To celebrate Christmas this year, the window displays in our shops have been created by London-based floral designer Paula Ellis of Fox & Thorn. Her wild and sculptural arrangements are made from carefully sourced materials; some foraged, some found.
Using dried flowers and grasses, gently shimmering lunaria pods, golden beech leaves and twinkling lights, Paula's Christmas installations will be suspended in the windows of our UK shops over the festive period.
And whilst the doors of our shops may have come to a close for the next few weeks, we hope you will be able to take enjoyment from Paula's displays, adding some colour and golden warmth to the winter days ahead.
I love the way the light catches on the lunaria pods, says Paula Ellis, as she carefully completes the final details of her wild, cloud-like installations, ready to package and send to each of the TOAST shops.
There is a natural shimmer to the pearlescent seed pods, and I actually grew this variety at home, she explains. I cut it back from my garden at the beginning of lockdown in early April and left it to dry upside down ever since!
All of the flowers, grasses and seed pods chosen by Paula for her unique installations have been dried, a conscious and resourceful decision. There is a lightness to dried flowers, and the fact they are dried means that they will last really well over the Christmas weeks and beyond, Paula explains. Some of the colours and shapes will gently change over time, too. In keeping with the TOAST philosophy to reuse, repair and reduce impact, Paula's designs are able to be taken apart and each dried plant used again. After the install we'll be able to reuse almost everything. It's dried already so it will last, and there won't be much wastage.
Fine branches of broom, light and airy grasses and sculptural nicandra pods have been arranged by hand around a wire frame. Each stem and branch is slotted through the frame intuitively, with Paula using her artistic eye to create a sense of balance and considered areas of texture.
Yarrow flowers, amber beech leaves and lonas buds lend each piece a golden warmth, with their varying tones of yellow and gold. In the larger shops, the installations will be hung above table settings with quinces, russet tones and naturally dyed yellow linens, with baubles for a touch of detail. I wanted the installations to reference strong accents of colour from the current TOAST collection and campaign, Paula reflects. It's not usually a colour I use, but it just works. Some people refer to yarrow as the cloth of gold, which I love.
Dramatic and sculptural shapes also play a part in Paula's creations. Falling tassels of amaranthus, thistles and eucalyptus pods sit comfortably amongst straw flowers and bushes of ammi. Sometimes I will be out walking my dog, Wilma, on the marshes and I'll see something I like and cut it back, Paula says, laughing. I don't always necessarily know what it is, but i'm drawn to certain shapes.
As well as the occasional forage, the rest of Paula's plants are sourced from British growers; some old relationships from her years of arranging, and some word of mouth. I mainly use two growers to source my materials. The first is Wolves Lane in Wood Green. They have a really strong seasonal approach to their way of farming. And the second is Black Shed in Dorset, Paula says. Growers offer more unusual things that you can't really find at the market. Their flowers are often more natural and gnarly, and always have more movement.
Alongside her work for TOAST, Paula creates bespoke settings and arrangements for weddings, working within certain colour palettes and to specific briefs. I also work on bigger installations, which is always my favourite part of the job. You get to create more of an impact, she says.
Although the doors or our shops may have come to a momentary close, Paula's creations will continue to glow from within. Using the window bay sizes of each shop as her guidelines, each installation is unique and bespoke to its surroundings. I've thought a lot about the space we have and the different types of windows we have in each store, Paula explains. As each TOAST shop is unique, so too each cloud work is different.
You can view our Christmas window installations, created by Fox & Thorn, in each of our UK shops. If you happen to be walking past, do share a photo using the hashtag #TOASTbeing. We would love to see.