As Christmas approaches, I find myself rapidly running out of time to do all the wholesome, festive projects I promised myself I would tackle. Fairisle baubles remain unknitted and card-making materials fester in the bottom drawer. Anything that can be bought ready-made will be snapped up and, as on other occasions, I may shamefully fail to divulge their lack of handcraftedness. I remind myself that I am not some kind of Christmas superhero (I’d be called Captain Spangles due to the permanent slick of glitter on my face), and try to manage my own expectations of myself better. But, when handed the opportunity to move a little closer to festive godliness, I am not going to turn it down.
I haven’t been invited to many blogger events before, but this one, organised for telecoms company Three, was right up my street. On a blustery Thanksgiving night six of us assembled at Angel Underground station in North London, ready to take part in a very special wreath-making masterclass. We were each presented with a spanking new Samsung Galaxy Alpha with which to take photos, then trotted off to Amwell Street and the perfumed environs of Scandinavian florist Flor Unikon.
I should not have been surprised, but apart from resident floral designers Pasi and Paul, I was the only man taking part. It was only after quite a lot of squeezing between buckets of milky white Avalanche roses and magenta lilies that we all managed to fit in, huddled with cups of mulled wine beneath the warm light of an antique chandelier. Here I encountered my second challenge with the phone (the first being my total ineptitude when it came to even finding the camera function) which was getting a decent picture in low light conditions. The Samsung performed reasonably well versus my beloved iPhone 6, and perhaps slightly better in well-lit spots.
Founder of Flor Unikon, Pasi Jokinen-Carter, explained that when he first started making wreaths in his native Finland there were no such things as glue guns, and that everything was finished using florists’ wire. This is how we were to construct our own wreaths, building on a base of straw, which is traditional in Scandinavia but quite unusual in the UK. Pasi showed us how to get maximum usage out of our boughs of noble fir (Abies procera) and how to attach each silver-grey sprig to the base using a special type of black wire that holds everything firmly in place. It was a lot more difficult than it looked, involving a lot of fumbling about on my part. By the time we had all completed our ring of greenery the air in the tiny shop was heavy with citrussy-fir scent and our hands were black with sticky resin.
Through trial and error we all managed to achieve a good foundation for our wreaths, although there was much innuendo regarding some being bushier than others. Personally I liked mine on the bushy side: all the better for decorating. At this point glue guns were permitted and Paul showed us how to arrange and then apply a smorgasbord of dried fruits, nuts, berries, cinnamon sticks and baubles to personalise our creation. His top tip was to position decorations so that they appeared to emerge from the foliage, rather than sitting on top.
I was feeling fruity, so went with a tasty arrangement of fruit slices (apple, orange and lime), pert crab apples, ilex berries, pinecones, spongy white moss and the odd, unshelled almond. I learnt the hard way that moss is not a very good barrier between hot glue and one’s fingers!
Wreath completed, I tried the phone’s camera out again and was very happy with the results – good clear resolution but with a few highlights that needed sorting out on the computer later on. It was probably the way I set the handset up, but the photos were much longer than I am accustomed to. I am far too entrenched in the world of Apple to find alternative gadgets instinctive, and for this reason alone I am not about to change camps, but the Samsung is a smart, clean phone with a really bright screen and lots of fun little sounds and vibrations which amused me on the night, but might irritate longer term.
Pasi assured us that our wreaths would last a couple of months, even if displayed indoors. Mine is already up, just in our hallway where I can admire it every day on the way out of the door. Perhaps I can aspire to Christmas greatness after all, just not clad in lycra and flying through the air to the cry of “Up, up and away”.
Flor Unikon will be running one more wreath making class before Christmas, on December 7th 2014. Click here for more details.