I love working with Handmade Canberra. Not only am I involved in the best event that Canberra has to offer, but I get to spend time drinking great coffee with wonderful local people! The coffee is purely for research purposes, you understand, but spending time with Canberra businesses that are creating beautiful products in innovative ways is more than just research, it’s a complete joy.
On a recent Friday morning, I picked up my skinny cap from Two Before Ten and walked through the welcoming doors of Moxom & Whitney on Lonsdale Street. I spent over an hour watching Bin (Belinda) put together a glorious range of terrariums and Lou working her magic with bouquets, while chatting about their floral origins and what makes them tick. It’s a hard life I know.
With Lou’s background in hospitality and Bin’s as a nurse in the Air Force, the girls struck up an unlikely friendship 18 years ago. It was many years before they decided to work together and in the meantime, Lou ran a florist in Dickson called A Bloom a Day, but was disillusioned with what she was making in the world of mainstream and wanted something different. Bin on the other hand, was inspired by the flowers and spent time “playing” in Lou’s shop until Lou encouraged her to take a course in floristry.
Lou says the old adage that you shouldn’t work with your friends isn’t relevant to them, because by the time they decided to start Moxom & Whitney, they had already seen the best and worst of each other. The girls had been together every day during Lou’s husband’s illness when Bin had helped Lou to nurse him, so working together in business was not a big leap at all.
Embracing a new start, they set up shop at the Lonsdale Street Traders where rent was low and gave themselves three months. Three months turned to six, by which time the originality and beauty of what the girls were doing had carved them a niche.
The move to the ORI building over Christmas last year was a great deal of hard work, but the new shop with its high ceilings, rich charcoal walls and spectacular array of flowers and greenery is worth the effort. They wanted it to feel like home and started to serve chocolate and cake to visitors, while offering handy hints, honest advice and Canberra’s most beautiful collection of flowers.
This honesty extends to their weddings, for which they will only supply in-season flowers and ask their couples to trust them and stay open minded that they will produce the best floral displays for the occasion. “It’s a day of love and fun,” says Lou. “It’s about two kids who want to go out there and rock the shit out of their wedding.” Moxom & Whitney rocked the shit out of 62 weddings last year because they understand the importance and impact of what they do.
Their supply chain is short. They buy many of their flowers from a truck that arrives from Melbourne on a Monday and order exotic flowers when needed from Singapore. But much of their greenery is foraged from farms and friends’ hedges and they are now starting to grow and harvest their own. It is a dream to create their own flower farm and cut out the middle man, mindful of their footprint. This ethos suits their honest attitude and love of all things local.
Bin’s terrariums account for around a quarter of their business. Hers are definitely the best in the business, with meticulous attention to detail and quirky touches that set them apart. Their terrarium and flower workshops are currently sold out for many months as they have become a local institution. Every event is different because of the people who attend, and Lou & Bin open their doors in the evenings in characteristic welcoming style to people who want to learn, but also want to have a lot of fun.
Moxom & Whitney has definitely carved its place in the Lonsdale Street annuls and the girls are passionate about their home. They believe that Lonsdale Street offers everything and want people to shop local because they know how hard it is to make small business work. The Hamlet and Debacle are places you can find them in their downtime, but when they venture further afield, it’s to Edgars in Ainslie or Trev’s in Dickson.
I honestly could have stayed and watched them work all day. They’re vibrant, funny and great company, but it’s not all coffee and flowers for me, so it was time to get back to some ”proper” work. Like I said, it’s a hard life.