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    Regional creative spotlight: Kamisha Refalo – Little Wren Flowers

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    By Christina Atherton

    Having recently made a sea change from the big smoke, I’ve noticed an abundance of local creatives doing incredible things across regional Australia, highlighting that you don’t need to live in a major city to fulfil your creative passion.

    One such creative is Kamisha Refalo from Little Wren Flowers in Newcastle who is pushing the boundaries when it comes to creative floristry. Her bespoke work can be seen across retail outlets, cafes and magazines as well as weddings and special events. Here she shares some insights into running a small business and her creative inspirations.

    Tell us a bit about your background? How did you get into floristry?
    I’ve been working in the floristry industry since I was 17 years old. My first job was at Roses Only in Chifley Plaza, Sydney. I felt like this would be the perfect ‘earthy’ job for a young country girl in the big city. I stayed there for a few years before moving back home to Bellingen on the north coast of NSW.

    After that, I dabbled in the industry for a few years but never felt confident or ready to branch out on my own. It wasn’t until my partner and I travelled around Australia with our sons then 1 and 3, that I really gave some thought to starting my own business.

    When we returned to Newcastle, I started Little Wren Flowers from home with just one client – Saluna Café – who I still work with today. From there, it grew really quickly and, with plenty of wedding requests and clients coming in, I moved into our studio on Darby Street.

    What was the motivation behind starting Little Wren Flowers?
    Essentially it was to create something that could be flexible around my young children – at the moment I work part-time which I’m really grateful for. Rather than have a typical shopfront, my flower studio is by appointment only which means I can be more flexible with my hours. I never thought Little Wren Flowers would turn out to be as creatively rewarding as it is, which is great. I really love working for myself and am thankful that, at this stage, the business isn’t driven by money.

    You have a really unique approach to floristry and a great eye for detail. Where do you get your inspiration from?
    I get my inspiration from the flowers. If you have fresh, beautiful blooms to work with, nothing can go wrong. I love natural, true-to-form arrangements – this style of floristry comes easily to me and I love that it resonates with so many people, too. In addition, living so close to the country, I am lucky enough to be able forage and handpick ingredients on a weekly basis.

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    How do you keep yourself creatively challenged working in a small regional business?
    I’m lucky that I have great clients who make me think outside the box each week. Creative collaborations are great, too, as they challenge what is possible. Social media keeps me on my toes and the changing seasons help as well, as I get to work with flowers and foliage that may often only be available for those few months each year.

    What do you love most about running your own creative business?
    I love having flexible hours to suit my home life. I love the control and being able to drive Little Wren Flowers in the direction that is right for me. I also love the freedom to work at my own pace and indulge, at times, in creative ideas. Floristry is a very satisfying job – it’s about making clients smile using the beauty of a natural medium.

    What are the challenges of running your own creative business?
    Like most creative people, I find bookwork and quoting on jobs can be challenging – I try very hard to please everyone! The other big challenge is to not take on too many overheads. I don’t want money to be the sole motivation of the business. At present, we only buy for clients so there is very minimal waste or loss.

    I also currently have three amazing casual staff at Little Wren Flowers and we all work really well together. As the boss, I am always learning how to make my team more comfortable and happy after each big project. My aim is for my staff to genuinely love what we do and never feel like it is just a job for them.

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    Do you find there are any differences between working in a regional area compared to a big city?
    For sure! Everyone is so supportive in Newcastle and I get such great positive feedback from the locals. I couldn't imagine living in a big city, let alone operating a small business there! We have it made in Newcastle - everything is close enough that it’s rarely stressful. The furthest we ever travel is an hour-and-a-half to the Hunter Valley to set up weddings. Unfortunately the drive to the Sydney Flower Markets is a mission from Newcastle. I would love for the Sydney Flower market to be more accessible.

    Is there are a strong creative community in Newcastle? Does this help with your creativity?
    Yes, the creative community here is very strong and inspiring. I collaborate regularly with a number of different people and am grateful for each and every opportunity. I just wish I had more time! There are so many awesome creative projects, openings and markets happening in Newcastle every day.

    What does a typical day at work look like for you?
    I have three types of days. A typical market day sees me wake at 2:30am and drive to the Sydney Flower Markets. It’s a 2.5 hour drive each way, so I usually get back to the studio around 9:30am and unload all the flowers and group them according to events, weddings and our weekly clients. If there’s time, I head home for a nanna nap, then pick up the kids from school at 2:45pm.

    A typical creative day in the studio making up wedding flowers often means I work back until 9/10pm, just to make sure everything is perfect. A wedding delivery and set up day starts at 5-6am to dress all bridal flowers, make any delicate crowns or hair flowers then pack the flowers into cars and head out to the wedding venue, usually by 2pm.

    A typical studio day starts by getting everyone to school then heading into the studio by 9am to check emails. I then create any orders and weekly clients orders, deliver those then pick up the kids and head home, or stay back late and get on top of quoting and paperwork.

    I love the variety of my days, so I guess there is no typical day other wise this job/career would not suit me. I love the ups and downs and the many different briefs and ideas that get thrown my way.

    What are your big plans for 2015?
    To move to a larger studio and buy a cool room – which would be heaven. I also have some creative weddings booked which I am really looking forward to getting my hands dirty for this year. And I would love to grow more flowers!

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    {Photos by Hannah Robinson}

    Having swapped the big smoke for coastal life, Christina Atherton is on a quest to live a more creative life and shine the spotlight on regional creatives. She has an unhealthy obsession with Instagram and loves any type of creative project having tried everything from watercolours and flower arranging to paper craft and calligraphy. When not working in PR, she spends her time as a mama, wannabe photographer and coffee addict. Christina is also the CWC Event Host in Newcastle, NSW.

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