Is there anything better than a fresh bunch of flowers on your dining room table? Not for me. Anyone who knows me will tell you Im completely obsessed with flowers. I also adore passionate, hard working people, which is why I am so excited to have Melbourne based floral artist Fleur McHarg on the site. Shes got it all: creativity, talent and a hard working nature, which is why shes running one of Melbournes most renowned floral studios. Passion makes hard work easy, says McHarg, who has been in the industry for over two decades and says success comes from 99% hard work and 1% talent. Shes also a mother to Milly, 11, and Archie, 9. We loved spending the afternoon in McHarg spectacular studio surrounded by beautiful blooms
What has motherhood taught you so far?
“Patience, sleep is not overrated, compromise, flexibility, LOVE and only really important things matter. It also taught me to be a doctor, counsellor, physiologist, army major. The list goes on!
Whats the best advice youve been given about motherhood?
The best advice was from my father, we are purely the caretakers of our children and we are here to teach and steer them in the right direction. We do not own them! Our job is to make sure they are able to make the right decisions when the time comes.
Can you tell us about your background and how you came to launch The Studio by Fleur?
When I left school 24 years ago, I worked on a solo painting exhibition at 101 Collins St and successfully had a sell out! My art folio for the HSC was in the top six of the state. After painting for a number of years, I started working on the Christmas decorations for the Como centre in South Yarra. This led to also doing the Como Gaslight Gardens for four years. Steve Bennett saw what I was doing and approached me to have the flower shop in the entrance of The Georges Department Store in Collins St (that he opened with Terrence Conran). I was launched into flowers here, and was famously remembered for only stocking white flowers! After Georges, many opportunities followed. I launched my own shop in Toorak Road, South Yarra. This closed when I met my husband and had the children. While they were young, I continued with floristry and designing for private clients (while my husband and I designed and built three houses). When my children started school, I reopened a retail florist where my studio is now, this was five years ago and the rest is history.
What inspires your work?
The flowers themselves inspire my work. Also the clients and the spaces we work in for different events. I guess I have always been interested in colour, form, shape and texture. Growing up in my mothers workroom (milliner Wendy Mead). Flowers as I see it are an extension of any other form of art, fashion, sculpture etc.
What are your tips for achieving balance?
Its extremely hard to achieve a balance between family and work. As I am a control freak, I do not have help at home. So my balance is children, work and home come first and unfortunately I come last. You can sleep when you die I say!
How do you juggle your work commitments with being a mother?
I am very fortunate that my husband is around a lot to help with the day-to-day drop offs and pick-ups. He owns a sheep station in South Australia and travels there once a month or so. Those weeks are tough, but I juggle work around the children and their needs. When he is here, what needs to happen for the business happens! Whether that is early starts or late finishes, it just means some weeks (especially in busy times) the family dont see me much.
What kind of work do you need to do in a day?
An average day for me is always an early start, 5am. I find it easier if I get myself sorted in the mornings, then organise the children. I always do a cooked breakfast for them whether its eggs, French toast or porridge as I find this keeps them going longer during the day, especially during the winter months. Then its lunches and getting the kids dressed, hair, teeth etc. I am also one of those people that needs to leave the house in the mornings with everything done; dishwasher on, beds made and a load of washing in the machine. I cant bare to come home to all those chores after a long day at work! By 8.30am when I arrive at work, I find I have already done half a days work. An average day at work is full of meetings, corporate events, wedding designs, quotes and ordering for upcoming jobs. There is always something on whether it be photo shoots for future articles and forecasting work, seeing clients and managing the day-to-day, which comes with running a small business.
How do you procrastinate?
I will always find something else to do and say that can wait till tomorrow (or get another coffee!)
And how do you focus?
I find it easy to focus when I am working on something I love – I get excited and want to see the finished product so head down, bum up and I just do it!
Whats the most challenging part of running your own business?
As from January this year we have turned our retail space into a studio, as I wanted to spend a little more time with my children. When I had the retail space I would leave home at 3.30am twice a week to do market. I found at the end of those days I was barely able to function as a mother (even grade 3 homework was a challenge!). I found it hard to delegate the market run as I was not able to find staff who were confident enough to set the shop up and buy the right flowers to create the space creatively every week. Closing the retail side has enabled a better balance for our work to be maintained at a level that I am happy with. Im also able to be a mum! Able to help with all sorts of nighttime dramas.
Whats the most rewarding part of running your own business?
Happy customers! And knowing that all your hard work and energy over a 20-year period is paying off!
Can you tell us about the wall of botanical prints in your studio?
The Botanical print wall is my favourite thing in the whole world. I commissioned a very good friend and amazing Botanical artist Libby Kerr to press 200 Australian natives to fill the entire wall! It is just magical!
What are your favourite flowers and why?
My favourite flowers are the ones that have a strong perfume, as smell is so important to me. I am crazy mad about Daphne, Lilly of the Valley, Gardenias, Jasmine and garden roses the list could go on for days! The smells all evoke memories of childhood and happy memories.
Whats your favourite part of the day?
My favourite part of the day is when I get into bed at night. In summer I read a book or in winter resume my knitting! It is my time, and my time only. Be it only 0 mins but its 10 mins of bliss!”.
Where are your top five favourite places in Melbourne?
Chin Chin mad about the food!
France-soir – cant beat a good steak with béarnaise sauce.
Photography: Raegan Glazner Words: Georgie Abay