If you scroll through the Instagram feed belonging to Worm, you wouldn’t believe that the company hasn’t yet reached its second birthday.
From creating the beautiful and bold installation that helped to launch Erdem’s collection for H&M; the wild displays that formed the insanely beautiful backdrop for Laura Jackson’s stunning Cornish Wedding in summer; and their impressive collaboration with the much sought after designer, Peter Pilotto, last month; we’re talking about a company that’s already taken – and continues to take – the London creative scene by storm.
Yet such elaborate jobs aren’t all Katie and Terri are known for.
With a mutual love for both books and blooms, Worm, in their own words, derives from “two girls, a stack of books and loads of flowers.”
It’s Monday 9th October and I find myself at their studio (which doubles up as a friend’s antique shop) in Stoke Newington. Surrounded by furniture and fern leaves – Terri makes a Christmas wreath as we speak – I sit down with the Irish duo (WARNING: This must be read in your best Irish accent..!) for what turns out to be a hilariously honest insight into what goes on behind the scenes…
SC.SD. I get the impression that you girls are manic…
T. It’s just insane!
SC.SD. Has it always been that way?
T. It kind of has! Recently though it’s really, really mental. I can’t remember the last time we had a day off and I don’t know when our next day off is…but I guess that’s a good thing and we need to stop moaning.
K. We’re always moaning!
T. If anyone asks how we are, we’re like “TIRED!” We complain how tired we are all the time!
K. But you know, we’re up at like 3 or 4am every morning for the flower market…
In order to stay on top of their hectic schedule, for the past eighteen months, Terri and Katie have been working seven day weeks, with both early starts and late finishes, surviving on minimum sleep…
T. We need to start hiring people but we’re terrified because we’re still kind of new. We’re a year and half old…
SC.SD. Which is crazy considering how busy you are…
K. We’re like a married couple! We see each other more than we see our boyfriends!
SC.SD. How did you meet?
K. Go on Terri!
T. No you tell it!
K. So my boyfriend makes ads for a living and Terri used to be an actress and got cast to be in one of his ads… I was living in Ireland at the time and he was like “you’d get on really well with the actress in the ad” and I was like “yeah…” but you know when someone says that?!
T. ..but when we met we just got on really well. We didn’t know each other that well when we started though. We were just in the pub one night and we were both really unhappy in what we were doing…
K. We were both feeling really unfulfilled, working really long hours for other people and we both realised that we were both interested in flowers and books. So… we decided that `we’d both to a floristry course. We were drunk so it one of those drunk promises (!) but it’s probably the only drunk promise that we’ve ever kept!
T. Everyone was like “yeh, yeh, yeh…”
SC.SD. What other drunk promises have you made?!
They both laugh…
T. You’ve had a few companies on the brain when you were drunk! You were starting a wine gifting company at one point!
K. I was starting loads of companies!
SC.SD. Have you always wanted to work for yourself?
K. Yeh, I think so. I’ve always done little creative projects on my own and I think I thought I’d like to work for someone else but then when I started working for someone else I really didn’t like it! I think you just get to a point where you just think ‘right, I can stay working my arse off for someone or I can just do it for myself’ and I think we were both like – before we have families – let’s just give something a go…
SC.SD. Do you think it helps that there’s two of you?
K. Definitely! Knowing what we know now, I don’t think we would have done it on our own.
T. No way.
K. It would have been a lot more difficult and it wouldn’t have been as enjoyable. We get on so well and have such a good time doing it- When one of us goes on holiday it’s so hard!
T. But I think the main reason it works having the two of us is that we get asked to do really big things that we have no idea how to make! Like, the hour before I met you I went to the Freemasons Hall in Holborn with huge high ceilings – it’s huge – and side track for a second but get this, there’s no women’s toilet…
SC.SD. What do they do?!
K. Do they give you one of those funnels?
SC.SD. A shewee?!
T. I don’t know, I think they go into the men’s toilets! Isn’t that mad!? Anyway, they were saying “We want to hang a big display in the middle here” and if I was on my own – our language is really bad, sorry – but I would shit myself! I’d have no confidence to say that I could do it but I was able to say “yep, yep we’ll do it!” If I was on my own, I would just be so scared to go in there to build an installation in a building where there’s a marble floor and if you get a drop of water on it you could get sued. When there’s two of us…
SC.SD. You can blame her?!
T. Exactly! You’re just so much braver saying yes to things!
K. I think you become more confident in your work too because I can say “do you think this is good?” and Terri might say “no, do this…” Your decision making is so much quicker.
T. And when you have a really shit day, it’s nice to know she’s having that as well!
SC.SD. Haha! I guess that it’s also comforting knowing – especially when you first started – that if this business goes wrong, at least you’re in it together?
K. We went into it so blindly though!
SC.SD. Where did you train then?
T. We knew the style we wanted to make so we just picked a really cheap course to know the basics! What’s it called when you do council courses? City Guilds or something in Westminster. It was one day a week for three months and we loved it…
K. It was a mad course! There were 10 of us; it was the most diverse bunch of people! We kind of started Worm while we were doing that but we very much went in without much experience in the floristry business or in business in general. If I think about everything we’ve learned in the past year and a half it’s actually insane!
SC.SD. I mean from an outsiders perspective, you guys are completely smashing it… you don’t give the impression that you’ve only been doing it for eighteen months…
T. Ah thank you! That’s so nice!
K. Do you know what it is, we both came from quite a creative background so I guess we had more training than we think…
SC.SD. There’s definitely more to it than just flowers isn’t there? How did you decide where to start because your Instagram page obviously looks like you predominately create floral displays for huge events but that hasn’t always been the case has it?
T. We started by doing a Valentine’s project in 2016 with three offerings… a book and a bunch for someone that really loves Valentine’s day; then we had one for someone who’s totally not in to it but weren’t brave enough to forget Valentine’s so that was a really beautiful art book of ‘The Nose’ and a bunch of everyday flowers; and then for the person that absolutely hates Valentine’s day we did a bunch of dead flowers that smelled of piss and ‘Heart of Darkness’, the book.
We created a website to advertise those and friends passed it onto friends! We’ve got a big bunch of Irish creatives around us which is so nice so everyone shared it and we got a good bit of press coverage from that project.
SC.SD. And did people buy the ones that smelt like piss?!
T. That’s what the press was interested in because it was funny!
Neither of us have driving licenses and we set up a delivery service and because it took off so fast, we still can’t drive because we haven’t had the time to learn…
K. But we’re going to!
The girls were also asked to create flower arrangements on a weekly basis for their friends’ restaurants.
K. People would come in and ask who did the flowers and we got a wedding through that…
T. The first wedding was so funny. Someone emailed us asking and we were like “sure, we’ll do your wedding. We’ve done LOADS of weddings..!”
SC.SD. Is that where the acting came in?!
SC.SD. And how big was this wedding?!
K.. Huge! For us anyway!
T. We quoted so badly on it; some of her flowers came out of our weekend restaurant jobs! We quit our jobs to start Worm so we were working in restaurants to pay bills. I think she paid £1000 for her wedding and I’d say we spent £1000 on flowers alone…! At the end of it we looked like we’d done a triathlon!
K. We literally looked like we’d just come back from a festival! We’d been up all night, it was HUGE. We didn’t have a studio at the time, we were making it all in Terri’s flat…
T. Katie had this idea to print all the guests’ names on these bags so people could take home flowers after the wedding… It was 4 o’clock in the morning and we had to be up in two hours and Katie was tweezering their names into the stamp and on to the bags in my bed! We were like, “why have we started this business, this is horrible!?”
SC.SD. So nobody gets printed bags now!?
K. They didn’t even look at them!
SC.SD. Haha! A learning curve then..! What did it feel like when that first bride said yes though? Were you happy to secure that £1000 or was it a case of shit, we’ve definitely under-priced that even at the time?
T. We kind of take things in our stride you and me; we don’t get overly excited about anything…
K. We are excitable people…!
T. Yeh, but I don’t remember that moment…!
K. I don’t either! Do you know what it is… when we started there was so much we had to do that the first wedding was just another thing on the list of things to do! You’re trying to register your business, make your website etc… so when you get a job, you do get excited but we were constantly like “ok when are we going to do it?” She was one of our favourite brides though, she had so much faith in us!
T. It’s probably the fear as well that makes us not excited!
SC.SD. Is that easing off though now?
T. Yeh… I think now it’s just these amazing jobs come in and we’re like “Eurgh, that was the week we were supposed to have off!” and then we don’t get any time off. There are some jobs that we get though that we’re really, really excited about. There’s a designer – we can’t say who it is yet -but they contacted us to do a show soon and we love him so much. The fact that he knew who we were…
K. I guess when someone you really, really admire asks you to do something it’s a case of ‘whoah, that’s cool’ but then we’re like, “shit, we’ve got to do that now!” It’s not that we’re not appreciative of it though!
SC.SD. Do you think you’ve got better at pitching since the early days?
T. Pitching and costing is still so hard. They approach us and by the time we find out we’ve got the job, we’ve actually done so much work for them already. It’s a year and half in and we’re still not costing properly. When we sit down after a really big job, we look at how many hours we’ve put into it, how many times we’ve sat down for an hour writing one email to them with all the designs and sketches… that’s one of the really hard things about having a business like this. You don’t value your time properly. I think even people in the industry for years struggle with this though.
You can be an amazing florist but if you’re bad at the business side – which we’re not great at – it’s stressful. Neither of us are financially minded at all really.
K. It requires a lot more time and energy because it doesn’t come naturally to us and because the job is so physical…
T. If we get up at 3am to go to the markets, if someone emails at 5pm asking for something our brains just don’t work properly.
SC.SD. Do you ever get part-time staff to help you?
K. We have a girl called Cordelia who helps us one day a week and we call in freelancers for really big jobs but I guess our next thing will be to get someone in constantly that we train in our specific style so they can go off and manage an event that we have designed…
T. But also help with the admin… say we’re on an install for two days for a big show and someone asks us to send over a quote by 6pm, we could lose that job if we don’t take time out to send the quote. That’s the unseen hardness I think. A lot of the time, we take on people that know more about how to do something than us though! We’ve never pretended we know everything!
K. Oh my god no, we’re the first to say we don’t!
T. But that’s the thing about floristry, you can use your instinct so much!
SC.SD. Given how busy you are, do you get time to enjoy it?
K. When we can find the time, we put on music and don’t talk to each other, but it’s great… It’s super therapeutic.
T. You know what we love – and it’s silly because we can’t do it often – when we get a wedding in the countryside. Just spending time outdoors making flowers…. It’s so nice because usually we have to do an unload on Regent Street or something and it’s crazy!
I also think the start of an install when we love what we’re making is always really lovely. The calm before the storm; it’s just the last hour that is equivalent to hell!
K. I’m not kidding, I swear we’ll end up having a heart attack!
T. It’s usually me saying “okay five minutes” and Katie’s like “I’M FINE, I’M FINE!!” It’s normally a sweeping brush going out of one door as the bride comes in another!
SC.SD. I saw your Instagram story from Laura Jackson’s wedding in Cornwall where you collapsed into the hotel room at silly o’clock in the morning!
T. That was really crazy because it took us seven hours to get down there! We bought too much for the van so we had to load and unload it about five times to get everything in and when we got there, it was HOURS of set up and because it was in deep Cornwall, we couldn’t really ask someone to come assist with us!
Laura arrived and we had to run back to our hotel room and put proper clothes for the wedding- we were knackered!
SC.SD. I bet! I’ve heard mixed reviews about the industry; would you say that it’s supportive?
K. Oh god, people have been SO good to us. We go to New Covent Garden Flower Market and all the men and women that work there are like family. We see them every day; they’re all so nice and want to help you!
T. I’m sure there are competitive people in it but we haven’t come across that yet. Obviously Katie was working in fashion and I was an actress – both known to be at times competitive industries – so to step back from that is so refreshing. We all inspire each other as well.
SC.SD. So you keep an eye on each other’s work but not in a competitive way?
T. Totally, in a city like London there’s enough work to go round. We pass work on all the time, and others pass stuff on to us.
SC.SD. Do you have a favourite type of job?
K. I loved the period shoot!
T. Yeah, this lady called Hedieh approached us who has a website that’s all about our monthly cycles and she asked us if we’d be up for doing flower arrangements that demonstrate the different stages of our menstrual cycles… We fucking loved that! We love being women! Our periods come within an hour of each other!
SC.SD. At uni, us girls used to! It’s crazy!
K. It’s nice to do those jobs though; it makes you think in a different way! We hid our arrangements from each other so we wouldn’t see what each others were like.
SC.SD. You know how writers get writers’ block… do you ever get to a stage where you feel like you’ve lost your creative spark?
T. Tiredness does that to us sometimes!
K. I was in the market this morning and I couldn’t think of what I wanted to get. Because there’s two of us though, one of us will come up with something.
T. Or we see visuals online… Even a trip to a gallery- I can come back feeling so inspired. Everyone we’re surrounded by is so creative though so someone’s always got a project for us. They’re the jobs we love doing but we’d have to be rich kids to do that all the time because there’s no money in them!
K. Over the last month we’ve worked with the designer Peter Pilotto and he took over a big house in South Kensington and it’s a big collaboration with their friends… there’s art everywhere and we did all the flowers for it. That was a really nice project. It was quite abstract.
T. And you get inspired by what’s inspiring them. They show you their mood board and you’re like ‘Wow! I’d have never thought about doing that…’
SC.SD. That sounds amazing! Do you have any real low points – either together or separately – where you just think ‘I can’t do this anymore?’
K. I haven’t had a point where I’m like this isn’t what I want to do…
T. No, but definite low points! Especially in winter when it’s cold and wet and you can’t have the heat on because of the flowers and you haven’t seen day light and your clothes are still damp from the morning… but then we’ll get an email or someone will write something nice on Instagram or send a thank you card and it’s a reminder of why we’re doing it!
K. The other day, it was a really mad, stressful, hour of Worm…
T. It was one of those days where everything was going wrong, in our personal lives too and we were both drained…
K. And then Terri’s boyfriend, was like “Girls, stop! Be really proud of yourselves!”
T. We got a publishing deal last year and have written a book and that morning we’d gone to see the unveiling of the cover and the meeting was amazing but we came out and our next job was so stressful that we’d forgotten that really happy meeting that we should be really proud of.
SC.SD. That’s such amazing news though and again it goes back to at least you’re in those moments together…
K. I think our work ethic is really similar; we don’t mind working really hard…
T. We don’t have to pull each other up.
SC.SD. But did you know that though before you started?
T. I think it’s just culture. Irish people work hard, it’s in our blood! I’m not saying other people don’t work hard..! But you kind of do just get on with it.
K. We wouldn’t have started it though had we not thought we were compatible. I would say we know each other more than our partners now. When you’re with your partner, you’re probably not making so many mad decisions but we do and we put ourselves in so many stressful situations!
SC.SD. What’s your favourite thing about Terri?
SC.SD. I’m asking you in a second!
K. Erm, I guess from a business point of view you’re so reliable…
T. Is that the best you can do!? I’m reliable!?
K. I just know she’ll always be there! There’s never a point where I feel like I’m in it on my own. She’s also the best story teller out of anyone I know! She’s one of the funniest people! She notices everything so there’s always an interesting story which is so nice when you spend a lot of time in the back of taxis…
SC.SD. What about Katie, Terri?
T. Probably her optimism! She’s always so happy and chirpy…
T. She always wants to go the extra mile for everybody to the point where I’m like “Katie, NO!”
SC.SD. Like the personalised bags!?
T. Not even that, once she was doing a delivery for a ‘book and bunch’ and…
K. This was a low moment..!
T. And they said ‘if we’re not in, leave it at a neighbour’s house’ and there was this little old lady that opened the door next door and was so happy to see Katie and the flowers but she couldn’t hear her and Katie was like “these are for your neighbours” and she was like “thank you, thank you!” and Katie came back balling her eyes out crying like “I’m going to go to the flower market and buy that woman flowers!”
K. It was so sad!
T. And I just said “Katie you can’t!” She would have actually bought that old lady flowers and travelled all that way to deliver them to her again!
SC.SD. That’s amazing! Who came up with the name?
K. Oh god…
T. I was teaching in a primary school at the time and we’d come up with every name under the sun…
K. I came up with the worst business names ever! Like ‘The smell after the rain’…
T. Basically we wanted a short word that had nothing to do with flowers and we thought about book worm, earth worm, book and bunch and we just said, “right, we’ll sleep on it.” I went into school the next day – I was working as a teaching assistant at the time – and the teacher was like “you’re doing phonics! Today they’re doing the letter ‘W’” and she gave me this card and it was ‘W for Worm’. I was like ‘this is a sign’!
K. I remember you came back with the card!
T. We kind of just intended to be ‘The Book and Bunch Company’ but then the events started taking off so we’re just going with it.
Despite being swamped by events at present, Terri and Katie still find the time to create the bespoke ‘book and bunches’ that continue to play an integral role in Worm’s identity…
SC.SD. How do you decide which book to pair the flowers with?
K. Say you’re ordering a bunch, you tell us about that person and we pick a book that we think will work.
T. We have a collection of books and we work with loads of small publishers like Hoxton Mini Press, mainly independents… they’re all beautiful books…
K. …Or interesting! We try and pick unique ones.
SC.SD. It’s such a quirky little concept…
K. I guess it’s at the heart of our business! It’s actually become more popular recently…
T. We were in Vogue’s list of something or other…
SC.SD. Vogue’s ‘list of something or other?!’
K. Vogue’s Secret Address Book- they put the ‘Book and Bunch’ in that and suddenly we were getting loads of orders. We were like ‘what’s that about?’ and then we realised ‘oh, we’re in Vogue!’
SC.SD. Is that the biggest feature you’ve had?
T. We’ve been in Vogue and Elle a few times and the work we’ve done for other people, like our work with Peter Pilotto, was in The New York Times but we don’t really pay a lot of attention to it.
SC.SD. You’re so cool about it!
T. It’s a job though! It would be silly for us to get above ourselves when a lot of the times we’re sat here cleaning dirty buckets! It always feels so nice but sometimes it feels silly because there are people out there that have jobs that really matter!
SC.SD. When you think about where those flowers are going and the story they’re playing a part in though…
K. Yeh, that’s so lovely! I love writing the little notes that go with them. I think we just feel really lucky and it’s so nice to get recognition for the work we’ve done when we work hard, but we don’t look out for it.
SC.SD. Do you have the chance to really celebrate?
T. We used to. Every time we set up a wedding, we’d find the nearest bar and down a bottle of prosecco because we’d be so tired and have FOMO about not being at the wedding! But we don’t get to do it anymore. When was the last time we celebrated?!
K. I don’t know! It’s literally got so busy that we just haven’t had a spare moment. Sometimes we go out for food together with our boyfriends….
T. When was the last time we did that!? Christmas.
SC.SD. This year has flown though! Speaking of Christmas, what are your plans?
K. Not having a mental breakdown would be really good! Last year, I genuinely had a breakdown.
T. I went away for the last ten days of November which I thought would be really quiet and it’s really not. Like it’s really not. It’s when all the restaurants install their Christmas displays…
K. And I obviously can’t say no. I said yes to so many huge jobs! I just thought ‘I’m going to say yeah and make her really proud when she comes back’ and she got back, walked into the room and I just burst out crying!
SC.SD. “Welcome home!”
K. Basically I said yes to decorating ten million Christmas trees…
SC.SD. As in with baubles?
T. No, no, she handmade the baubles!
K. Literally I didn’t sleep for ten days. I didn’t realise if you agree to put up a 10ft Christmas tree outside a restaurant, you need to know how to wire lights…
T. And you need to be there within the hour if someone robs it to put a new one in…!
K. Haha! We’re not doing Christmas trees this year!
T. Except for tomorrow!
K. Oh my god we’ve already said yes! I guess we’re just going to try really hard to get through it with as little stress as possible. Last year we didn’t know how to make wreathes!
T. I did! I had a ‘Young Enterprise’ business making wreathes when I was sixteen!
K. Oh yeh, you’re good at that! But we didn’t know what to expect last year whereas we have a better idea of what to expect now so I guess we’ll manage it slightly better.
T. Then 2018 will all be about bringing a bit more life into the world…
SC.SD. As in babies?
T. No! As in have a life!
SC.SD. Oh! Go on…
K. To be honest we’ve both found it really hard trying to have a life with your partner. I think we’ve been the worst girlfriends and friends… Every friend I see now I have to apologise to. It’s really hard on our relationships.
T. You don’t even have time to text people back. I’ll send ten emails and then someone texts you and you’re like ‘I’ll text back to that later’ and then you forget.
K. I guess they understand because they see how hard we’re working but it’s so hard. I guess I’m not as close to some friends as I was because I just haven’t been able to see them and I feel really sad about that but hopefully there’ll be a time when we can come back together.
SC.SD. I think the good friends are the ones where you can pick up where you left off…
T. I was listening to a podcast the other day and it was saying you know when you have a shit friend when they don’t know what’s actually going on in your life and I just thought ‘I’ve probably got so many friends with stuff going on this year and I’ve just not known about it’ and that’s so shit and it makes me feel bad that it goes with the territory of starting your own business…
I just feel like if someone rang me and said “This has just happened to me” and we had an install that day, I couldn’t drop things and go to them and that’s really hard. I come in every night and my boyfriend says “How are ya?” and I say “cold and tired” and I eat the dinner he’s made for me and go to sleep. That’s pretty bad!
K. That’s the hardest thing; the feeling of being a bad friend and partner.
SC.SD. Do you think taking someone on will help that?
T. If those people are still there waiting for us then yes!
K. I don’t think the two of us can work the rate that we’re working for years…
SC.SD. Definitely, it’s not sustainable. Have you thought about way you can manage that?
T. We’ve started, regretfully, saying “no” to jobs which is the real first step of getting some freedom back because at the start you can’t say “” We make sure it’s not just the small jobs that we turn down though because we don’t want to become too corporate. We want to love those little jobs still as they bring joy.
K. And be really accessible for everyone!
T. They’re the kind of things that we started doing and love doing. It’s good to get a balance and it stops us thinking we’re the big shots doing all those big jobs!
SC.SD. I think a lot of people will admire that. Quick fire to end… favourite quote?
K. How about, ‘This too shall pass’?
T. We’re not religious but we say that a lot!
SC.SD. That’s good. What about women that inspire you?
T. Recently we got nominated by Mary Portas for an ‘Entrepreneurs’ Women award’…
SC.SD. Oh my god that’s amazing!
K. I just love her- that was a real high actually!
T. It was such an exciting phone call! We couldn’t even enter the competition in the end though because we didn’t have our finances up to date!
SC.SD. That’s amazing! Last question then, is this what you want to be doing forever?
K. Oh my god yeh! I just can’t imagine doing something else!
T. This has so much room to grow! We both want babies at some point but we could do so much with this too.
K. I’m sure the direction will change… we kind of just go with what we’re enjoying but hopefully it will evolve and just become better and better…
What I loved most about this story is that no matter how tired these girls get and whatever stupidly long hours they both need to work to get the job done, you know that they’ve got each other to fall back on and at every stage there’s a sense of humour in tow.
Though they didn’t know each other for long before setting up, their shared passion for both books and blooms, a common appreciation for the dependable Irish work ethic and a mutual trust in each other’s talent and style; has created a friendship and business partnership that clearly works.
Yes, their social life has taken a severe hit in recent months – a sad but common reality for many new business owners – but the fact that they are learning to now say “no” and have imminent plans to hire a full time Worm, demonstrates their willingness to rediscover that work/life balance and to create a lifestyle that is sustainable as a result.
I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard transcribing an interview before.
Their talent is undeniable, their style is ridiculously cool and on top of that they’re just really great girls.
For more information on Worm, visit their website here or find them on Instagram: @wormlondon