This month I took a trip to Ludlow to meet the makers behind Flower & Fable.
Karen & Ben create Vintage & floriography inspired jewellery, cast from real flowers.
Karen’s interest in floriography began with a single primrose pressed in her Grandfather’s diary. Found years later, it was a memento of an early date with her Grandmother. The ‘new love’ meaning was fitting and romantic.
“I have always loved flowers, making tiny bouquets, perfume and pressings as a child, we are a family of preservers, or maybe just romantics...” Says Karen.
Floriography, also known as the language of flowers, is the practise of attributing meanings and symbolism to flowers (largely through folklore), and has been recorded in traditional cultures around the world for thousands of years. It was brought to Britain in 1717 by Mary Wortley (Lady Montagu), but was most popular during the Victorian era as a coded way for people to express their otherwise unspeakable feelings. Gifts of specific plants and floral arrangements would be exchanged as ‘talking bouquets’ and would be worn or carried as fashion accessories.
“For me, using real flowers somehow captures their spirit, it’s important to the energy of the piece, and is symbolic in creating an amulet or talisman.” - Karen.
Karen’s love of vintage and antique jewellery, of sovereigns, t-bars, ingots and charm bracelets is a huge inspiration to her. when she thought about creating Flower & Fable, connecting floriography and jewellery like the Victorians had before her she knew shapes had to be simple and timeless.
“I use coins, bars and ovals, to create my charms, to celebrate the beauty of a natural flower, and be at home in any era” - Karen.
Each piece is finished with their signature, scented box posy, which changes with the seasons. This is an extra special touch that makes the jewellery feel even more personable.
Flower and Fable is located at no 3 Quality Square Ludlow, when you enter the shop its like stepping back in time, there are beautiful dried flowers hanging from the ceiling and interesting antiques and furniture displaying their wonderful creations.
The Victoriana influence behind the brand feels nostalgic and I was instantly transported back in time, the shop has many of the original features like the old shelving units and original oak floor, the jewellery can be seen in a beautiful antique display cabinet which makes it feel even more special.
You can see every detail has been thought through from the size of the amulets to the findings and chains used, there’s a lot of thought behind the jewellery and you can tell every piece has been thoroughly considered. The brand is clearly a labour of love for Karen & Ben. Personally I have always been interested in amulets and jewellery that has a story or meaning, something you wear every day that evokes a special memory, Flower & Fable is definitely this.
Sustainability is also important to Karen & Ben so as well as their packaging, they use fair trade and recycled silver, sourcing raw materials as close to home as possible. They work closely with their foundry based at the jewellery quarter in Birmingham, and the chains are made by a family run business in Shropshire.
What interests you about old English/Welsh traditions and folklaw and how does this influence your work?
For me, folklore makes everything magical, thinking about our ancient ancestors and imagining how their beliefs influenced their traditions and behaviours. I love to think about the medicinal uses of the plants and flowers and how so much modern medicine is still derived from them. My interest has evolved over time and I love some of the examples from around the world, such as the Japanese folklore surrounding the emperor and hydrangeas.
I have quite a mixed heritage, but my Nan who was of travelling stock used to pass on a lot of tales and superstitions, so I guess it’s always been with me. Quite often the floriography and folklore comes before the piece of jewellery, it can guide and inspire me as to which flower I want to make (or try to make) next.
Is there a plant or a flower that evokes a special memory for you?
As you mentioned, the Primrose is very special to me, but also Cow Parsley. Being from Northamptonshire originally, we call it Keck and my Nan would yell in her broad Northants accent ‘dunt pick that Keck, you’ll kill yu mother!’ Which comes from the folktale, told to children, that their mother will die, to stop them picking poisonous hemlock.
Your shop is such a calming and beautiful space, I loved all your little antiques and the way you displayed them with your jewellery…Where are your favourite places to shop for antiques?
Ludlow’s a great place for bits and bobs. I absolutely love the Flea Market on a Sunday and there is Nina & Co just around the corner which is fabulous. You can happily spend an afternoon on Corve street in and out of the antique and Bric-a-brac shops, so mostly locally really.
The flowers are hand pressed and then cast by hand, do you find some flowers are easier to work with than others?
Yes, definitely! Snowdrop was my nemesis, it took three years to get the cast I have now as the perfect specimen needs to be small, so early in the season, and by the time the process is complete, the season is over so I have to wait until the following year if I’m not happy with it...
What do you enjoy about running a small creative business? And what do you like to do on your days off?
I just love the process of creating something new and thinking deeply about our customers experience and how we can make it as pleasing and stimulating as possible. I also love the freedom it gives us to live the way we want to without too many external pressures.
To be honest, we have rarely had days off over the last few years, which is something we are working on, but I love a road trip. It doesn’t even really matter where, new places just really interest me.
You’ve lived in many places, including Spain and North Wales, what do you like about living in Ludlow?
I’m a bit of a history buff so I love the architecture of the area and the stories hidden within. There is also a wonderful community feel in Ludlow, with so many independent businesses working hard to make it a great destination. There is always something going on, which keeps it vibrant and interesting.
I find all the little stories behind each piece so interesting, it gives the jewellery real meaning, what are your personal favourite flowers and why?
Folklore wise I like Meadowsweet for it’s connection to the Mabinogion, but to be honest, I love all of them and it’s one of my favourite parts, discovering all the folklore behind the flowers.
Your attention to detail is really inspiring, each piece of jewellery is hand boxed with its own dried flower posey which changes with the seasons and is scented with perfume, it really makes the brand feel very special as a jewellery should be. Are there any companies out there that you are inspired by or choose to buy for yourself or others?
You won’t be surprised to hear that I’m always drawn to heritage companies, and how they reinvent themselves or don’t at all! It’s sometimes hard to tell. For example, Liberty, Penhaligons or Santa Maria Novella. I’m inspired by the history, the tradition and the modern day iteration.
What’s next for F&F?
We’ve got some rings in the pipeline, but creating time to be able to attend events is high on the list, so a way we can do that and still be able to personalise pieces the way we do now would be wonderful.
Visit the shop from 10am-4pm Thurs-Sat
No3 Quality Square, Ludlow.