Continuing our series of interviewing brilliant creative women who have followed their dreams and and are living their purpose filled career. This week me meet the creative duo from Worm London, who in the past few years have had a career change, set up their vibrant floral business and have recently published their first book, Wreaths. Lou Archell caught up with them, to discover more about the women behind the brand.
Please can you tell us a little about you both and the beginnings of Worm.
We were in jobs that were making us feel restless, Katie was a stylist and Terri was an actor. They were not forever jobs in our minds as they always relied on other people giving us opportunities and it wasn’t great for our self esteem. We wanted to be able to make our own opportunities and to be able to work hard and reap the benefits ourselves. We knew what we were doing had to be creative and we’ve both grown up with a huge love of flowers so we decided to give it a go together. We did a really basic inexpensive flower course to learn the basics and then started Worm with no experience and no investment. We worked evening and freelance jobs to make it work. When we look back now we think it’s just a bit mad that it actually worked out.
We love the name WORM – can you tell us the inspiration behind that?
Ah thank you! We wanted something that captured both sides of the company, the flowers and the books. We had some strange names along the way but none of them seemed to sit. WORM came up at the end of a long day on a local council business course that we were doing and we both seemed to like it. It kind of covers bookworm and earthworm. We were worried that it might be a bit cute so decided to sleep on it. The next morning Terri was working at a school teaching kids phonics and the letter of the day was W for Worm with a little drawing of a worm so we decided to take that as some kind of a sign.
YOU OFFER A BESPOKE BOOK AND BUNCH SERVICE IN THE LONDON AREA. CAN YOU SHARE MORE ABOUT THIS?
Yes. This is how we started worm. As we hit our early thirties we would either buy books or flowers as gifts for our friends. We realised that that was what we liked receiving too. We also loved the feeling of when you finish reading a book and just want to send it to someone that you just know would love it. We thought we could make that even more personal by wrapping it beautifully and pairing it with a lovely bunch of flowers. We started a service that you could tell us about the person you are sending the gift to and we choose a book for them and hand deliver it with the flowers.
YOU ARE BASED IN STOKE NEWINGTON – ARE WE ABLE TO BUY YOUR BUNCHES AND BOOKS OUTSIDE OF LONDON?
Not yet sadly. We have yet to find a way to send flowers further afield that doesn’t compromise the quality of the flowers or cost an extortionate amount of money. Couriers are so expensive once they leave London so often the delivery costs more than the flowers and we wouldn’t send out flowers in a way that means they might not last as long as they would if delivered locally. We currently deliver them all ourselves which is why we have such a small delivering area.
YOU RECENTLY LAUNCHED YOUR FIRST BOOK – WREATHS – HOW DID THIS COME ABOUT?
We were approached by the publisher, Quadrille, They wanted to have a book about wreaths and they already had decided the title and how they wanted the layout to be. At first we didn’t feel qualified enough to be writing a book when we didn’t even have two years of the business under our belts but then they mocked up the cover and it had our names beside the word ‘Author’ and we were sold! We went away and came up with projects that we could teach and make them simple and slow and achievable and then went back to Quadrille confident that we could write a book that we would like to read two years before when we didn’t have the skills that we had gained.
LOU (OUR FOUNDER) PARTICULARLY LOVES THE DRIED SECTION IN THE BOOK, WHAT IS YOURS?
Yes, we love the dried section too. Dried flowers are making a comeback which is wonderful because first of all it means that we are recycling flowers more and adding to the sustainability of the industry but also because it becomes inexpensive for people to make projects themselves with flowers that they have dried out. It also means no water or floral foam which is also making your carbon footprint a considered one. We also love the foraged section. We are really into foraging, we love seasonality and what the local environment has to offer. We like that you can have a little walk along a canal or in the countryside and pick up a few things that nature has scattered and make something at the end of the day that will remind you of that time in nature.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE ASPECT OF YOUR BUSINESS?
Oh there are so many things that we love. We have met wonderful people. That’s big for us. Creative people that we have collaborated with and felt so good about it. Delivering a bouquet that a bride has dreamed of to her on the morning of her wedding (we always cry!) Sitting in our studio for hours on end laughing at each others stories and watching true crime (the juxtaposition of making beautiful feminine flower arrangement and watching such dark stories always surprises people!)
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR SOMEONE TAKING A CAREER CHANGE AND STARTING UP THEIR OWN BUSINESS FROM SCRATCH?
Yes. Make sure you have a good support network. We had each other and that was really important for us. You have to work so hard at the start. It’s just got to the point now where we are able to relax a bit into it, we worked 100 hour weeks or more for most of the first two years with very little pay. It’s not easy but it feels so good. There are low points but the highs make you feel a sense of achievement that nothing in our other jobs ever made us feel. If you have the opportunity to change your life for the better then do it because often those opportunities are fleeting so you have to take the bull by the horns when you see a chance.
IF THERE WAS ONE WOMAN IN THE WORLD TO WORK WITH WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
Katie: Iris Apfel. I love her company old world weavers which she ran with her husband Carl. They travelled all over the world which inspired her eclectic aesthetic. She was great at her craft and her general outlook on life is fantastic and inspirational. I was lucky enough to get to talk to her once and she was even funnier, more interesting and kinder than I could have imagined.
Terri; This might be a bad answer as she isn’t still with us, but I would have loved to have worked with Leonara Carrington. She was a surrealist artist and novelist, and her stories are just amazingly inventive and I bet she just would have been the best craic. I’d love to make a big surrealist installation with her.
DO YOU EVER EXPERIENCE SELF DOUBT AND WHAT STEPS DO YOU TAKE TO OVERCOME IT?
Oh all the time. People often come to us with briefs and we have absolutely no idea how to do it. We say yes because there are two of us and that gives us major confidence but many sleepless nights happen in the meantime. We always work it out and we’ve had no disasters as of yet (touching wood as I say this) We were always worried that people would find out we were frauds and making it up as we went along but then we realised that that’s what everyone else is doing too. Making it up, not following the rules and I guess that’s how creative work works. We started to take it less seriously, we are not doctors, we are designing flowers and now feel confident in our instinct.
CAN YOU TELL US YOUR MORNING ROUTINE, FROM WAKING TO OUT THE DOOR?
Terri; The alarm goes off about 4am so the routine is very unexciting. I’m usually out the door within 15 minutes. My clothes are laid out the night before because it’s tough to get my brain working at that time and I have to sneak around so I don’t wake the whole house. I wait and have breakfast in the flower market cafe, and my choice isn’t always the healthiest. The people working at the flower market are pretty much nocturnal so by the time we get to the flower market they are having their dinner so the menu is a strange one. We are so excited to be coming out of the end of winter because now when the alarm goes off the birds are gently singing and it feels that there is a bit of life out there. It’s so hard to get going in the deep darkness of winter when you have to pile on the layers for the flower market.
Katie; I generally wake up with a shock because most mornings my alarm goes off earlier than my body wants it to. I’m pretty good at washing and dressing within 5 minutes, I would love to have more time to get ready and make myself feel good for the day but when it’s that early you just don’t care. I usually look at myself later in the morning and laugh at the odd clothing choice my brain made while it was still asleep. I always try to have a smoothie before I leave the house. That feels like a luxury when you give yourself 5 minutes to dress but it make me feel so much better. Terri calls it my breakfast cement as I just throw into it everything I think is good for me not caring about the taste or texture. It is a mad tasting thing especially when you start adding strange and mysterious powders to it which apparently make you a bit healthier!
WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU DO FOR A SELF-CARE RITUAL?
Terri; Baths. I adore being surrounded by water. It feels safe to me and I can do really rational thinking when I am in the bath. A treat for me having some really lovely relaxing bath salts and listening to Max Richters ‘sleep’ album in the bath with the lights off. Honestly, give it a try.
Katie; I am really into candles and white sage incense. I think I go through about 3 sticks a day. It makes me feel really calm and cosy. I love working from home and having candles burning during the day. That’s a bit of a treat. We have such hectic days that I guess anything that is calming and that helps you switch off feels lovely.
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS FOR WORM?
We only ever have time to think in the very near future. Work is always coming in and it is amazingly varied and we really love that. There are a few projects that we are working on ourselves. We have a photography project that we are working on with our friend Chiron Cole that has been ongoing and we are trying to figure out where it belongs. We just made a very flower heavy music video for an Irish artist that we really loved doing and we have been styling a lot of shoots for big fashion brands. We love how varied it is and we are just going with the flow and saying yes to all the scary sleepless night projects that give us that hit of excitement when its done.
Lou Archell, a writer, photographer, stylist and the founder of Sisterhood Camp.
Lou is also a busy mum of two amazing boys and can be found over on her blog Littlegreenshed, where she shares her life, loves and inspiration. Lou is passionate about supporting and inspiring others whether through her workshops, writing, photography or lifestyle hacks.