How many times have you given yourself a mental beat-up for that pile of mags, scribbled notes and too-pretty-to-throw-away trinkets that have taken up permanent residence on your desk? Well, according to The Wilds founder Kitty Latham, that so-called clutter may in fact be the key to creative inspiration.
Kitty, whose ample experience has seen her work in art finishing and special effects painting for film, theatre and TV, as well as dabble in floristry, cake artistry and wig-making, plus tick off a seven-year stint painting waxworks at Madame Tussaud’s (how’s that for a calling card), is now drawing all the arrows of her bow together with her new venture, The Wilds.
This creative event styling and floristry company has the self-professed goal to “treat every project like a work of art”.
With her mother a horticulturist and landscape gardener to a myriad of celebrities across London and her father an entrepreneur in fashion, starting her own business was a natural progression.
Kitty’s journey, which has seen her jump ship from London to Sydney, working between the two cities for the last 12 years, has allowed her to collect a plethora of experiences that have all come in mighty handy now she’s able to look back and connect the dots: “Sometimes they seem worlds apart, but there’s not a single element of this experience that I don’t use every day.”
And the collection of mementos (which some may call mess) that are scattered around Kitty’s creative space serve as a daily reminder of this. Here, we talk to this creative mastermind about the transition from freelancer to business owner, creating boundaries and ditching hoarder’s guilt.
Starting my own business wasn’t a particularly conscious decision, it was more of a seamless transition. It began by simply doing what I loved for friends and family, creating and styling things for people – a floral arrangement, a cake, a dinner party setting, wedding, charity or a corporate event, and it just took off from there. I knew I had to take the leap of faith and go it alone when I was juggling four or five jobs at a time, wearing multiple hats. It got ridiculous.
From there, I slowly carved a niche for this little business – we were small and nimble enough, and armed with a large dose of creativity and passion; we constantly over-delivered for our clients.
The process was clunky, as any ‘artist’ trying to be a businessperson can probably relate to. I had to keep reminding myself that it didn’t matter how I got there, and as long as the end result goes off without a hitch.
I am detail-oriented by nature, so I approach events in the same way I do a piece of art. I study my subject, reference or brief. I work out exactly what I want to capture or what mood I’m trying to create – what to accentuate, what to obscure, the elements that will set it apart, what is needed to bring it to life, to make it captivating. I then put together my palette. [I ask], how will we use scale to our advantage? How will this look close up and from afar, from a guest’s first glimpse, through someone’s camera lens or Instagram post? It’s a fine balance, one I’m constantly trying to master.
We do a maximum of two events per week. We don’t want to lose our integrity, our passion and creativity, we don’t want a diluted, repetitive version of ourselves. We want to go one better with each event, have the freedom to try new things, stay nimble, explore and collaborate with our clients, as that’s why they choose us. We’d rather do fewer bespoke, interesting and truly creative events. We often receive client requests for interactive events or immersive experiences, and also now run creative workshops. We’d be challenged in the wrong way if we tried to take on the big guys.
The biggest challenges of running my business are things like spending quality time with my laptop between ‘creating’. Admin (revamping the website, uploading images etc.) often takes a back seat. And being the total technophobe that I am, we haven’t had to have much of a web presence thus far, but luckily people have sought us out one way or another and it continues to snowball. Aside from this, the biggest challenge is probably the guilt I feel for my poor husband. Every night in our house is ‘craft night’! For me, it’s too much fun, for him, (a non-creative science teacher) it’s some sort of torture – being forced to ‘assist’ me constantly in sewing, polishing, sanding, signwriting – you name it, I’ve made him do it. Thankfully, he’s the most patient man on earth – he endures the constant trail of crafting mess that follows me around our little house!
Styling is as much about being practical and methodical as it is about having a good eye and making things look pretty. You may need to learn how to defy gravity in under an hour and erect intricate counter-weighted floral installations with fishing wire! You’re problem-solving constantly, and the more creative you want to be, the trickier the installation, usually. And time is of the essence when you’re working with fresh flowers and foliage – particularly in Sydney’s summer, preservation is crucial!
I’m not really happy until I get an emotional response – brides moved to tears when they walk into their venue, clients rendered speechless (in a good way) and their guests feeling a genuine sense of awe and wonderment when they walk in and when they leave – whether they’ve learnt something, experienced something or been immersed in a beautiful space.