Laura Whitehouse Graphic Design


Cocktails and Crowns


Whilst my head knows that Hull may have taken the official title of the UK City of Culture 2017 (beating my beloved home town of Leicester), my heart still goes out to Oxford.

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My standard weekend spent in the city often involves at least two of the following:  seeing incredible designs in the Old Fire Station Shop and at Modern Art Oxford, bumping into strangers in fancy dress thanks to the Story Museum and/or the late-night opening of world-renowned museums, several trips to the Missing Bean or Silvies for some excellent locally sourced coffee served in prettily printed takeaway cups, and scoffing a cake served in a gorgeous box from the home-grown Barefoot Bakery. All of these are at most a ten-minute cycle from my house, and the city just wouldn’t be the same without these independent businesses, which can mostly be found either discretely tucked away on little cobbled streets or nestled between pubs.

Despite their prevalence in the city it was only recently that I stumbled across Independent Oxford: a guide to all of the independent businesses in the city, with a printed compendium launched jointly with Bitten Oxford, and an online directory to make the discovery of these all the easier. Founded by two locals, the directory also aims to create a support network for these smaller independent traders, with regular meetups to encourage collaboration and wider discussion about running an indie in the city.

Strap on your seatbelt because things are about to get real millennial up in here. I attended a Cocktails and Crowns workshop put on by Indie Oxford, which is exactly what it says on the tin: a two hour class in making a flower crown, sipping on cocktails whilst you worked. As a big fan of both 1) flower crowns and 2) cocktails, my attendance was a shoo in, and so I bundled along my friend Holly and we rolled through the doors one weekday evening this month.  It was hosted by two of the indie businesses in the directory: Bicycle Blooms, a florist on Magdalen Road in East Oxford, and A Rosie Life, a lifestyle store and blog owned and run by one of the two founding members of Indie Oxford. I don’t say this lightly, but not much can lure me away from a cocktail, and this workshop did. Disappointingly I can’t even say which drinks were on offer, as the flowers were so lovely that I didn’t even finish one. Pass me my pipe and slippers, I’m growing up mum.


There were twelve of us in total in the class, which was an ideal number – enough to slip under the radar re: making a flower crown haphazardly, but not too many that if things were completely going tits up you'd walk out with nothing to show. We were given a quick introduction by Jane, the founder of Bicycle Blooms, about which flowers required delicate wiring to attach, which ones needed less-delicate wiring, and which ones, like the foliage, you could just whack on with tape. This was followed by a speedy tutorial by a very speedy Rosie on how to make pompoms, something that my friend Crochet Bloke has tried to force me to do in the past and which I now know to leave to those with more patience than I have.

As base materials for the workshop we were given (technical terms ahead) a thick piece of wire wrapped in tape, some scissors, and a handy crib sheet on pompom making (told you they’d be technical). All-in-all the entire introduction took about 45 minutes, leaving plenty of time for us to dabble in making our own flower crown. Because I am me, the detailed information on which flowers required which method of securing quickly went out the window about half an hour in. I honestly did start with good intentions, but seriously, the tape we were given was absolute magic (it was only sticky when you touched it- honestly a marvel). I wired a few roses and crab apples, stuck the rest on with precious magical tape, and hoped for the best. The ‘best’ turned out to be a huge crown which only lost a couple of blooms on the way home, so I took that as a winner. Never hire me to make your bridal crown, folks.


The evening was friendly, interesting, and I was incredibly impressed with the variety and amount of flowers on offer. If like me you enjoy both flowers and forgetting to drink cocktails, I can’t recommend the workshop enough. And if you somehow hate both of those things (why are you here), definitely grab a copy of the Indie Oxford Compendium, a pretty trusty and comprehensive source of all things design and art and independent in the city.

Laura Whitehouse