oseph Massie (33) is one of Europe’s top floral designers. He was first introduced to the floral world when getting a weekend job in the local flower stall. Now he has several titles to his name and runs his own flower studio and flower school. They are based in Manchester, in the North West of the UK. Joseph has been in the industry for over 15 years and still loves it as much as when he started out. And we love his work! Time for an interview with the master himself.
During your own education, what teacher or designer inspired you the most?
The teachers and designers that inspired me during my education are still the teachers and designers that inspire me today. I am absolutely in love with the work of Daniel Ost from Belgium and Elly Lin from Taiwan. I think their work is incredible and I can't love them too much. That said, I have had a wonderful opportunity to train with some of the best teachers and floral designers and floral artists across the world and I certainly wouldn't be in the position I’m in today without spending time learning from them.
Do you always draw out designs before you start building or do you also improvise?
Usually my designs will begin with a sketch. I'm a big fan of sketching out a design simply because I think it helps clarify my thoughts and intentions about what I envision a piece to look like in the end. That said, I think it's always good to have a little bit of room for experimentation. Even if maybe something doesn't look exactly how I intended when I started out, that's absolutely fine. I think you always have to leave room for a bit of spontaneity in good design.
We see you use a lot of soft colours in your designs. Why is that?
This actually has a couple of different reasons for it. The first one being that a big part of my business is floral education. We teach a lot of hands on workshops and we also teach a lot of online courses and online seminars et cetera. I have found over the years that it's far easier for me to teach using neutral or softer colours especially when I am focusing on teaching things such as proportions or placements or theory. I find colour can be such an easy distraction for people when they're learning floral design, so a little bit of it has to do with my teaching. I think it's easier for the students to grasp more detailed design concepts when colour is not so much in the
way, but it also works very well across my whole business. So even though we have a big section of our business which is based in floral design education, I also produce a lot of very beautiful luxury weddings and events for my private clients, for my corporate clients and I have found that by keeping a neutral palette it means that I can use my work and design my designs cohesively, and use the imagery and the things I create across all aspects of my business. So I can use them in my teaching and I can use similar images when I'm talking to clients about weddings and designs, and I could also use them in my artwork too so it serves a couple of different purposes.
Would you say your style has changed over the years?
I would absolutely say that my style has changed over the years. When I started out, I grew up doing a lot of floral design competitions and so I would really be a little bit of a chameleon. I would change my style to fit the competition or the brief or the project that I was working on. After I finished competing, it was a great opportunity for me to take a step back and think a lot more about what was actually inside me and what did I want to make and what did I want to create. That has been a real journey for me, and I'm really happy with the work that I make now.
Do you notice a big difference in style between the different countries you have worked in?
Absolutely, I think every country across the world has a huge difference in flowers that are popular, or the native materials that grow, or how the flowers are presented or maybe techniques that are popular too. I think that's what makes our industry so rich and so diverse. It's really exciting to have the opportunity to travel and teach in different countries.
Do you prefer getting a specific request or do you prefer getting artistic freedom for a commission?
I always like to have a little bit of information to go on when working with a client but I also do kind of love to bring a lot of different aspects and ideas into a presentation or a Commission. So I like a little bit of both; I like to know a little bit about what my client is expecting and anticipating, but I also absolutely love to have a blank page to run from. I don't think it gets better than that really.
What award are you most proud of?
I think the award that I'm probably most proud of is the five gold medals and the accompanying best in show awards from the Chelsea Flower Show. Specifically though, my very first gold medal and ‘best at show’ at Chelsea Flower Show in 2009; I will never forget winning that. It was like the proudest, happiest day of my life.
Can you explain your competition process?
My competition process was very much all about taking everything that I knew, all my theory and techniques and experiences, and applying it in the best form to the brief. I always felt that competition schedules were very generous. They tell you very clearly what the judges and experts expect of you, and I think over time and with experience I just got pretty good at learning how to transform what I knew into something that really fit the brief. It starts off with a lot of sketching, finding inspiration, then experimentation, try and gather ideas, and then of course you begin the preparation and finally the install.
What do you like most about teaching?
My absolute favourite thing about teaching floral design is helping to transform students’ mindsets. Someone can come in maybe not knowing so much or feeling a little insecure or a little nervous, and through the process of sharing your knowledge and exploring the creative design process there can be such a transformation. That really is one of the favourite parts of my job, to work hands on with students.
Can you tell us more about the Work Experience List you have for your students?
Students that are in my flower class membership or maybe the students that have come to my hands-on classes in my school can register for the Work Experience List. Whenever we have big weddings or events or exciting installations or projects, we always send out emails to that work experience list to see if anyone is interested. People are more than welcome to come along and get stuck in and find out new things learn all different pieces of whatever we're working on.
Could you share one piece of advice for starting floral designers?
My best advice for new floral designers who are just starting out is really to enjoy the process. Learn as much as you can, and just be as open as possible to any new creative influences. I think the world is really at your fingertips; you can see so much on social media, so much online and there are so many good free resources for students when they're starting out. So don't be afraid, get stuck in, it is truly one of the best careers I think you can have in this life.
How do you suggest struggling designers find inspiration?
I think the best inspiration comes when people take a break. If you're really struggling with inspiration, walk away from your desk, walk away from your work. Spend time with friends and family. Spend time in nature, relax and get back to the core of what you are doing, what your design ethos is and then from there hopefully you can approach it with fresh eyes on a different day. Not everything works 100% of the time, so you just have to be a little gentle with yourself and take the time to work through those inspiration blocks.
You’ve worked with many Marginpar flowers over the last year. Which Marginpar flower is your favourite to work with? And why?
I have been incredibly lucky to work with Marginpar flowers over the last year and it is so impossible to pick one favourite, so I'll tell you a couple of them. I absolutely love working with the Marginpar Ammi. I think it is just the best quality Ammi I have ever seen and whenever I have shared it on my Instagram and Facebook, the comments are always insane about the quality, about how good it looks. It is truly such a beautiful stand out flower. I also love Clematis Amazing® Tokyo. I think it's just such an incredible flower and you get so many blooms on a stem; I think it's just absolutely wonderful. I am also a huge fan of Clematis Amazing® Vienna. I got to work with it really early on in the year just when it was coming out. I think it is truly magnificent and I've got to say it's one of my absolute favourites.
Can you tell us a little bit about the secret project you are working on?
For a little while now I've been working on a super-secret project. I can't tell you too much about it but I can tell you that some beautiful Marginpar flowers will feature in it and I'll be able to tell you a lot more about it very soon.
More about Joseph Massie:
and on Instagram @josephmassie