One of the joys of having a flower school that attracts students from all over the world is catching up with students when you’re working away from home. Kally and team were in California recently to install flowers for The Breakthrough Prize in Mountain View, and decided to end our trip by catching up with former student and great friend of McQueens, Dundee Butcher. Having opened her own school – the Russian River Flower School – in Healdburg, California, Dundee is making quite a name for herself with her demonstrations, and fabulous displays. Over a glass of mighty fine pinot noir, we caught up with the irrepressible and inspirational Dundee.
What are your memories of McQueens Flower School now, Dundee?
When I think about my experience at the McQueens School, two words come to mind: World Class. For me, that sums up the whole experience. I took the class with the objective of learning how to teach floral design and of course, learned SO much more.
How has the Russian River Flower School developed?
It is interesting, when you start a business it goes off in directions that surprise you! I thought it would be a mostly local clientele that would attend the workshops but in fact it has attracted more people from all over the country than I ever imagined. It has also drawn companies from Silicon Valley – they love my team building classes – which have been a great success. The other surprises have been the requests for organic installations, and groups asking me to speak. They love to hear about the flower world in London and how it compares to flowers in the US.
What lessons have you learned?
I have learned SO many lessons! You can know an awful lot about flowers but that is just the tip of the iceberg of what you need to know to start a business in this industry. I have learned (or am trying to) how to manage people, become organized, and also about being flexible and adaptable to all sorts of unexpected factors! I have also learned that in teaching I need to be pretty strict and focused. As Frank says, we do it ‘My Way’. That’s how the students learn the most, and are much happier with what they take home. Then, they can develop their own styles from there on in.
How do you describe your personal style?
I don’t have a set ‘style’. I am fascinated by details and can’t stand ‘boring’. I love a quote by Diana Vreeland, ‘boring is a form of laziness ‘. I have been influenced mainly by two things; I was trained in London – where the design style tends more toward formal and sophisticated – and I live in Northern California where all sorts of weird and wonderful pods are falling at your feet and the style is more ‘natural’. I love the challenge of blending these influences together, and creating something pretty special.
What are your plans for the future?
I absolutely love teaching people to become more confident, aware and appreciative of the process of creativity. Flowers are a perfect medium to work through because they are so beautiful, fragile and seasonal, and Healdsburg is such a special part of the world with all of its natural beauty. I plan to continue teaching here at Russian River Flower School as well as travelling to teach as I did in Texas in the fall. Everyone wants to get married and have big celebrations in the California wine country, so I am getting much more involved in those – watch this space!