Michelle's background is in the arts. She studied at both The Chelsea School of Art and St Martins. During her career she worked at The National Gallery in their design department. In interactive education for kids at Dorling Kindersley and then in new media/web design. About 10/12 years ago Michelle decided to back to her roots, went freelance and grew her illustration work, turning her hand to pattern making, and designing fabric, wallpapers and surface patterns for ceramics. During this creative phase she worked for House of Frazer, Liberty and TFL, creating their bus blind range, fabrics and ceramics.
In 2013 Mason and Painter opened " we sell mostly vintage bits and pieces, furniture, curiosities and some new homewares as well". Columbia Road has a lot of history and has had a market in some form or other since the 1860's, originally selling birds in cages and pets, "which is why the pub at the other end of the road to the shop is called The Birdcage." The flower market is going strong and a wonderful place to visit when it comes to life every Sunday come rain or shine. "The market has a very big influence on how we display things in the shop." The plants visually mark the seasons.
"A year ago a friend at the Soane Museum who I had done design work for introduced me to the publishers Pimpernell press." They came to see the shop and fell in love with Michelle's aesthetic and her work on instagram and took a chance on her.
"I did most of the photography for the book, this was a real learning curve as I am not a photographer and don't come from that background. But obviously my arts school background informed my framing, then it was a case of learning how to use a digital camera."
" I loved working with the flowers, I think it is the ongoing of things. Every season we have something different to look forward to something new. At the start of January its bulb time on the market and not a great deal happens. Yet come the middle of January the Dutch tulips and hyacinths herald the move into the growing seasons and all the early Spring flowers. Summer you have a major colour pop, burst and its beautiful."
The book is split into different sections, the colour section shares a theme that had been picked up from Michelle's instagram where she had been using pantone colours to introduce a colour theme she then when on to play with, with her images. "In the book I did greens, blues, the reds and pinks, there is also as section on neturals the cream sort of things and pastels too."
Then of course the different seasons are covered. There's is a section on flowers and plants in the home. For this section Michelle was invited into 3 different properties, a flat, a townhouse and another bigger family home. These 3 owners really love their plants and flowers so in this section she was able to show the different ways you can utilise your space to bring in flowers, succulents and plants.
In the images she used props from the shop, which became a theme throughout, "all the props have been vintage that have not necessarily been brought in specially but I just kind of used or saved and curated throughout the months that could be put together with the flowers and plants. Showing how to style and make the corner of a room look really nice or a bookshelf or easy little pieces to be able to create at home without spending loads of money. A lot of people don't have a garden, I have been quite mindful of that. They may only have a window box or are buying a bunch of daffodils to have some colour and fragrance in the house. Thinking about what they can do with just a couple of pounds to put something a bit different together or even just growing something at home." Michelle only worked on one of the sections with a team around her this was for the final section in the book where she teamed up with an interiors photographer and a florist, Therese from Petersham nurseries. The Sunday before the shoot Michelle and Therese went around the market with a few ideas of colours they would like to work with and put together. Based on their ideas " we then bought, literally arms full of of flowers." This section shows flowers used more formally they, created a bouquet then a medium and large arrangement showing what could be created for events or as big center pieces.
Michelle's beautiful book "Flower Market: Botanical Style At Home" is now ready to pre-order from Amazon and goes on general release on the 4th of April available from all good book shops so you can go treat yourself to a feast of colour and beauty.