Full Circle

I feel I have come full circle by adding artificial flowers to my product range. My family business - started in 1921 by my Great Grandfather and my Grandfather (100 years ago!) also made artificial flowers. My dad worked in the business all his working life and I asked him to jot down his recollections...

Artificial flower manufacture through the ages.

My first memory of a visit to my father’s factory, part of which made artificial flowers, was to see a workman with a big leather covered mallet, banging on to a cutter on a heavy stand. I was about 10 years old. I was shown how he placed a pack of about 12 pieces of material on a sheet of lead, placed the cutter in the correct position and wacked it hard, cutting a stack of cut pieces in the cutter which he pushed out with a piece of wire.

The cutters are the one thing which gives an idea of the earliest mass production we can trace. I have a small collection of them and other flower tools, particularly the Veiners which were made of a base and a fitted top piece into which the single piece of cut shape would be placed and the top part squashed down under a press, thus ironing the shape into the piece. My old firm had bought out a closing Artificial Flower maker and ended up with hundreds of them. These tools were made in Germany and dated about 1900.

The assembly of the flowers and leaves was done by hand, the material dyed to requirements and could include parts made in Silver paper, particularly for Wedding cakes. Other similar items were holly leaves and berries, a big demand for them around Christmas for Bakers to put on Christmas cakes, Logs etc. The Holly Berries were made by laying out paper covered wires in rows, between cross wooden pieces which were clamped together. The wires were then cut and subsequently dipped into a trough of wet plaster to build up a berry of suitable size dipped into Red colour and then black spotted. At one time we had a complete department making them.

The main artificial flower department had about 30 women, Veining and assembling, all products being sold to the Bakery trade. Its products wages were set by the Ostrich Fancy feather and Artificial Flower Wages Council, taking the trade even further back in the past.

Peter Culpitt

April 2021


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