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Katie Marx

Studio Visit

27th June, 2014
Lucy Feagins
Friday 27th June 2014

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Florist Katie Marx in her Collingwood workshop.  Photo - Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

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Katie wires delicate buttonholes in her workshop.  Photo - Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

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Butterland, the property Katie and her partner, Greg Hatton own in Newstead, all dolled up for a wedding with flowers and foliage by Katie.  Event styled by Local Gatherings.  Photo - Erin and Tara.

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The Collingwood workshop of Katie Marx.  Photo - Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

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Katie Marx in her Collingwood workshop.   Photo - Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Ok today is a first.  We're featuring someone who does not have a website.  This is not something we usually make a habit of... but I have quite honestly been waiting about 6 years for 'Katie Marx dot com' to happen, and I fear we might be waiting 6 more... (!!) so we figured we might as well get on with it!  Luckily, these days Ms Marx is pretty easy to track down via Instagram (!), and I guess if you can grow a successful business via good old fashioned word of mouth referrals, you must be doing a pretty excellent job!

I still clearly remember the first time I ever met Katie.  It was actually way before I had even started this website! I was working as a set dresser on a kids TV show, and one morning I found myself dressing a set at Ripponlea, a historic house in Melbourne, which was one of the key locations for the series.  There I was, on my own, at around 8.00am on a Monday morning, turning the original 'ballroom' into high school cafeteria set (smoke and mirrors!), and along came gorgeous, bubbly Katie in her van, full of energy, single handedly bumping out a jungle of 6ft cherry blossom branches, leftover from a wedding the night before. I must admit to being slightly intrigued during this first encounter - who was this mysterious, super friendly girl lugging these massive branches onto her roof with a beaming smile on her face and not a care in the world!?  We introduced ourselves, and I gratefully accepted a bundle of branches to take home... (they barely fit in my car!) and when I got home I googled Katie, and of course found nothing!  But Ms Marx did leave a lasting impression... and it wasn't long before our paths crossed again.

Katie grew up in New Zealand.  She has always been an outdoorsy, not-afraid-to-get-her-hands-dirty type, and after finishing high school, craved nothing more than a life of surfing and picking oranges... but she also had a niggling passion for all things botanical, and it was her Mum who first encouraged her to study floristry.  Of course, working with flowers suited Katie perfectly, as it combined Katie's intuitive creativity with nature-appreciation and outdoorsy-ness, as well as promising a varied career path, with the potential for inspiring collaborations and adventures!

After moving to Melbourne and cutting her teeth assisting some of the most creative florists in the business (including our very clever pal Joost Bakker), Katie went out on her own, lending her floral wizardry to all manner of events, marquees, high end restaurants and creative retailers.  Along the way Katie accumulated a hardworking and very tight knit little team, as well as settling down with her partner and chief creative collaborator Greg Hatton, with whom she has two gorgeous babes, Hazel (2.5 years) and Minnie (7 months).

For Katie, life these days is divided between her flower workshop in Collingwood, and Butterland, a heritage listed ex butter factory she and Greg own in Newstead, near Castlemaine.  Whilst Greg and the kids live in Newstead fulltime, Katie spend 2-3 days each week travelling back and forth to Melbourne for work, with a lot of help from her team and her Mum!  Greg’s furniture workshop is set up at Butterland, and the family live in a small section of the building, whilst the main areas of the building and garden are hired out regularly for events, weddings and photo shoots.  It's a blissful but very busy life, and Katie takes it all in her stride!

I'm glad to be able to finally share Katie's story and her work here today, after that first fortuitous meeting at Ripponlea many years ago!

Tell us a little about your background – what path led you to floristry originally, and to the launch of your own business?

Mothers sometimes do know best. When I finished school in NZ all I wanted to do was to live in a combi van, surf and work picking oranges. But I always had a passion for anything botanical and creative, so mum took me (kicking and screaming) along to a floristry course. I had always thought floristry was for old ladies, but once I got into the swing of it I never looked back, and can't imagine doing anything else… thanks mum!

I stopped working full-time about 9 years ago, and started by making up jobs on the kitchen table. It was about a year until I was working full-time for myself, having taken over the kitchen table, half the lounge and the garage. Everywhere was either full of vases, props, branches or flowers. A friend had given me an old van that wouldn’t lock, and had to be driven with the window open because the fumes were so bad.

But I was always determined that I was going to work for myself. I had my own ideas.
Having said that, I did learn heaps from my past employers in Australia as well as New Zealand and London, and wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Being a florist means notoriously early starts and big bump-ins, but amongst all the long hours there must be lots of super fun bits too! What are the projects or clients you love most?

It sounds crazy but you actually get used to the super early starts. I love seeing the city come to life when you have already had your first coffee and been working for a few hours. There are so many great things about my job. No two days are ever the same.

We do a lot of restaurant and store flowers each week, so we can be really creative using big fruiting branches for example, arranging battery vases full of fragrant garden roses or suspending bundles of tulips still on their bulbs. Over the years I have collected a lot of industrial vessels, vases and props that we use and change regularly, keeping things interesting for clients and ourselves.

We work with stylists and event co-ordinators often on all sorts of jobs. We recently made a suspended ceiling of individually tied tulips for Megan Morton's The School, wild bouquets for a fashion runway, a private dinner event at Cutler and Co, flowers in a butcher's shop and of course lots of gorgeous weddings.

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Tulip installation by Katie Marx and her team for The School's Maybelle calligraphy class in Melbourne. Photo - Brooke Holm.

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Tulip installation by Katie Marx and her team for The School's Maybelle calligraphy class in Melbourne. Photo - Brooke Holm.
How has your move to Butterland, your property in Newstead near Castlemaine changed the way you work? How do you structure your working week now between Butterland and the city, and what challenges / opportunities have come from your move to Castlemaine?

A lot has changed in the last couple of years.  Moving from Northcote to Butterland. The arrival of babies and learning to let go.  Realising I cannot be working full-time in the city and that I am not super woman.

The Juggle. The Sunday evening logistics chat with Greg, who’s looking after Hazel while I go to the city, organising mum to come with Minnie so I can still work while having a breast fed baby, how to fit a stool delivery, pram and tall fennel flowers in the back of my car. I do feel very fortunate to have such great staff that I trust and who understand my aesthetic and work ethic. I do come to the city 2 - 3 days per week depending on what is happening. I love going to market, working, the people and the pace of city life when I’m here, but also look forward to getting back to beautiful Butterland.

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Florist Katie Marx with baby Minnie, outside Katie's Collingwood workshop.  Photo - Eve Wilson for The Design Files.
How is your business structured? How many people do you employ, and do you outsource any significant tasks?

I still don’t have business cards or a website (maybe soon), so all of my work is through referrals, or people seem to find me in a round about way, so it's always been personal and small. It has grown over the years though, and I now have a full-time amazing team, Phil, Amy and Leila (aka 'Skinny'!). Because I am in Melbourne 2 - 3 days a week at the moment, as well as managing things from Butterland, when I’m in town it's super busy.

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Leila (aka 'Skinny'!), Katie and Amy at Katie's Collingwood workshop.  Photo - Eve Wilson for The Design Files.
What are your top floral picks to say thank you, sorry, or I love you?

Whatever is in season!  Whether it be a beaker of violets, a branch of split pomegranate, a two metre high bunch of sunflowers or one perfect water lily.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

Nothing's ever typical, that’s what I love about it. Maybe early morning foraging in the country, or a 4.30am flower market visit if I’m in the city. Lots of great clients to create for, and being at the top of Rialto Tower at Vue de Monde on sunrise doing the weekly flowers is sublime.

Lunch with the team at a client's café, a reshuffle and reload of the workshop in Collingwood ready for the afternoon work, or a weekend wedding.

Being invited to clients' events is always fun, and we love seeing people enjoy our flowers. Venturing out to a new suburb to fossick for interesting vessels, or brainstorming for fresh ideas is something I love. I won't mention phone calls, paper work and emails that are endless and ongoing!

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Katie and her team hard at work in their Collingwood workshop.  Photo - Eve Wilson for The Design Files.
Can you list for us 5 resources across any media you tune in to regularly?

Instagram and Pinterest, Saskia’s Grandiflora in Sydney, Amy Merrick’s blog ‘An Apple A Day'... but most of my inspiration is from people and places, rather than media to be honest.

Which other local event stylists / designers / creative people do you admire?

My friend Joost Baker who always inspires me, event company Local Gatherings, stylist Emily Ward, the Katie Marx Flowers team, and my partner Greg Hatton.

What would be your dream creative project or collaboration?

I’ve got two coming up next year. A collaboration with a fellow florist from the USA, and a posh wedding in New York to create flowers for.

What are you looking forward to?

A full nights sleep.

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Stidio details from the workshop of Katie Marx.  Photo - Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

MELBOURNE QUESTIONS

Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?

Northcote. I lived there for five years with the best neighbour, Kirra Jamison, in a converted warehouse which I loved. I had my flower workshop below and lived above. There was a beautiful park opposite with walks and a river, and Fruit Peddlers just up the road.

What and where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

Silo. It was breakfast and we ate the best thick bacon ever!

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

This time of year is the quietest workwise, so if possible I’ll be at Butterland shovelling compost, gardening or hanging out with girls and Greg.

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

A special and very secret foraging patch and sorry but I’m not telling where it is!

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The Collingwood workshop of Katie Marx.  Photo - Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

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