Gillian Charlene Caesar-Walke is the owner of Flowers by G. She is from the beautiful twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, which is the southernmost island in the Caribbean. She and her husband Ian live in Trinidad..
Gillian holds a Master of Business Administration in General Management from the Henley Business School, University of Reading (UK).
In August 2017, Gillian left the Corporate world after a career spanning more than twenty-five years, and during which time she held Senior and Executive Management positions at companies in the Financial Services, Retail and Construction Sectors.
This is her story…
My interest in floral design started when I was quite young. My mom did floral arranging as a hobby and my interest was sparked from helping her make bouquets and arrangements.
It was in 1995, during my tenure as Mortgage Manager at one of our leading Banks, that I started floral arranging, primarily as a means of relaxation and stress relief both from work and study, as I was pursuing my MBA as well. At Christmas time, I would create decorations for my home, as well as pieces to give as gifts. Soon enough I started to receive orders from my friends and family.
This evolved over the years, into my hosting of an Invitation only Christmas Decorations and Floral Display and Cocktail event at my home. I started doing this in 2008, and it spawned my Christmas Décor service which continues to today.
This event grew primarily by word of mouth, and in 2015, it outgrew my home and was moved to one of our Hotels. It became my Christmas Décor and Floral Show and Tea Event.
Over the years prior to August 2017 when I transitioned fully from being a ‘Corporate Woman’ to a Creative Entrepreneur, I built my business part time. I primarily served a Corporate clientele and a few private individuals for whom I provided floral home décor.
My services also expanded to include weddings and other events.
To enhance my skills, I attended a floral arranging course locally in 2004, but as my love for flowers and decorating grew, I wanted to further develop my skills, and so I started researching online for schools and training courses. Over the years, my vacation time from work, became my training and development time toward a new career path.
In 2014, I commenced my educational journey toward a professional qualification in Floral and Event Design. I attained my Accredited Event Designer (AED) Certification from the Institute of Wedding and Event Design in Miami Florida.
In 2015, I became a student of the Yola Guz School of Floral Design in Miami Florida where I attended both private training sessions, as well as numerous workshops over an almost 2year period. This led to my attaining a Certified Floral Designer (CFD) Designation in March 2017 from the prestigious American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD) and made me eligible to test via an additional practical exam for membership. I did this final practical exam in July 2017 in Seattle Washington.
In 2016, I became a Preston Bailey Protégé, having attended one of his Protégé Program at The Breakers Resort in South Palm Beach Florida.
Having successfully completed my 2017 exam in Seattle, I was subsequently invited by the AIFD to become an Accredited member, and I was inducted in July 2018 at the AIFD’s Annual Symposium in Washington DC.
I was the only floral designer from the Caribbean to be inducted among 93 designers from around the world, and it is also the first time that Trinidad and Tobago became listed among the Geographical List of Active Members of the AIFD
FLOWERS BY G, my floral boutique and design studio was opened in January 2018, when I took the leap of faith to become a full time floral designer.
Row 2 (Image 1) Tribute for an avid cyclist
(Image 2) Classic cascading bridal bouquet with aluminum wire accents.
(Image 3) Tribute for a Soccer Player
Row 3 (Image 1) This is contemporary combination of Roses and Anthurium.
(Image 2) Here, I created a Heart Frame using flat wire from Smithers Oasis, and then arranged anthuriums and roses around. This was actually done for a Wedding Anniversary.
(Image 3) This design feature Hawaiian Lily, Ginger Lilies, Anthuriums and Shampoo Gingers and Equisetum.
Row 4 (Image 1) This couple did a photo shoot in celebration of their 20th Wedding Anniversary. I designed this 12ft floral boa for the occasion. The garland base for the Boa was created with Ruscus, tree fern and eucalyptus. The flowers used were Oriental Lilies, Carnations, Amaranthus and Dendrobium Orchids. Iridescent beaded wire from Smithers Oasis was used to bind the flowers to the garland.Photography: Celeste & Reece Photography, Trinidad and Tobago
(Image 2) This design is from my “FLOWERS AND A BEVERAGE” Collection. It’s just a fun and creative way to send flowers to a guy. For this design, a bottle of Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky is arranged among, Gladiolus, Chrysanthemum and Asters. Midollino swirls add dimension to the design.
What are some of the challenges in what you do?
As a Solopreneur, it can be quite demanding at times, especially since my full time operation is still fairly new. However I do have a part-time support team, for peak seasons such as Valentine’s and Mothers’ Days or occasions such as Weddings or Corporate Events.
Availability of floral mechanics and accessories. While the basics are readily available here in Trinidad, accessories such Midollino, which I use very often on my designs is not carried by our local suppliers. Fortunately, I have established a relationship with a few suppliers in the US, so that I am able to import what I need directly. This however can be quite costly.
The majority of flowers are imported into Trinidad, so that cost can be a challenge, particularly for blooms such a Peonies, Tulips etc. Over the past almost two years of the Pandemic those costs have increased, due to an increasing in shipping. This however just pushed me to be more efficient and creative as a Designer, so that I am able to continue giving my customers value for money, without compromising my design style and the quality of my product.
And the most surprising/exciting?
Funeral Floristry is a specialty of mine, and it still always surprises me when I am told by the Funeral Homes, that the family loved the flowers so much, that they took them home. This is also however, and extremely rewarding feeling for me as a Designer. I think that if my flowers can evoke such a positive effect on someone, on what is arguably one of their saddest days, then I have fulfilled my mission.
What makes you stand out from other floral artists in your community?
I think the artistry of my designs, especially with my use of Midollino, which has sort of become my signature, differentiates my work.
What one trend you have noticed in the Floral industry that have had the biggest impact on your work?
Minimalist designing – I’m drawn to the’ Less is More’ design concept. However here in Trinidad, and I also suspect the wider the Caribbean, customers still for the most part prefer the very large designs. I try to strike a happy medium!!
Where do you look for inspiration?
Just about everywhere (LOL), but primarily in nature.
Who do you most admire in the floral industry and why?
There are actually 2 people:
The first is Ruben Consa (AIFD,CFD,PFCI) who is the director and principal instructor at the Yola Guz School of Floral Design in Miami Florida. Ruben is also my mentor. He selflessly shares his love and passion for floral artistry.
Hitomi Gilliam AIFD – She’s like the Midollino Queen LOL!! She has greatly influenced the use of Midollino in my designs
What flower best represents your personality? Please explain.
Amaryllis – I actually have this flower in my garden at home, and whenever it blooms I just so drawn to it. I recently discovered that it’s bloom is described as assertive, and I do have an assertive personality ..LOL!!
What’s one thing you would like people reading this interview to know about you?
I believe that I have been blessed by God with a talent, which I now use to pursue my mission and purpose in life, and that is to create happy moments every for people, through the medium of flowers.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Still making people happy through my flowers ..LOL!!
Running a successful floral design school, where I am able to inspire and develop up and coming designers, particularly those who are desirous of pursing a professional path toward the AIFD.
What’s next for you?
Continue to build the FLOWERS BY G brand, particularly in the area of Funeral Floristry.