Emily Mathison has been part of the McQueens team for almost 7 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 – McQueens Events Manager.
How did you start your career in flowers, Emily?
I started my career (almost 11 years ago) working in a gorgeous and very busy neighbourhood flower shop in north London. I used to see pictures of McQueens bouquets and events in magazines (we’re talking pre-Instagram), and I loved how instantly recognisable a McQueens bouquet was.
As soon as I decided that I was serious about Floristry, working for McQueens became my goal. I worked at an events company for over a year, to get events floristry experience, and learnt to drive all with a job at McQueens in mind.
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 has been your experience working at McQueens?
I’ve had many different roles at McQueens. When I started here I looked after hotels, such as The Connaught, The Berkeley and The Grove, all whilst teaching in the McQueens Flower School for a day or two every week. I then worked in the events department, which I left to run the School before going full circle as of the Summer 2017, becoming the Events Manager.
I’ve been really lucky and have got to meet with some really incredible people, and work on some amazing projects! My personal highlight was the first really big wedding I’d ever managed, a great big elaborate Alice In Wonderland themed affair. The couple were the sweetest people in the world, and they were so happy with the result, stacks of vintage saucers, and tea cups filled with peonies, ranunculus, muscari and sweetpeas, big vases filled with garden roses and fluffy hydrangeas, it really looked magical, and the bride and groom were thrilled. Flowers are just one fleeting moment in time, I am very bad at remembering to take pictures- we do what we do for the praise of the client in all honesty.
What do you love about your role?
I love the variety of what we do. It could be a massive corporate event, with jumbo floral sculptures one day, and then a super luxe incredibly romantic wedding the next, with big vases of blousy flowers. I can be making small exquisite vases of sweet peas and peonies on Monday, and up a scaffold tower hanging a floral chandelier on Tuesday. That, and the people I get to work with. I’ve met some of my best friends at McQueens.
What is the most challenging part?
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 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. Sweetpea, 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 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.