Emily Mathison has been part of the McQueens team for four and a half years and she has a unique take on the place, having worked in all major departments. From shop to school, contracts to events, Emily has done it all! We spoke to her about flowers and fun times at McQueens, and her latest promotion – head tutor at McQueens Flower School.
Where did your interest in flowers come from?
I’ve always been interested in working with my hands from a very early age. My mum said that I was forever busy with a pair of scissors and I was a hardcore Blue Peter fan. I vividly remember gluing a Tracy Island model out of papier-maché directly on the carpet because I couldn’t find the cardboard I needed to make it on to a base! I was a craft-making, hands-on kind of girl; I would never have known what to do with Pokemon Go. I got my appreciation of flowers from my mother as flowers were always a fixture in the house. I was always foraging in the garden. I remember my early efforts pressing flowers, trying to make perfume and mulching bright coloured dahlia in an effort to make paint. Working in a flower shop as a Saturday girl was inevitable. My first experience working in a florist were actually quite hard, and I remember thinking that this is what working in a prison might be like. I was given all the menial jobs to start; cleaning vases, buckets and scrubbing the floor. I soon progressed onto cutting strips of cellophane, inserting flower food sachets into envelopes and making bows, which I was very good at. Eventually, I graduated to flower conditioning and I became the host to welcome customers. I enjoyed the job even though I rarely had the opportunity to arrange flowers. At university, I studied fine art and graduated from Goldsmith’s, London. I landed my dream job in fashion furniture and textiles at The V & A (which I loved) but I soon discovered that I missed the interaction of people, a busy fast-paced environment, working with my hands and the thrill of seeing the first sweetpeas of the year arrive at the market. I decided to work full time as a florist, and I have loved it ever since.
What flowers do you like the most?
I’m drawn to seasonal British scented flowers and I don’t skimp on foliage – I love texture. My style is quite natural, gentle and romantic. Everyone asks a florist what is their favourite flower, and mine will change depending on the time of day. Sweet pea, delphinia, garden roses, anemones, jasmine and lily of the valley can come to the front of the queue, and I would cry if someone brought me a mass of muscari. The variety is what makes this job ever changing.
What has been your experience working at McQueens?
McQueens is an amazing place to work, it is so fast-paced and no two days are ever the same. I love working with so many talented people from all over the world, and it’s been great to see the growth of the business over the past few years and a move to much bigger premises in Bethnal Green. I’ve had lots of amazing experience during my time at McQueens – teaching in China last year was an absolute highlight.
Whats is the most challenging part of your job?
There’s never a dull moment at McQueens. Many jobs come together at the very last minute, so the logistical aspects can be problematic. We are often working on site in amazing venues installing flowers when no one is around, so we often do lots of early starts, which can be difficult, especially in winter.
What are you most excited about your move to the McQueens Flower School?
It’s a joy to be part of such a creative team, and to welcome so many students from all over the world. McQueens has become very well known internationally, and I can’t wait to welcome students and share our McQueens design philosophy.
What advice do you have for anyone who wants to work with flowers?
Be passionate and love flowers! The hours are long and work can be very hard, but it’s worth every moment if you are passionate about what you do.