When Fionna Tamin was working for her father’s ceramic factory in Indonesia, she knew in her heart that working for the family company would not make her happy. Fionna admits, she always needed to be doing something creative. To keep her creative energy flowing, she began floristry lessons on a whim. She also started to design jewellery and set up an online jewellery shop on Esty. This soon turned into her passions and career. Fionna has won local and outer state awards, showcased her creations at Fashfest 2015 and has her own floral and jewellery business, Peony N’ Pearl. Fionna creates anything from floral designs to handmade jewellery, and the work that comes out is simply stunning. We got the chance to chat to the talented floral and jewellery designer about her background and business.
Amica: Tell us about your background – when did you get your start as a floral and jewellery designer?
Fionna: After I finished high school, I got the opportunity to study music at the Australian National University of Canberra (ANU) for 4 years. However, I discovered music wasn’t for me at that point. I felt the need to fall into something else and pick up a new hobby. I decided to study a florist course in Victoria by correspondence. I did this for a year while studied music. After I finished studying music, I went to Jakarta, Indonesia to work for my family business. For the period of working with my father’s ceramics factory, I realised how much of a creative person I was. It didn’t matter what area of the business I worked in, I just couldn’t fit in anywhere.
When I was living and working in Jakarta, I took floristry classes on the weekends. My teacher, Andy Djati Utomo was excellent and taught me a great amount of the art in floristry. I also started to make jewellery. I would come home from work and make jewellery as another way to get income. I found that I really enjoyed it. I first started threading beads into wire. I soon discovered I really liked the wire wrapping technique. This is something I’m mainly into because it’s so delicate, dainty and intricate. There’s an endless possibility because wire is very malleable and I don’t think I can run out of creating different designs. It wasn’t too long after that I started my own Esty shop.
After two years of working with my family company, I wasn’t happy or fulfilled and it stressed me out. It was so obvious that I was a creative person and couldn’t keep living the way I was. I even asked my dad if I could quit or work in a creative branch. I ended up working part-time at the company and part-time creating and selling jewellery on my Esty shop.
During this time, I was in a long distance relationship with my then boyfriend now husband. After he proposed, I happily said yes! My father was sad about my decision to move back to Australia. But it was the best thing I could do at the time, whether he understood it or not.Amica: Looking back at where you were when you started this journey, where did you think it was going to lead you?
Fionna: I didn’t think it would lead me this far. When I moved back to Australia it was difficult to find a job as a florist. I was jobless for 8 months and it was really hard. I ended up getting a job in Dickson as a florist and worked there for 2 years. I learnt so much while I worked there. However, there was something inside me that had more to offer.
I ended up going to the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) to study floristry. At first I was unsure to take up studying again, but 2 of my work mates studied floristry at CIT and encouraged to do the same. It turned out to be a massive eye opener for me, because this is when I discovered that I was actually good at it. I won 3 awards in 1 year and this boosted my confidence. When I won the 2013 Smithers-Oasis Designz Cup Competition in Sydney, I started crying because it was a big deal for me at the time. From that moment I haven’t stopped creating and designing. I’ve always been hard on myself, bit shy and people around weren’t always that supportive. When I graduated from CIT, I quit my job at the florist and started my own business.Amica: As a designer, where do you get your inspiration? Which other local jewellers, florists or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
Fionna: I’m most creative when I’m in the shower and before I got to bed. Sometimes I’ll have an idea and draw it while I’m in bed, and fall asleep on it. Usually I draw ideas before I create it, especially with jewellery. I always stay true to what I like. If I see something on Pinterest or when I’m walking down the street, I’ll remember it and incorporate into my work. When creating bouquets, I usually incorporate a variety of 6-8 different flowers. I love texture colour, it spices up my brain. This is why I love creating, because the colours make you feel blissful.
At the moment I’ve been working with Vicky Kidd-Gallichan, and I’m so inspired by her. When you get to a certain level, you not only get inspired by the creativity, but by that persons approach to business. It’s how she relates to people that really inspires me. My business is only one year old, so she’s great for any advice.
Another creative person I’m inspired by is my teacher back in Jakarta, Andy Djati Utomo. He’s the first person who showed me you can be extremely talented and extremely generous with your knowledge. He’s world famous and will tell you everything he knows. You find some people have a tall poppy syndrome and won’t share their secrets. But with my teacher in Jakarta, he’ll tell you everything. He’s confident in his abilities and shares what he’s learnt.Amica: What are some of the biggest wedding trends and floral themes among your clients lately?
Fionna: Interesting you say that! Last year I had different brides asking for the dyed teal purple orchard. It wasn’t a trend at the time, but I had a lot of people asking for it. Last year, the colour navy blue was really popular with bridesmaid’s dresses. The biggest trends this year would be the colours flush pink and seafoam mint. A few brides have asked me for those colours. I find that once someone likes something, you get a trail of people wanting the same thing.
Amica: You have created some stunning floral chandeliers. What is your process in creating these pieces?
Fionna: With this particular floral chandelier, I had a week to start and finish it. I was conversing with the bride back and forth. The bride sent me 5 different pictures from Pinterest. This was to get an idea of how she wanted the chandelier to look. After looking at the pictures, I drew up a sketch and showed it to her. She was happy with the sketch, so I set out making the floral chandelier straight away. Lucky, my husband is a woodworker, so I showed him the sketch and listed the type of wood, size and chains needed to create and hang the design. We also visited the venue to see where we could hang the floral chandelier. My main focus in my business is to create things. So I’m happy to say the floral chandelier was created from an idea that was sketched on paper.
Amica: Do you have any special tips to make those lovely bouquets last longer?
Fionna: Some flowers won’t last long, no matter what you do. So the trick is to choose a flower that can actually last. For example, an orchid will last. Usually, I get a baking tray and fill it up with water half way. Then, put the flower heads in to drink up the water. Next, spray water over the top. After that, I wrap the flowers in plasic wrap and put them in the flower fridge. It’s best if you place the flowers in the fridge for a few hours. If the flowers are in the fridge for too long, they will go transparent. After you take the flowers out, they will be full of water and crisp.
I did this for the flowers at Fashfest 2015. We were even able to use them for the photo shoot the next day. I find that the challenge of being a florist is keeping the flowers alive.
On another note, at Fashfest 2015, my main concern was to make sure the flowers didn’t fall onto the catwalk. Only dress number 5 had a petal fall off. It happened on her last turn on the runway. It was so beautiful the way it slid down the dress, it was perfect. Wish I could have planned it, but I didn’t. You know you’ve achieved something great, when you were scared at first, but accomplished it.Amica: What advice would you give to someone wanting to do what you’re doing now?
Fionna: The key is to find out who you are, and what you want to do. But it doesn’t come easy. If you decide to go for it, you have to think whether it’s worth it. The thing that keeps me going is definitely my husband. He’s incredibly supportive and I owe everything I do to him. Family support is number one. Also, surround yourself with people who believe in you. For a long time people didn’t believe in me. Which why going to CIT was so great and also when Vicky asked me to collaborate with her. So, choose that one thing carefully. Treat it as your own kid, and do anything to make it amazing.
Amica: Do you have any upcoming, exciting plans that you would like to share with us?
Fashfest was a big stepping stone for me, so I want to focus on getting better and keep learning and growing. I’ll be visiting my floral teacher in Jakarta this month to catch up on all the happenings I’ve had this year. In the long run, I would love to attract more clients and have the work and family balance. Being able to work from home, while looking after kids would be great. If I could achieve that, I’d be very happy.
Connect with Fionna Tamin:
Instagram – peonynpearl
Esty shop – www.etsy.com/shop/peonynpearl
Website – www.peonynpearl.com.au