When she isn’t working in her family business, 34-year-old mother of three, Sarah Barfoot works as a florist specialising in wedding flowers or facilitates flower arranging and furniture upcycling classes.
Growing up in a large family, finding her voice and exploring her independent spirit was always allowed. Even as a student, her flair for creativity and her hands-on approach led her to seek out the art department as much as possible, however, it was her mother’s encouragement that set her on a path of floristry.
“In 5th year we had the opportunity of one-week work experience in an industry you were interested in. My mother suggested going to a florist. Within 1 week I was hooked and haven’t looked back.”
After that initial spark, Sarah went on to study floristry and horticulture at Greenmount College and after graduating, she set up her own business at the tender age of 17.
Despite having to close the business after four years due to a recession at the time, Sarah reflects on the hard times as invaluable lessons learnt.
“When my first business closed, I felt like I had failed! What I learned from this was, it was not a failure but a learning experience. All the knowledge and experience I got from that first business has helped immensely over the years. It is also a very humbling experience” she explained.
“When starting out, I think we can sometimes overthink things or be paralysed with fear or feel that everything has to be done perfectly or not at all.
“I think one of the best pieces of advice I could give someone is to say: ‘There is no failure, just feedback’.”
Following her own business venture, Sarah continued working with brides all across Northern Ireland and in hospitality and retail which led her to eventually opening a retail shop with her mother in 2011.
“In 2011, my mother and I opened a retail shop called Allie Mae, which we ran for 10 years. We had the idea of selling Chalk Paint, upcycling furniture, running furniture painting classes, and floristry classes as well as selling inspirational books, gifts, and soft furnishings”
During Lockdown Sarah and her mother decided to close the retail shop in order to concentrate on their online retail and distribution business selling Autentico Paint all while Sarah continues to focus her creative endeavour on floristry and delivering workshops to flower enthusiasts.
Even after years of experience creating wedding flowers, Sarah admits to still getting nervous when she is delivering arrangements to the bride’s house.
“When I’m meeting with a bride, I want to know everything about her vision, so that I can translate it into flowers that she will adore. I often get into a lot of detail.
“I think it can be challenging to make sure that I have communicated properly with the bride so that I can create exactly the style of flowers she has envisaged.”
Sarah finds the creativity of floristry freeing and loves how as an artist, she gets to create one-of-a-kind creations.
“There is a world of flowers at your fingertips, colours galore, and they are all waiting for you to bring them together into a masterpiece,” she said, adding: “I am in my element when I have a bunch of flowers in my hand and as a creative, I can say I passionately love what I do.”
This is not to say her career path is without challenges as she finds herself at the mercy of mother nature from time to time.
“Flowers are perishable, and to some extent, you’re at the whim of mother nature. What’s available the week of an event isn’t entirely up to you. This forces you to be creative and adapt.
“Like food, you also have to be mindful of timing. A big arch or other outdoor installation means that you have to get started early enough that you’re not rushed, but not so early that the flowers wilt in the sun and heat.”
Besides working with flowers, in the last 10 years, Sarah has been painting and upcycling furniture with her mother who she believes she inherited the passion from.
“During Lockdown we decided to close our retail shop and concentrate on our online retail and distribution business selling Autentico Paint.”
Now in her day to day work, Sarah is working in her family business as the UK’s distributor for Autentico Chalk paint & WoodUbend, the products she uses in her popular flower arranging and upcycling workshops.
These workshops are not only a great way to meet new people with similar interests but it is also an amazing opportunity to learn a new skill.
“I enjoy facilitating classes in flower arranging and furniture upcycling and seeing the end results.”
Sarah has been working with The Designerie for over seven years now and has been facilitating floristry classes, wreath-making workshops and furniture upcycling classes since 2019.
“They are great to work with and the facilities are amazing! I love coming to work at the Designerie. They have curated an amazing range of products and the makers house is a fantastic idea!
“I always tell people who are heading to the north coast to visit the Designerie. You can always pick up something a little different. They showcase local talent and crafters, and the aesthetic is second to none! It’s a little hidden gem!”
If you’d like to find out more information about the upcoming workshops Sarah will facilitate, and book in for one visit https://thedesignerie.co.uk/collections/adult-workshops
We have an extensive range of Autentico chalk paint available online or in-store at The Designerie. You can also contact Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org for flower enquiries, visit her brand new website www.slbfloraldesign.co.uk