Meet the maker
WELCOME TO THE FLOWER-FILLED WORLD OF TERRI CHANDLER AND KATIE SMYTH, WHO DITCHED THEIR CAREERS IN FAVOUR OF INDEPENDENCE
Get to know florist duo Worm London
Growing up separately in Southern Ireland, Terri and Katie spent their days reading books and playing in grassy meadows surrounded by a wild and natural landscape that left a lasting impression. Fast forward a few decades and Terri was working as an actress in London, having moved to the UK several years earlier, while stylist Katie was new to the city and looking for a challenge. After meeting through a mutual friend and deciding they’d love to work for themselves, the pair took the brave move to quit their jobs and retrain as florists.
A unique pairing of literature and floristry, their company Worm is a flower studio with a di erence. Taking inspiration from the “imperfect” flowers of their childhood, Terri and Katie have a style that beams with personality. Since setting up, they’ve grown a huge following on Instagram, count Burberry, M&S and Harper’s Bazaar among their clients, and have even released their own book, Wreaths: Fresh, Foraged & Dried Floral Arrangements. We met them at their city studio to talk teamwork, hoarding, and their love of wonky flowers. Where did it all begin? K&T: We were working in other industries and although they were creative, we weren’t feeling fulfilled. We were heading into our thirties and realising that, as women, when we started to have children we wouldn’t have stability in the jobs we were in. We wanted to be able to do both, and thought if we were ever going to do it, it had to be then. How did you learn floristry? Katie: We got places on a basic floristry course to see if we were any good. It wasn’t expensive – just one day a week for a few months, learning the basics. We went to the flower market once a week to pick
flowers for the class and loved it straight away. We’d look forward to it so much, and that’s really when Worm was born.
What do you love most about what you do? Terri: We love how every day is different. We get to bring creative ideas to the table constantly, and the sense of pride we feel when we see the concept come to life is what we were missing so much in what we were doing before.
Have you faced any challenges with the business? K&T: Setting up a business is so difficult. The hours, the lack of life around the business, wearing all of the hats… We’re two and a half years in and can honestly say it’s completely consumed us for two years. We’re starting to reap the rewards now – actually being able to choose to have a few days o! every now and then and starting to see friends again. It’s completely worth it though – it’s the best thing we’ve ever done.
Describe your brand’s aesthetic. K&T: We’re drawn to the type of wild, imperfect flowers we both grew up with on the Southern coast of Ireland. We love any flower that has a bit of character to it – like a funny-shaped face or a wonky stem. They have their own personalities to us. The voice of the brand is very much us and we don’t really hide behind any heavy branding. The two of us design everything and make all the choices and that’s how we like it for now. We use freelancers at big events but one of us heads up every single thing we do.
Is your creative space important to you? K&T: We adore our current space. It’s the fourth studio we’ve had and the first that actually works as a flower studio. It’s a church hall in Clapton – the church kindly rented it to us as it wasn’t in use. For us, the essentials are a big sink, loading doors and a floor that can take spillages – our first studio had carpet! So this ticks all the boxes. It’s totally isolated so we can listen to music as loud as we want when we’re working. It has a really good energy and we love being there.
Do you work well together? Katie: Ah, we love working together. We’re very similar, but then completely different in other ways. Terri loves organisation and her favourite thing is labelling things in our studio so everything has a home. She writes lots of lists and is always thinking ahead. "I’m definitely the messy one! We’re both naturally hoarders which is good – it’d be difficult if one of us preferred working in a perfect white cube. We also have a strong understanding of each other and a mutual respect. This means we don’t really argue about things, we just say how we feel and listen to one another."
Working as a pair has also given us more confidence – it’s nice to be able to work on ideas with someone else. We try to structure Worm so if either of us want to do something or go somewhere they
“We love any flower that has a bit of character to it – like a funny-shaped face or a wonky stem.”
can. We want it to be as enjoyable and flexible for us as it can be. How do you want your flowers to make people feel? K&T: We’re so overly critical of our work at times, so when we hand them over and see the joy they bring, we’re reminded they do the work themselves. Flowers have a way of making people feel good. They’re nostalgic and seem to bring happy memories to people – most people know the favourite flower of someone they love. They’re connected to so many of our senses, and that’s what makes them so wonderful to work with. Is there one favourite project you’ve worked on? K&T: It’s hard to choose. On Mother’s Day this year we were approached by an agency called Mother, who wanted to spotlight a charity called Maternity Action. They’d found that 54,000 women were unfairly forced to leave their jobs every year in the UK due to pregnancy discrimination.
We used 54,000 white carnations – the original Mother’s Day flower – to create a huge, three-metre-round ball outside City Hall in London to draw attention to it. It was such a wonderful experience, and felt like flowers were something bigger than flowers that day. The next day the leftover carnations were made into bouquets and sent to the politicians who sit in parliament with the research, in the hope they might bring about change. Have you set yourself any creative goals? K&T: We make small goals for ourselves all the time. We don’t set big, unachievable goals – just ones that make us feel good when we’ve accomplished them. At the moment we’re trying to be more sustainable. It’s hard in this industry and there’s a lot of waste, so we’re trying to be creative in addressing it. What creative advice would you have given your younger selves? K&T: We both agree that all the jobs we did on the way to getting here – and there were a lot – added something to where we are now. Saying that, if your work is making you unhappy, do all you can to change that. Hard work and self-belief pays o .
“We used 54,000 white carnations to create a huge, three-metre-round ball outside City Hall.”
01 Katie conditions a bridal bouquet before preserving it in water ready for its big day. 02 The girls pick f lowers with personality, giving their brand a unique identity. 03 In their first book, Wreaths, Terri and Katie share their skill for colour and texture. 04 The old church hall’s soaring ceilings are ideal for drying bouquets. 05 Stem jars of dahlias, rosehips and lisianthus, all sourced from the local market.
01 Soft garden roses combined with jasmine, olives and astilbe create a more classic wedding look. 01
02 Terri is the “natural organiser” and takes a more meticulous approach to f lower arranging. 02