Gail Anderson is a shining star in floristry. She was pivotal in putting together the recent World Flower Council Summit event in London in September, namely ‘Quintessentially British… with a Twist’ – which was supported logistically by ECT Travel.
By Richard Forsyth
Gail Anderson describes herself as an ‘active person’ and when you look at her ascension in the world of floristry and the amount of world experience she has attained to carve her path to the top of her game, you better believe it. She is well known in floristry circles world-wide for founding the Sydney School of Floristry, being a qualified floral judge and for taking influences and techniques from around the world to craft her unique style.
She initially trained as a micro-biologist but decided one night, almost ‘out of the blue’, to take on a new challenge in floristry.
“What triggered my career in floristry was a conversation with my husband one night. I had finished my University degree in Microbiology and my husband had just finished his degree in Management, and we are both the type of people who just can’t sit there on the sofa and watch TV every night – so he said he would go and learn woodwork and I said I would go and do a floral art course. It all stemmed from there,” said Anderson. “I retrained in Florence in Australia and progressed in attaining my certificates right up through to ‘judges training’, so I qualified as a New South Wales floral art judge.”
Gail Anderson went on to open the Sydney School of Floristry and made it a reputable learning environment for floristry students. It ran for seven long years and only closed due to Gail and her husband relocating to Singapore.
“The school did very well – we had around thirty five students in the last year. It was an accredited college that ran certificate two, three and four of the accredited progammes that ran in New South Wales. We were also a registered apprenticeship provider for floristry.”
Gail somehow found the time to run Gail’s Floral Expressions in Sydney at the same time, which was a bridal and events studio.
“Once we had moved to Singapore I started work with the Nobleman School of Floral Design and was the teacher for their diploma. I then worked on further development of the diploma course through the WSQ (Workforce Skills Qualification) system.”
Settling in the UK
But Gail’s husband’s work commitments soon meant they were to relocate again – this time to the UK. Here Gail is gathering continued momentum with her study in a level 5 Master’s diploma at the Academy of Floral Arts in Exeter. This in turn led to her involvement in the World Flower Council event, as part of her Master’s course was to manage an event.
“One of the highlights from the World Flower Council Summit was one of my past students from Singapore won the wearable art competition for the gala dinner so that makes you really proud when you are a teacher. The other highlight was actually making it through the whole event without crashing – but you get a lot of satisfaction out of it when people say to you ‘thank you for putting on such as great event’.”
Gail’s heart has always been in flower arrangements for events. “I prefer event work above all other things’” she confirms. “In the future I will be continuing with teaching and event work as that’s where my passion lies.”
The world as a teacher
Studying floristry in so many countries has given Gail a very rounded perspective of the art-form and armed her with many influences.
She explains: “In Australia we have distinct native flowers which are very different in nature to Singapore. Singapore is very tropical based and then again here in England you have the English style flowers with the tropical as well but you also have floristry that is more like Australia because my Australian skills were along the floral English teaching line of traditional floristry. The beauty of being in Singapore, for me, was to pick up on my contemporary skills and that really honed those because the Asian dynamic is more around contemporary work and using all the European techniques.”
Gail has a deep respect for the UK’s standards of creativity in the field and she affirms the country is a world leader in this respect.
“England excels at the contemporary side of floristry and England is pushing the boundaries a bit further than in Australia. I would say England is on the same par with Asia when pushing the boundaries of contemporary ideas in design.”
Being grounded in so many learning environments has opened Gail’s mind up to the varied possibilities in designs.
“I think the secret to great design is the ‘wow factor’ and knowing your elements and principals of design and having really sound mechanics,” she remarks. “Finding new ways to do things is always very important and one of my pet projects for the recent summit was to build a large canopy at the foyer entrance to the gala dinner which we succeeded in and that involved going to Wales and cutting down trees and then literally turning them upside down using the branches as the root base and the trunk as the support for the canopy.”
It’s clear that we haven’t heard the last from Gail Anderson, and after the success of the World Flower Council Summit event in London, she is assuring her presence as a leading figure in the UK floral community, as well as the international scene.
Gail Anderson wanted to express her gratitude and thanks in this article to ‘the fantastic team of girls and designers that helped at the World Flower Summit and a special thanks to Rosie Hughes and Jo Jarvis.’