Nik Southern, 38, owner of Grace & Thorn
Let's talk flowers. What do you do?
'Grace & Thorn is a florist and floral design business. We do installations for things like fashion events, and run workshops too. We have two shops: one in Hackney and a new one in Soho.'
Have you always worked in floristry?
'No. I was in public-sector IT recruitment for 13 years - really interesting, ha ha! In 2011, I decided to speak to a life coach, and asked him: "What the fuck am I going to do? I'm bored out of my mind!" He gave me a psychometric test and came up with three suggestions: interior design, gardening and floral design. I decided to book myself on a floral design course and that was it.'
And you started from your front room?
'Yes, but I soon moved to a studio in Dalston. There wasn't a shopfront; we were just sending out bouquets. People got to know us through Instagram and magazine articles. I then found a vacant space on Hackney Road and thought: Well, maybe I'll just do a shop.'
What does a typical day involve?
'I get up at about 6am. We all get in and take a massive delivery of flowers. We'll then get the shop into shape, deal with the morning orders, and get our heads around the rest of the day. We're always cleaning, lugging buckets of water, carrying boxes, and putting bouquets together. You need to work hard and have grit! Every day is different, though. That's what I love about it. I hate monotony.'
Done any big commissions recently?
'A couple of months ago, Max Mara held a dinner for its patrons at the Royal Academy. We covered the tables, fireplaces and stairways in flowers - it took a day to prepare, and a day to uninstall. And for Henry Holland we made chandeliers out of swiss cheese plant leaves.'
What's the best part of the job?
'I like it best when a client says to me: "Make me a bouquet and do what you want." I get carried away into a world of my own. To me, it's like art. I can't describe it. There's nothing like that feeling at the end when you see everything come together.'
Hours: 40 hrs p/w
Starting wage: £8.50 p/h
Qualifications: Not necessary
Interview by Sammy Robson