Sarah Champier. The Royal Touch

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1 As a passionate floral artisan, designer, and creator, Sarah Champier held the enviable position as the personal florist to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales for more than 11 years. She followed this extraordinary job by demonstrating, lecturing, and generally sharing her floral appreciation. She is the mother of two darling, wonderful daughters, Laura and Lydia, and adoptive mother of kitties Coco and Cartier. She has found that her love of flowers has constantly replenished and rejuvenated her soul on her life s journey, and often has done the same for many others through her infectious enthusiasm for her work. Sarah Champier The Royal Touch 3 6 Wh e r e Wo m e n C r e at e w i n t e r 2012 w int er w w w.w h e r e w o m e n c r e at e. c o m 3 7

2 They say an Englishman s home is his castle. Mine is also my creative sanctuary as I fill it with the personal still lifes that inspire me. Here I surround myself with flowers and plants, color, texture, and fragrance. My old stonewalls often heave and sigh as I arrange my many vessels and props within their nooks and crannies. It s perfectly obvious to me that everything is usable and not just for gazing at, so out my belongings come on many occasions, to be filled or dressed with my floral finds. Decorating and styling the interior of my home developed into my chambre d hote business as another dimension of my freelance floristry. A great sense of achievement has pushed me forward and my creativity, as always, has fed my soul, allowing me to blossom as I have begun adventuring in giving workshops, lectures, and demonstrations around the world. My household motto is Keep Calm and Carry On and, with my fellow colleague and compatriot Carolyn Robb, I am carrying on, having formed Tastebud, a partnership of our talents. This is proving to be an exciting and successful liaison that gives us both much pleasure. I particularly thrive on our workshops, guiding complete novices as they absorb themselves whilst constructing their own individual creations. Enthralled and afraid of material never handled before, they are gently coached into believing they have the ability to arrange and display. If you take a sidestep down the famous Gumstool Hill in Tetbury, England, and stroll along until you reach the blue door, you will find me in my flower-filled courtyard, working away on a commission or a project probably oblivious to time and space as I am seduced by the scent of the flowers and the sound of Leonard Cohen s poetic intoxication And I ll dance with you in Vienna, I ll be wearing a river s disguise. The hyacinth wild on my shoulder my mouth on the dew of your thighs. And I ll bury my soul in a scrapbook, with the photographs there and the moss. And I ll yield to the flood of your beauty, my cheap violin and my cross. One of my earliest floral memories is sitting beneath clouds of gypsophila gathering sprigs and forming fairy bouquets for my nana. She has a vivid imagination, I often heard the adults say of me. This rings so true when I recall 38 Where Women Create winter 2012 winter 2012 w w w. w h e r e w o m e n c r e a t e. c o m 3 9

3 flowers and plants from my childhood, right down to plucking my parents front hedge, throwing the young shoots into a makeshift bag on my back, and imagining that I was picking tea! I am not certain they ever realized this. I have always been a hunter/gatherer arranging and displaying whether it be moss and lichens from the woodlands or seaweed and pebbles on the beach. My eye is drawn, my mind engaged, and my hands are deft at aesthetically styling to my heart s content. As a child I envisaged my future as an actress but, rather than heading for drama school in London, I gained an unexpected acceptance to art school at the age of 16 and thus embarked upon a foundation in art, graphics, and finally, window display and styling. I freelanced until Laura and Lydia were born (now almost 30 and 21 years respectively) and, in the midst of their growing-up, moved to France and opened another chapter a restaurant with my French husband. 40 Where Women Create winter 2012 winter 2012 w w w. w h e r e w o m e n c r e a t e. c o m 4 1

4 Favorite Quote: There are always flowers for those who want to see them. -Henri Matisse While living in France my desire to create flowers was fed by the landscape, where the abundance of flora and fauna saw that posies were frequently gathered and gifted to family and friends. Always asked to create floral tributes or wedding bouquets, this eventually developed into a desire to return to England and undertake my floristry diploma. This came into fruition at 32 years old when I became the eldest junior florist on the block! Cramming three years into two, I moved swiftly through the ranks, designing, managing, and creating floral designs along the way. While pondering the thought that I may wish to develop further skills in garden design, I joined the group Women Returnees to Amenity Gardening. This charitable organization places women in stately homes or designers gardens to enable them to gain incredible hands on experience. I was given the opportunity to work in an extraordinary garden, namely Highgrove, home to Prince Charles. Shortly afterwards, I was hijacked and whisked away to design floral displays for the Prince in a position especially created for me. Becoming the personal florist to the Prince was a dream job and I felt it was my true vocation. Planning, gathering, and flowering all the Royal residences across Britain was an extraordinary privilege, as was designing and constructing displays for many events. It was a pleasurable eleven years in which I also created a much-desired cutting garden that became my pride and joy. Sowing, growing, and, subsequently, cutting took me through the annual cycle of every plant. Working with and against the elements, I came to nurture them, their Latin names, and the meaning of the flowers, which germinated many fascinations such as cooking with and preserving flowers. My bookshelves bustle like floral borders! 42 Where Women Create winter 2012 winter 2012 w w w. w h e r e w o m e n c r e a t e. c o m 4 3

5 create it The Living Chair I have a host of memorable moments that include displaying flowers for the Dali Lama, constructing a bouquet for Sir Elton John, and inventing many of the personal creations for the Windsor s. As I sit and ponder I can think of so many reasons to be proud and grateful for this wonderful experience My life recently has changed quite dramatically due to the extremely tragic death of my husband. This was swiftly followed by my position of 11 years drawing to a close due to the dilution of the royal household during a declining economy. When life bites, you just have to bite back! So with the unequivocal support of my daughters, family, and friends, I found myself able to take on the task of completing the renovation my husband and I had begun of my Grade 11 listed Cotswold town house. Thus, the healing process began. As I work on my first book I hope to encapsulate my experiences and lifelong romance with flowers, sharing my passion and spreading the word. Flowers 4 4 Wh e r e Wo m e n C r e at e w i n t e r 2012 First of all, find an old chair with a removable cushion seat at a vintage sale, junk shop, or garage sale. Take out the cushion, then insert a solid base underneath the seat area with a piece of Perspex. The space that the cushion filled can now be replaced with soil, herbs, or small alpines. another alternative is to make a floral cushion. instead of filling the space with soil, cut out a piece of floristry foam previously soaked in water and fit it into the seat. Take a selection of flower heads, cut to a short stem, and insert into the foam, creating your own design. There are many options for flowers: pansies are so very pretty, but dianthus or roses would be hardier and last longer. equally foliage alone could be used, grouping color and texture. Create your very own decorative living chair for your veranda or garden a lovely decorative feature. w int er w w w.w h e r e w o m e n c r e at e. c o m 4 5

6 have always sung to me in my hands they weave themselves into extraordinary displays. The flowers are the talent; I am just the conductor that orchestrates the designs. People often ask how I can bear spending so much time on a project only to watch it die a few days later. To me that is the beauty and sadness of all living things, and as flowers are so short-lived their glory is somewhat enhanced by their fate perhaps. My girls would tell you that I am extremely lucky as I have a knack for finding four-leaf clovers. Some are shared, some are pressed and revisited unexpectedly, bringing a smile. My father, bless his heart, always said whatever muckheap I fell into I would come up smelling of violets. I now know what he truly meant. Where Women Create would like to thank Sarah Champier for her involvement in our Winter Issue. 46 Where Women Create winter 2012 winter 2012 w w w. w h e r e w o m e n c r e a t e. c o m 4 7

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