Interview with a Part-Time Florist
✨ LUCY EATON
Current figures from Casting Call Pro (CCP) state that only 2% of actors in the UK earn over £20,000 a year from actual acting.
As almost every actor you ever talk to will verify (whether they're 21 or 61), when you leave drama school you are told "this is bad time to be entering the industry", so let's just call a spade a spade: It's never a good time! But as Michael Simkins says, although "it has always been a notoriously tough old game... it’s harder than ever to get by." Too many people want to be actors, and there aren't the jobs to support them, but is that a reason not to bother trying?
With so many other job opportunities that can make the best use of your creativity, empathy and interest in other people, there's no shame in being a "slashee". I'm a proud slashee. I'm an actor slash producer slash tutor. I will not be pinned into one boring old employment title box, nor should I. I can also now pay the rent and take myself on holiday once in a while, so what's not to love?
In a new series of blog posts, I wanted to explore the myriad incredible careers that actors and actresses embark on outside of their work on the stage and in screen. And we're kicking off this week with Rebecca Hands-Wick who is a slashee extraordinaire: actor slash mother slash florist!
Lucy: Let's start at the very beginning! When you first left drama school, what jobs did you do on the side and how did you feel about them?
Rebecca: During drama school I had done bar work but realised when I finished that the pay wasn't really enough to live on. So I signed on with a temping agency that only worked within the media/arts. I thought this would at least put me within the creative industries amongst (hopefully) like-minded folk. I did have some wonderful times working with BBC Children in Need who were amazing to work with; they have a real team feel and with the added bonus of doing work you know really is making a difference in children's lives. However, for the most part it wasn't quite what I had hoped for. Most of my jobs were with law firms dealing with the music industry, the UK Film Council and other such organisations and never in one of the creative departments! I mostly worked in a PA or receptionist role and after about 7 or 8 years of temping, I just couldn't do it anymore.
Lucy: But what was the turning point to considering floristry?
Rebecca: In 2011, I hadn't had a huge amount of acting work. I'd been temping a huge amount and was stuck at a place that made me unhappy. I'd come home and cry at my poor fiancé. Eventually we agreed that my temping had become unsustainable because it was starting to impact on my mental health. But what to do?! I left the job and went to see a careers adviser at an adult education centre. This did seem slightly crazy - I was in my 30s and had no intention of giving up on acting. I just knew that I needed help to find something else and I'd like it to be creative. The man I met was lovely - kind, understanding and helpful. We discussed speech therapy and horticultural therapy but as I haven't got a degree, those weren't really feasible. Then we started talking about gardening, which I love, and floristry came up. Lightbulb moment.
Lucy: Talk me through the steps you took from there.
Rebecca: There is a fabulous florist near where I live (PotPourri Flowers). I'd always loved their style and they were my go-to place for bouquets. So I very bravely went in one day and asked if they took on work experience people. Dominic (the owner) asked if I was training, I said no but that I thought I might like to. We had a chat and he suggested I come in for a week. I loved it. It was a total change - long days on your feet, cold, lots of heavy lifting - but so wonderful - a team of people round a work bench, radio on, chat, creativity on tap - it was brilliant. So my lovely fiancé bought me an evening course in contemporary floral design for Christmas. It turned out I was good at it (win!) so in 2012 I signed up to do a part time qualification. I did 3 days a week for a year, along with work experience and various bits of coursework. I also had to learn the Latin names for lots of things, which was unexpected, but it's because the common name we use for something might not be the same as in Holland (which is where we get a lot of our flowers from in the UK - Brexit has already started having an affect on that but that's a whole other conversation!) so it's important to know the Latin names to avoid any confusion when ordering. You also learn about costings, budget, conditioning, retail, ordering - there's so much more to it than just making a pretty bunch of flowers.
Lucy: How did you pick that part time qualification out of all the options?
Rebecca: Picking the course wasn't as hard as I had expected. I did my research though. There are some 4-6 week courses run by some of the top London florists but they cost thousands of pounds and you get no qualifications. Personally I felt it was important to have one and I really couldn't afford the fees! Luckily I found a well respected horticultural college who ran a part time City & Guilds course at a fraction of the price of the flower schools (literally thousands cheaper) and so that ticked all the boxes.
Lucy: And what does life as a part-time florist look like now?
Rebecca: As part of my course, I had to do work experience. So I went back to PotPourri Flowers and then just kept going in to keep my skills up and continue learning. They took me on as a freelancer, so now I work both for them and for myself. As it's freelance, work comes up now and then so it's hard to predict but it works pretty well round the acting and small children (I have a 3 and a 5 year old). The busiest times of year are Christmas, Valentines and Mothers Day.
Lucy: Valentines day! Yeesh. Lot of red roses?
Rebecca: I will never forget my first Valentines experience. Two days of 6am-8pm. It was cold, rainy, I was on my feet all day making bouquet after bouquet. The shop had set people to answer phones, or wrap the bouquets, make them and deliver them... it was like a military operation. Over 1000 red roses!! We stopped for a hearty and nutritious lunch and then plunged back in again. I don't think I've ever been so busy. Or tired!!
Lucy: Any other fabulous memories to share?
Rebecca: I did a last minute wedding reception - one day's notice, that was bonkers. I've actually done a few weddings now and they have all been vastly different. From a marquee in a field with jam-jars of meadow flowers to a beautiful historic palace with a 3 metre mantlepiece display of gypsophila. And lets face it, everyone loves to get flowers, it's so nice to be able to brighten someones day.
To hire Rebecca to create the floral arrangements for your big day, reach out on firstname.lastname@example.org