Born out of a mutual passion for natures unsurpassable beauty, Braer was founded in 2015 by Georgia Potter and Azzmin Rayment. We visit their Bangalow based studio to chat about working with local growers, their recent trip to Japan and how to create a beautiful wreath this Holiday season.
Tell us a little about yourselves—what led you to floristry?
We both met on the job and it was a definite love-at-first-sight vibe between us. Azzmin laughed at Georgia’s jokes and Georgia was in awe of Azzmin’s wild and experimental aesthetic. Four years ago, the talk about environmental sustainability in floristry was only a whisper but it was of the utmost importance for us, so before long we decided to start Brær. That was nearly four years ago and we’ve been so amazed to see the support of our approach to floristry grow so strongly around our community.
Azzmin has a long history of working in fashion and grew up in a very artistic family in an off-grid home in The Pocket, just inland from Brunswick Heads. After having her two sons she wanted to do something creative as a part-time job and found so much pleasure washing buckets and assisting at weddings for a local florist. This turned into a self-taught floristry journey and eventually starting a weekly locally-grown flower pop-up at a friend’s cafe.
Georgia has been a working artist for most of her life, primarily as a singer for her band Moreton. (@moreton_) She grew up immersed in nature with gardening in her blood from her grandmother and mother. After moving back to Australia, Georgia trained classically as a florist to move her botanical knowledge into a more creative sphere and just before meeting Azzmin launched what is now the wedding arm of our business, Bramblehaus (@bramblehaus).
What inspired the name ‘Braer’?
Braer is an old English word for Briar - which means thicket or a number of prickly scrambling shrubs, especially a wild rose. It hasn’t been used for over 150 years. We wanted something that could mean anything and act as an umbrella word for a new style of flowers and art direction. We love to showcase handmade objects and products that we find beautiful and functional, so our Braer Studio encompasses more than just flowers too.
Georgia wears the Levy Playsuit in White
You’re both passionate about Australian grown flowers and are proudly part of the "Slow Flower" movement which promotes local growers. Can you share more about this mindful approach to floristry?
Yes, we are so proud of how far this movement has come in the 4 years since starting Brær. Georgia started the “Slow Flowers Australia” Instagram and hashtag back then and originally we were the only two florists using it, and now thousands of florists and farmers across the country are part of the conversation! The idea started in America where they have created some amazing awareness around the importance of buying local as an extension of the Slow Food and Slow Living movement. The majority of cut flowers bought and sold in Australia are grown overseas in places as far away as Israel, Kenya, and Colombia. The slow flower approach chooses only Australian-grown flowers grown by Australian farmers which helps to limit flowers-miles and the knock-on effects of imported products. One step further, finding a local florist, farmer or farmer-florist where the flowers are grown even closer to home is an even better option for the environment - and typically the flowers are fresher too!
Flowers are so magical to us and the farmers that grow them are our heroes. We are grateful to be able to enjoy fresh flowers and Australia grows so many beautiful varieties across our varying climates. We want to educate our customers about choosing flowers that support our local farmers and seeing the beauty in the unexpected, perhaps in that wonky shaped stem or imperfect leaf, or the more subtle varieties grown in smaller quantities.
Buying local flowers means that you are investing in a future for flower growing in Australia, you’re using less plastic and packaging than imported flowers and you’re avoiding the chemicals that flowers are sprayed with to enter the country. Unless you see behind the scenes and look into it a little further, it's hard to imagine that flowers can come from such an unnatural place, like so many other industries, that can be very anti-nature.
You recently returned from a trip to Tokyo to study Ikebana—the Japanese art of flower arrangement. In what ways has this technique inspired your practice?
Ikebana has always been an influence for Braer and it was a dream to be able to study at the Sogetsu Foundation Headquarters in Tokyo. Ikebana is like meditation in motion. It is about using ancient methods and formulas to create balance in a composition. As our sensei said, “you must find your happiness” when making an arrangement. We feel surer than ever that we want to continue studying Sogetsu Ikebana. The principles and techniques we learned are useful in creating unusual shapes in our arrangements and the free-style classes that we attended were super zany and inspiring! It’s an approach that treats arrangement more like sculptures, highlighting the individuality of the individual stem.
Adorning Assembly Label stores this Holiday season—your handmade wreaths are made with foraged and dried flora and woven onto a reusable base. Can you talk us through the creative process?
If you’d like to make a wreath at home, we implore you to have some fun. It will take some time and make a big mess, and it’s a chance to commune with nature and get back to being crafty, which we have such little time for these days. We recommend getting to know your local florist, or a grower at your local farmers market, as they’ll be able to help you source Australian-grown materials and a wreath base. Use a natural vine base that can break down over time or a sturdy reusable wireframe that you intend to use for all the Christmases ahead.
We enjoy the simplicity and rhythm of using masses of the same material for the entire wreath, but mixing it up for a wilder look is fun too. Using botanical materials that hold their form when they dry means you can enjoy your wreath for longer, but starting with fresh materials can make them easier to weave onto the frame as they are less brittle. Snip your materials down into 15/20cm pieces and choose a starting point on your base. By attaching the materials in one direction you’ll achieve a wonderful whipped, circular rhythm to your shape. Now for some patience–get comfortable with a cup of tea or wine–and add each stem one at a time, weaving the stem end in and out of the base so it stays in place. If you need your wreath to be sturdy for an outdoor location like a front door, follow your weaving with twine attached to the base which will help to hold the stems in place. After you’ve made a full circle, attach a small loop of twine and hang from a hook on your wall or door. Check for any gaps in your work and add a little extra flora if needed. We also like to finish off with a generous silk or linen ribbon for festivity.
What flowers are you loving to use right now?
It’s nearly the end of the Peony season which is always a favourite. The local dahlias are starting and they are as big as your hand - we often find them in buckets at roadside stalls if you happen to drive past at the right moment. The scent of tree magnolias in summer is number one, and the delphinium are strong, tall and vibrantly blue.
What do you love about Byron, and where are your favourite places to eat and shop?
We love the beach and the rolling hills. Our favourite place to snack on the go is Red Ginger for dumplings and THE most delicious sweet sticky rice. Izakaya Yu in Mullumbimby for the famous Monday night ramen night and Baker and Daughters for the best bread, pies, and coffee. We are always popping up to Newrybar Merchants on Friday mornings to enjoy the new local flower market run by Hannah from Our Little Flower Farm, who is bringing together many of the region's local flower growers. And after big events and long days up the ladder, we occasionally treat ourselves to a massage at Comma or Halcyon House.
Describe an average day in the studio
An early start to zoom around to our local farmers market where our friend Brianna from Jumping Red Ant will have giant bunches of freshly cut olive branches for us, or green lisianthus and panda anemones. Then we head to the studio and unpack the delivery that has arrived from our supplier in Brisbane, recutting everything and plunging it into a deep bucket of fresh water. Making the arrangements for our weekly clients in the studio is the most fun part - usually with the music cranked and lots of coffee! We wrap bouquet gestures and online orders - Azzmin is really good at wrapping, Georgia is terrible at it! After the deliveries, we return to do a lot of cleaning. Floristry is a fairly filthy profession—lots of vases and buckets to wash, stinky old arrangements to compost, floors to sweep. After patting all the puppies at the cafe beside our studio, we take our green waste around the corner to 96 Bangalow, a farm where they will use it to make compost.
When it comes to workwear, what are your everyday essentials?
Florists need a lot of pockets! There’s always a zip-tie or a petal or a leaf that needs to be stashed at the last minute. Workwear that suits sturdy boots and tool belts on event days, and because it’s always so hot in our region (especially up a ladder in a marquee) we stick to natural fibers like cotton and linen. On our regular studio days, we can dress a little nicer with lovely aprons in blues and rust tones.
Finally, how will you both be spending Christmas this year?
This year it will be by the beach with loved ones and lots of food and drinks! And our special secret beach which wouldn’t be a secret if we told you where it was of course!