Makelight Magic with Caroline Oleron
Caroline Oleron runs Cherfold Flowers from her cutting garden and studio in the countryside of Chiddingfold on the Surrey/West Sussex border.
Caroline creates seasonal posies, bouquets and wedding flowers mostly grown and cut from her own garden.
Can you give us a bit of background about your super successful Cherfold Flowers?
Six years ago I began selling sweet peas on my gate. I was a keen gardener but was working in Marketing and PR and didn't really fancy digging up other people's gardens for a living.
Having been to art school I was definitely more drawn to the creative side of having a garden - plant combinations / colours and textures were my 'thing'!
The sweet peas started selling (of course!) and two local shops approached me about supplying them with locally grown flowers.
Weddings would have terrified me at this point! Well last year I helped 30 brides with their wedding flowers and it really is my favourite bit of the job. Saying this I do equally love providing kitchen table flowers for people from my garden: I see the joy that they give people and that makes me so happy!
What inspired you to strike out on your own in this particular direction?
I wanted to be able to pick up a bunch of flowers from a florist shop that really 'spoke' to me - whether it was because my Grandma grew flowers that were similar or because the colours and textures were just so gorgeous. I found the flowers quite bland and unimaginative - of course this was six years ago and I think things have changed quite a lot.
How are you using Instagram to promote your business?
Instagram is key for me, not necessarily for drumming up lots of local business (although it has helped here too) but more for my brand awareness and for referrals that have come my way.
I have found a wonderful community of flower growers / like minded florists and working mostly on my own that is really key. I absorb trends / colours / photography styles and this is reflected in my work too. And not forgetting my now growing obsession with photography itself!
How would you describe your photography style?
My photography style has evolved so much since finding Instagram three or four years ago. I liked taking photos of pretty collections but everything was a bit random with no real thread running through. I think that was because I wasn't really sure where my business was and the two were definitely linked.
I have had a flat lay phase, a white background phase, but mostly I have decided that my Instagram feed will consist of beautiful individual flower photos before they are picked, wedding flowers, shots of my cottage garden and flower combinations that I am currently in love with.
I do have a love for slightly underexposed moody shots that leave you wanting just that little bit more! I have battled a lot with my style and asked lots of questions, but I think I am getting there now, slowly! I'll probably want to do things differently once I do get 'there' anyway!
And if you could go anywhere to take photos, where would you want to go?
Great Dixter, or Sissinghurst, or any walled garden!
What does Makelight mean to you?
Makelight is a wonderful community which I love to dip into at the end of a busy day for inspiration and support. People asking the questions that are bobbing around in my head and ones that I hadn't even contemplated!
The support is incredible and although I have met some fellow Instagrammers through Emily's teaching, a lot of them I have never met but really enjoy seeing their photos pop up in my feed and watching the progress they are making.
It feels like people are rooting for one another to do well.
What's one piece of advice you'd like to pass on to others?
Don't be afraid to experiment and to find what feels natural for you. There's so much inspiration out there but sometimes it can feel a bit overwhelming, like everyone has got their style 'sorted'.
My style is still evolving but the thing that keeps it moving is the fact that I am taking photos every single day both on my camera phone and on my SLR.
I really cherish that time wandering around the garden looking at the daily changes and recording everything visually. There are a LOT of photos that don't make it into the public domain but these are probably the ones I learn from most.
Follow your dreams. I am not a trained florist but I have a successful floristry business - my photos have played such a significant role in pushing me and getting my name out there, they have given me a huge amount of confidence.
My camera would definitely have to be one of my desert island items! I look forward to taking more photography courses and would love to grab some one to one time with Emily in the near future.
If you've been inspired by Caroline's story, please take a look at our Makelight Essentials course that will run in June.
Be sure to take a closer look at Caroline's gorgeous page for Cherfold Flowers, and follow her Instagram feed using the link below!
The photo of Caroline at the beginning of this post was taken by Emma Davies Photography.