Ely is an unassuming kind of place. But underneath its quiet exterior, there’s a vibrant sense of creativity hiding in plain sight. It’s right there, ready to be discovered. As part of a new series I want to find more of this hidden talent – to find out what makes these people tick and to share their stories with you.
My first subject is Skye McGuinness – the owner of Ely’s newest florist, Thyme on St Mary’s. I met Skye at a Christmas fair two weeks ago and knew immediately that I wanted to interview her. She’s one of those people who radiates energy and is a perfect person to kick off this new series.
Skye is originally from Sydney, but settled with her family in Cambridgeshire five years ago. She’s new to flowers, having previously worked in advertising and marketing. But you wouldn’t know it. That’s because she has vision and passion.
Over the last year, Skye and her team of talented florists have created one of Ely’s most exciting new shops. Stepping through the doors of this beautiful double-fronted building is surprising, and wonderful.
One side of the shop bustles with early morning orders and a huge work table is covered with newly delivered blooms. The other side of is calm and still – with an inviting table and chairs. Just like the doll’s house in the window, this florist is picture perfect.
Why did Skye choose floristry? “Ely is such a friendly place. It’s full of newcomers and I found it incredibly easy to slot in,” she explains. “I wanted to give something back to the city that has made me and my family feel so welcome”.
Chatting to other mothers and new friends, it dawned on Skye that Ely needed an inspiring new destination. A place to buy beautiful flowers, but also a creative hub. “I’ve found so much local talent hidden away,” explains Skye. “It was important to me to create a unique place where this creativity would feel welcome”.
Skye is one of those vibrant people who seems to bring out the best in people – I can’t think of a better person to help Ely come out its shell. Over the last year she has found local talent and nurtured it. Most importantly there’s her team of brilliant florists – but there’s also the local flower farms who supply the shop and the Fenland artisan who makes her baskets.
The shop’s first year has been a learning curve and it’s helped Skye define her vision for Thyme on St Mary’s. Recently her dream of turning the shop into a local hub of creativity is coming to life though a new series of workshops – everything from festive wreath-making to flower-crown making and hen-parties.
December was a lovely time to visit the shop, which was full of winter blooms and swags of greenery. I couldn’t resist asking Amy, one of Skye’s florists, about her favourite looks for Christmas. “I’m loving the classic Victorian look,” Amy tells me. “Choose natural greenery, feathers and red ribbons, but give it a modern twist with a hint of copper.”
Right now the shop is busy making wreaths and beautiful winter bouquets. But Skye is already thinking ahead to next year. She’s making plans with her local suppliers and dreaming of working with more brides to create beautifully bespoke wedding flowers.
If Skye could sum up her vision in three words it would be “fabulous done properly”. And I couldn’t agree more.
Know a great place to visit in Ely or Cambridge? I’m gathering more ideas for this series and I’d love to hear your suggestions.