With our Scotland issue due back from the printers any day now we thought now would be a rather grand time to introduce you to Fiona Inglis and Natalya Ayers, the floral-minded duo behind Pyrus, a flower studio dedicated to foraging and promoting Scottish blooms. You can catch the printed Pyrus feature from mid-March - until then we hope this interview gets your green thumbs twitching.
Can you tell us a little about your training and background and how Pyrus Flowers came to be?
We both have creative backgrounds (in fine and applied arts) and discovered the world of flowers by accident, taking positions in the same Edinburgh flower shop. Quickly bitten by the botanical bug we were captivated by the incredible garden roses grown by a local market gardener, which smelt so intoxicating and were so different from their imported counterparts. Mr. Smith’s glorious blooms inspired us to join forces in 2011 to establish our own flower garden and studio. We had become disillusioned by the Dutch flower industry and the lack of variety, scent and seasonality; from the beginning we sought out unusual, Scottish native and heritage varieties and foraging has become an important part of our practice.
Where does the name Pyrus come from?
The Latin word Pyrus refers to a genus of fruit trees which include pears; we chose it because we wanted a strong, timeless name for our studio that encompasses all things botanical and not just flowers.
What inspires your work?
If you have a creative sensibility and sensitivity to your surroundings, what doesn’t inspire you? We are endlessly inspired by the Scottish landscape, other cultures and the patterns and rhythms of nature. A swathe of cloud in the sky can be enough to evoke endless conversation and form the seed of a new idea. Lately we have found collaboration with other creatives has produced exciting and challenging ideas which is taking our work in new directions.
What do you love most about your job?
It often depends on the changeable Scottish weather! Time spent in the studio working with botanicals is always the most rewarding and constructing an installation on site is the exciting part of our work. However the heart of Pyrus is the flowers so, working in the garden among the blooms or taking a long foraging walk to gather materials feels like the soul of what we do.
What is the most challenging part of the work you do - and for that matter, what is the most rewarding?
Our day to day work is physically demanding and we are both quite impatient; we want nothing less than a flower revolution to flood the UK flower industry with local flowers and it cannot happen quickly enough! The most rewarding part is definitely being plant mothers to our flowers; watching something bloom for the first time that we have nurtured from seed never loses its shine. All those months waiting, protecting and caring for it is always worth it.
Has there been a project (past, present or future) that you particularly enjoyed?
We love travelling as part of our work so our trip to Saudi Arabia in 2014 for an installation at KAUST University was a highlight. We created a Kokedama installation (Japanese string garden) at the heart of the campus to celebrate the UN year of farming; it was a great experience to share our ideas and methods with such a varied group of nationalities in a unique environment. We are lucky enough to work alongside some fantastic creatives in the worlds of art, poetry and immersive events and have a number of exciting projects in the pipeline for 2015; watch this space!
Does Edinburgh, or Scotland for that matter, influence your work in any way?
Yes. Pyrus is half Scottish, half English so our heritage and the way we view Scotland is different: homeland and chosen land. It has great beauty and elegance while being tough and inhospitable at times but even on a windswept day in February there is always something which takes your breath away. Living in Edinburgh is special in itself; its geography is quite singular. We are flanked by sea, hills, farm and woodland with an extinct volcano in the heart of the city. You can’t escape nature here and that proximity to the elements influences everything in daily life, we try to bring a little bit of that to Pyrus; there is beauty in everything and nature surrounds us.
Do you feel that there is a real florist community working in Scotland (and beyond)? There are just a small number of florist/famers in Scotland and we would love to see other growers establish here to make local, seasonal flowers more accessible. It is much more common in Southern England where the weather is kinder and the season slightly longer. We are however part of the British Flower Collective which is a great support network for florists championing British grown flowers across the UK. The global flower family is a continuous wealth of friendship and inspiration for us and we have links as far afield as the US and Australia; talking, travelling and being part of this community of talented florists is a pleasure and a privilege.
Given the chance, who would you like to collaborate with?
We love collaboration; it continually informs and enriches our creative practice. Dream collaborations? Photographer Tim Walker and set designers Rhea Thierstein and Shona Heath. The inimitable Kate Bush. And we would love to work for Scottish designers like Christopher Kane or Holly Fulton to create incredible botanical installations.
What advice do you have for aspiring florists?
If you choose floristry as a career, stay true to who you are and what you love about flowers. There is room in our industry for a myriad of styles and, we say, embrace those differences. We have never striven to be like any of our contemporaries and that allows a freedom in our work. It is more of a way of life so be prepared to work hard, it can be quite tough but, at the end of a long day, we still wouldn’t do anything else.