirmed events and weddings either cancelled or postponed to 2021. Luckily, I could offer flowers to private clients and yachts over the summer period when restrictions lifted briefly, and also over Christmas with my annual wreath making. I am determined to see the positives and the benefits of added time at home which have allowed me to spend more time with family and also create and experiment with arrangements. 2021 is still uncertain for events and I am bracing myself for another difficult season, but I love my job and I remain positive. We will be able to celebrate again and I hope to create beautiful wedding flowers again soon.
Next up will be the turn of Johanna Rossi, who took me on a very long but beautiful hike for our shoot.