A glorious secret garden concept for the Creative Flair workshop

Goodness, where does the time go? I’ve been wanting to share this post with you for so long and I’m really excited to be finally getting this to you.

As you know, there’s a concept behind all of my workshops. I love pulling together the styling details, the flowers, the stationery, handouts and refreshments behind one, central concept. The Creative Flair workshop I held in Yorkshire in June was no different and freshly inspired from creating the Retreat welcome boxes (on my list to share…) I decided to really let loose and take things up a level.

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The moment I heard about The Fig House at Middleton Lodge, I was enchanted. We stayed at the venue in February and even in the depths of winter, I could see what this space might be like in summer. My mind was running wild with the idea of a secret, enchanted garden theme. The pictures above were shot by Cecelina during the workshop…

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The concept

I could imagine light, meadowy flowers, the intoxicating scent of trailing honeysuckle filling the room and plenty of light flooding in through those gorgeous windows and roof lights. That meant one thing: floral illustrations.

Creating a theme for a workshop always starts with thinking about the sort of experience I want to create for my students. How did I want them to feel when they arrived? Creative Flair is all about celebrating your unique creative style, pushing your creative edge and supercharging your inspiration and it was important to me that in creating the goodies for the workshop, I did the same.

I wanted everyone to be really inspired with possibilities, to feel that they could do whatever they wanted with their creative business and to see me pushing my own boundaries within the parameters of my own distinct aesthetic. Here’s my initial mood board.

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When I’m pulling together a mood board it acts as something that both inspires me on a general, big picture level (how I want the event to feel) as well as sometimes giving quite specific direction. I wasn’t especially aware of it when I put them on the board, but I realised that the lupins, with their gorgeous leaves and English country garden blooms would be key in pulling off the look.

A botanical pattern and creative collaboration

One of the core creative pieces in this whole concept was an idea I had of creating a bespoke, floral pattern that I could use on the stationery and welcome materials. I had in my mind a beautiful, entwining botanical pattern and ideally wanted to commission someone to create something gorgeous for me.

Finding someone with the right style was more of a challenge than you’d think. I have an incisive vision of my brand and I wanted to be sure that what was produced would feel right alongside all of my other materials. The subtleties in illustration styles, colouring and the overall finished feel are something that can make all the difference to the success of this.

I was already working with the insanely talented Gail Jones of Starkey’s Lane on a set of bespoke illustrations for my friend Elizabeth’s book, so I knew she wouldn’t have time to create anything from scratch. Instead, I licensed a number of her florals and created my own pattern. It was serendipity really. Gail just so happened to have created pretty much everything I’d have included, so it was a win-win for us both.

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The welcome boxes

I love to create welcome boxes for each workshop, and these beauts were waiting on the tables as my guests arrived. I’d already used the pattern and some of the illustrations throughout the welcome booklet which I’d emailed out a few weeks before. It was so good to see it all come to life in something tactile.

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Originally I’d hoped to create some bespoke notebooks with the botanical pattern, but it was just becoming cost prohibitive, so instead I thought creatively and had some gorgeous belly bands and postcards made up. I adore the skinny belly band around the journals. I think I’d scale back the pattern on the boxes next time. It seemed like a good idea when I mocked it up, and I wanted some contrast between the elements, but it feels a little overwhelming on balance.

I think the key to getting this to feel right for my brand is in the lightness. My brand is normally pretty pared back and I usually keep things pretty classic. By keeping plenty of white space between the illustrations I could keep that feeling of lightness that runs throughout everything I do. Scroll down and you’ll notice that even the flowers have lots of light and space in them…

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I had so much fun putting the boxes together. As well as the belly banded notebooks and sketchbooks, I wanted to put in some details that would be unique to this workshop. I have a bit of an obsession with glassine envelopes, so I gathered some leaves and flowers from the garden, sealed each with a strip of sparkly tape and popped one into each box.

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The flowers

Oh my goodness, those flowers. I had such a clear idea in my mind of the meadowy flowers I’d create. A soft, English garden just growing out of the table. Well… for starters, it was roasting that week, so the four hour drive plus heat of the room meant we had quite the challenge from the get go.

With just three to make, I really thought I’d throw everything together in an hour and then go off and relax in a lovely bubble bath. It wasn’t quite to be. They took considerably longer (like, 3x longer) and honestly I wasn’t thrilled with them at the time - not least because we had a florist in the room. Actually, with the benefit of hindsight I think they look rather lovely in these photos, don’t they? And they certainly struck the right chord in the room.

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As well as my meadowy blooms, I also dotted collections of single stems around to add to the ambience. Flowers are such an important part of creating a memorable experience. They add life, interest and colour and most importantly, I think they show that you care.

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Fancy joining us next time?

We had an absolute ball at the June workshop. So much so, I’ve booked another, down south, for those of you who’ve asked for November. Full details here - here are just a handful of spots left, do join us if you can! I promise you an inspiration filled two days that will be the catalyst for winning more of the right creative work.

Enjoyed this post? You’ll find more on my process before and you’ll find more here and here as well as all the notes and eye candy from each workshop here.