Terri Chandler and Katie Smyth are the Irish-duo behind WORM London, a creative floral design studio based in Stoke Newington, East London. Their wild displays are naturalistic, with touches of foraged beauty and folkloric sentiment.
From the 16th August to the 15th September they will be showcasing a unique, dried flower installation, intertwined with naturally dyed fabrics by Kristin Perers, created for TOAST, in our Oxford Shop.
Where did Worm begin?
Worm began in 2016. It stemmed from our itchy feet, from wanting to create something we could call our own. We wanted to build something that meant when we started families we could still work and be creative. It started at first as a book and bunch delivery service, two of our true loves. We would ask the sender to describe the recipient and what they liked, and we would choose them a book that we thought they would love. We would wrap it beautifully with a bespoke bunch of flowers and deliver it. Soon afterwards, we started being asked to make flowers for installations and the creative side of that reeled us into event floristry.
What did nature and the outdoors mean to you both growing up?
We both grew up in the south of rural Ireland. Katie in a town and Terri on an island. Nature played such a huge part in both of our childhoods. Flowers and trees are a big part of life and culture in Ireland. There is a lot of respect for them, and their meanings in our folklore haven't gone away. Our parents still send us a stern text if they see that we have put foxgloves or hawthorn in a vase indoors for a wedding. You don't want to mess with the fairies...!
Where do you source and forage your materials from?
In Summer most of our materials come from New Covent Garden Flower Market in London. They supply lots of British growers, and this year we have also found some growers that we can buy from directly. That has been really lovely because they will cut to your colour scheme. Quite often we stop the car and forage wild sunburnt grasses and weeds from the sides of the roads to make our installations a little more wild.
Does the cycle of the seasons come in to play at WORM?
The seasons inspire all of our work. It's similar to being a chef who changes their menu seasonally. We have a few hero flowers per season and most designs will be based around them. This also means our work can stay more sustainable. It's hard to design anything in June without peonies being the star of the show, for example!
How are contemporary florists approaching sustainability?
In many ways, we have a long way to come. From the outside, our industry looks really natural and kind, but at times it can be the opposite. There is huge wastage with event flowers, thousands of flowers being cut for a four-hour event. But there are ways to do your part, like moving away from wasteful materials such as floral foam and single-use plastic packaging.
There is a company called Floral Angels who we always encourage our clients to use after events. They take the flowers away and make small bouquets out of them. They then give them to the elderly, refuges and palliative care centres where they get to be truly appreciated and have a second life.
Where would you put the line between art and the floristry designs you create?
Often there is no line. When a client gives us full artistic freedom to create something then it feels like art to us. When we have strict briefs, it feels less like art, but we always try to fill it with our personality.
Is there a specific flower you love for its particular scent, colour or versatility?
So many, but namely, chocolate cosmos. They are delicate and have the most beautiful dark brown, almost black petals - and they actually smell like chocolate! They bring personality to any arrangement as they stand up tall. They add shape, flow and wildness.
What is the one tool in your workshop that you couldn't live without?
A really good sharp set of secateurs. We buy ours from a Japanese brand called Niwaki - they are really reliable, long lasting and they look good too.
Living and working in a busy city, where do you escape to to find calm and slow down?
In the city there are so many unexpected places of calm to escape to, such as The Barbican Conservatory, Hackney Marshes, Tate Britain and Woodbury Wetlands. If we get a weekend off (which is very rare), we like to go to the coast and breath in some fresh air, or go on a day trip somewhere inspirational like Cass Sculpture Garden in Chichester. We always come back inspired with fresh ideas.
What is the best advice you have been given that you could pass on?
Keeping integrity is so important, especially when running a business. Someone advised us once to stick to what we like and don't dilute it too much. Staying true to what you love and not veering far off that path attracts like-minded people, and therefore brings enjoyable business. And it totally works.
Visit the Oxford Shop between the 16th August to the 15th September to see a unique, dried flower installation, created by Worm for TOAST. The installation will be themed around wild British meadows, with naturally hand dyed fabrics by Kristin Perers capturing the colours of the season. There will also be bunches of dried flowers available to purchase from the shop.
Photography by Kristin Perers and Aloha Shaw.