Be Inspired by Floral Designer Amanda Barkley - Christmas Floral Designer to the White House
During my whirlwind travel month in October, I had the pleasure of being invited to attend the Round Top Antiques Fair in Round Top Texas by my friend Pandora de Balthazar! I met the nicest and most interesting people and one of those people was floral designer, Amanda Barkley. Amanda is on the HGTV lead team to decorate the White House for Christmas this year…she is so talented and creative and also one of the nicest people I’ve ever met! I had the opportunity to interview Amanda while I there and here is the interview!
We just met about two weeks ago and I can’t tell you how much I love your creative flower arrangements! I know that you’re a third-generation florist, but could you tell me a little more about your Mom and Grandmother?
My grandmother opened her shop in Bryan Texas in 1950. Her name was Nita McLeroy and her shop "Nita's" is still open today, and managed by my mom Margie. It was very much a family business in that we all worked in some capacity starting at a very young age. Nita and my grandfather "Papa Mac" employed years and years of generations of families. Nita's Flowers was and still today a well known and popular establishment.
When did you go into business for yourself?
After marrying my husband Bill, also from Bryan Texas, we moved to Rockport, Texas. I opened my flower shop "Amanda's" and it was very successful for 7 years. Family circumstances sent us back to our hometown of Bryan, and I would help my mom at Nita's part-time. We eventually moved to San Antonio and the only florals I was doing during that time were at the White House as a Christmas holiday volunteer. I was asked back as a volunteer for two more years and in 2018 was asked to be on the executive decorating team. As far as day to day work, in 2017 I decided to come out of retirement and start doing florals again but this time a freelance florist. I knew that would mean getting on social media platforms and navigating through it all, which honestly hasn't been easy. I have done many free projects and florals hoping for an opportunity that would launch my career and I'm realizing it just takes time, hard work and making the right connections regardless of how talented I may be or how many years of experience I have.
Your arrangements are so creative and unusual…what inspires you?
Seasonal flowers and traditions inspire the most. During Christmas, I love the tradition of cloved oranges mixed with fresh evergreens. At Easter, I LOVE to use fresh cabbage and carrots with spring florals. In fall, I will always guild a pumpkin and add bittersweet with fall toned chrysanthemums.
You have some exciting things coming up from what I understand. Can you tell us about that?
I can't really go into detail about what I'm doing this year for the White House but it is very exciting and is a project I started early in the summer. The First Lady will reveal the White House theme and decorations right after Thanksgiving.
How do you keep coming up with new and different?
Not sure there are new and different ideas. I think so much in the design world is recycled and presented in the creator's own language. I took a class earlier this year from Rebecca Thuss, stylist for Martha Stewart. It was the first time I had been taught paper flower making. I fell in love with all the possibilities and dove right into making paper flowers. Turns out Italian paper flower making has a huge community of makers and has been around for years and years, like over 100 years. They've come a long way with the supplies and paper we use today but "making the flowers" is actually an old art form just recycled from the past.
What is your favorite flower?
Orchid. **Love that question!
What excites you about being a floral designer right now?
Teaching. I am looking for opportunities to showcase tablescapes and teach the steps and tricks of our trade. I think people are afraid to design flowers, but when shown the mechanics behind what we do it makes floral design actually very easy!
Is there someone other than your Mom and Grandmother who inspires your work?
Carolyn Roehm, Marks Garden in CA, Amaryllis Inc in Maryland...all fabulous accounts to follow and get floral inspiration.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Traveling the US and showcasing florals and teaching. Also, I've been trying to find a partnership, like Michaels, so that I can produce more day to day crafts. My DIY crafts are what drive the most interest in my social media, but without some sort of partnership or sponsorship, it isn't sustainable. I understand that you also plan events…it must be hard to do the planning and the floral arrangements. How do you make it all work?
I understand that you also plan events…it must be hard to do the planning and the floral arrangements. How do you make it all work?
I'm basically a one-woman show right now so I stay away from anything that I can't do from beginning to end and by myself. Working from home is fantastic, I can work at 9 at night if I need too.
What is your busiest time of the year?
Fall and Christmas. I'm getting more homes, which is exciting however there are only so many days to decorate for Christmas when I'm gone to the White House for 9-10 days. It takes some crazy scheduling and a very supportive husband and family!