Kate Goetz interviews Jill Manson for JoziStyle
You have an advertising background. You are clearly very creative – what made you change your career so dramatically and begin a floral styling business and ultimately the Jill Manson floral design school?
I had reached a point in my life where there was a certain emptiness in my soul that I couldn’t put my finger on. The world of advertising was great fun and challenging yet I felt that what it portrayed wasn’t real. I felt empty. And along with the days of continued emptiness and questioning came a small spark of Light and a decision to do something with my life that would fill up my soul whilst doing it ….and tagged on the end of that was the desire to make sure that whilst I was doing “that thing” that it would also fill up the souls of others.
How did you develop an interest in flowers, flower arranging and teaching, as a child growing up in Limpopo and, as an adult, living in London and later moving to Jozi?
I have always loved nature, not specifically flowers just nature and the bush. I had absolutely no idea it would be flowers until I had resigned from my advertising career and set adrift into the unknown in search of what it was that I was meant to be doing with my Life that as mentioned before would fill up my soul and that of others. I had booked a ticket to the UK believing then that the answers were most definitely abroad.
We went away as a family to the Natal Midlands to be together for the weekend before I was due to leave to the UK. By the Sunday I was beside myself with anxiety and fear that I would never find what I was looking for and that I had made a huge mistake leaving my security and career behind. I left the house and went on a long walk into the mountain and spent a short time at the beginning of the walk praying for guidance and answers to what it was that I was meant to be doing with my life.
About 45 minutes later as I reached the river I was drawn to a beautiful spot where two little trees had grown into one another. So I made my way there and began to sit. As I sat down I looked down to my right and I looked into the face of a tiny bright purple wildflower. As I looked at this little flower a voice said to me, “You’re going to use flowers to help people communicate their feelings better to themselves and one another.” You can imagine my surprise – the sheer power of the moment still leaves goose pimples on my arms.
The communication continued as the same Voice (in my mind God) asked me a direct question and said “IF this little flower was a feeling, what would it be to you Jill?” I answered straight away as it was obvious to me… “PASSION!”
And The Voice continued by asking me “Yes, passion to YOU Jill but what do you think that little flower would be to every single other human being in the world?”
That’s how it all began! I knew from that very moment I had to learn everything I could about flowers and so I did! I left for the UK that Wednesday after seeing my flower on the Sunday, and I took two years to develop the first of my many flower journeys I offer, called FLOWERSCAPE. Flowerscape are the flower healing and communication workshops and sessions I offer.
Your Mom is a very talented woman too – what influence did she have on your creativity and love for flowers?
My mum has always loved flowers and gardening, but its more than that, she has always believed in me and that’s been my most precious gift from her. Creativity oh yes for sure, she’s amazing so I am so glad I got some of the genes
Do you have any formal training?
I studied Floristry part-time at a school in Putney, it was a short course and gave me the basics. I learned from mentors by volunteering myself into florist shops in London the first being with a man called Kevin in his shop called Shrinking Violets. Then I came back to SA and started my own Florist called Electric Butterfly Flowers.
You run weekend creative floral styling classes and on weeknights the business of floristry courses, healing workshops, corporate events and private functions taking Flowerscape the flower healing to groups of ladies and friends for special events. Where do you find the time and what is your inspiration?
I don’t know where I find the time. I guess I don’t own a TV– that helps.
My inspiration is my passion and my passion just keeps on bringing the goods! It makes me so incredibly happy to see people achieve things they thought they couldn’t and see the Light in people when they pass that milestone of belief in themselves about their own creativity. And then I guess I’m just lucky that I absolutely LOVE what I do – when I get creative briefs from companies or Brides I simply love translating what they want and or who they are into flowers.
What is your favourite arrangement style – and which flowers do you normally have in your home?
My favourite is modern contemporary – out the box thinking on designs. I usually have orchids in my home amongst the gazillion others ….that’s a tough question I have all flowers always in my home
Many flowers are seasonal. What do you do if an irate bride/client demands decor and flowers that you can’t locate?
This isn’t the Bride that’s irate because she didn’t get what she asked for, most times it’s the stylist or florist committing to things they shouldn’t not knowing what the trends are with regards to availability and seasons. The problem is most brides have books that they have sourced or magazines and these are generally UK or USA ones and the flowers in there we seldom can get! You’ve got to know when you meet the bride what not to commit to when she asks for them if you know your market and suppliers well and the import criteria and you are upfront from the beginning with her there’s never a let down for her. My worst story is ordering a farmer in Natal to grow 350 white hydrangeas for a wedding that was all white and they arrived blue! That stuff will kill you and brings you very close to God!
Most bizarre request?
Contemporary red and white flowers for the venue Buitengeluk.
Favourite function to date?
Ooh no you can’t do this to me, can I say three? 1. Randlords for 1 Life Direct just two weeks ago. 2. Building a flower tunnel 30metres back to front for Old Mutual commercial 3. Ice Sculptures with Arums for a wedding this year.
Where have you seen the most unusual arrangements?
I saw a pineapple a huge one made from Anthuriums in the foyer of the Oyster Box hotel this year
You successfully balance a diverse range of business services. Do you have any tips for aspiring florists and/or businesswoman in the industry?
Never give up.
Never stop smiling.
Dig deep when you have to – the tide always turns.
Keep a space for your happy times, do those things that fill you up.
Believe in your own worth – this is the biggest one for me.
Dream – imagine always imagine create the pictures in your mind of how you see your success, how you see your life in business in abundance in joy and entertain these visual pictures often.
Stop using the word “TRY”.
Be honest always.
What do you love most about living in Jozi? The trees, the weather and the amazing ability we have as Jozi people to share knowledge information and clients with one another! The networking.