WAFAS History

The society had its beginnings when Mrs Esme Coops approached the WA Horticultural Council in 1950 with a suggestion that a floral art society be formed.

The inaugural meeting was held on August 13th, 1952. A gathering of floral enthusiasts, including representatives from eleven horticultural societies, pledged their support to the venture.

Mr Harper, (a prominent businessman and supporter of the group) provided the venue. The first meeting was chaired by Mr Harry Tarrant, (a well known judge and exhibitor of floral work). Mr. Tarrant was asked to take the chair and the following were elected:

Patron                           Mrs Francis A Newman F.R.H.S.
President                      Mr Harry Tarrant
1st Vice President        Mrs Cath Luff
2nd Vice President       Mr H Coops
Secretary                      Mrs Esme Coops
Treasurer                      Mrs Jo Lodge

The name, West Australian Floral Art Society was adopted, with the aim of the society to create interest in all forms of Floral Art activity and to stimulate public interest in this, the newest branch of Horticultural Art.

Many of the early members were involved in nursery and floristry businesses. Among whom were, Harry Lodge, an orchid grower; the Luff family, involved in nursery and floristry businesses; Mr and Mrs Law Davis, from a floristry business; Jim Brassington, a carnation grower (he started Melville Carnations) and Des Banwell, a florist with a business located in Trinity Arcade in Central Hay Street and was involved in the early stages of Interflora (as well as starting the WA Ballet Company). He was the patron of this Society for a time and during important events he would oversee them and bring a standard of excellence to the occasion. Francis Newman was a florist and her family were involved in the nursery business. The Passmores and Brocklehursts, notable names in the horticultural industry, were also involved.

The First Exhibition was held at the Perth Town Hall in April, 1955.  As well as displays (formal and informal designs and dried arrangements), there were demonstrations and a mannequin parade. The Exhibition was sponsored by Boans, Ltd (a well known department store at that time). With the mannequin parade, models would come down the walk, and at the turning point of the walk, there was an arrangement of flowers that matched the gown worn by the model.

At one of the first meetings in November, 1953, there were 34 members present at the meeting, then by May 1955, there were 109 members present. This showed that interest in the society was increasing rapidly.

Since the society was new, it was decided that as well as demonstrating flower arranging, prominent artists from other fields would be invited to lecture in their special expertise. Among the visitors were Mr Hamilton, Art Critic of at the “West Australian” newspaper, Owen Garde and Guy Grey-Smith, painters, Mr Gardiner, the government botanist, Mrs C. H. Newman, florist, and many other specialist growers and nurserymen. These people gave their time and experience freely on many occasions. Floral artists from the eastern states and overseas were also guests. One of whom was Norman Sparnon, an Ikebana enthusiast.

Early meetings were held in the board room of the Royal Agricultural Society in the Bank of NSW building in William Street, following which there have been a variety of meeting places, before arriving at our current location in Osborne Park in 2001.

The Society has published a newsletter monthly since 1964 for its members and affiliated associations and these can be sourced at the Battye Library of Western Australia. Another interest of the Society is to support various charities, some of which have been Legacy, the Red Cross, Cancer Support and Research, Aged Care and Mother and Child Care.

Some special events celebrated over the years were:

In 2002, the Society celebrated its 50th anniversary with an event entitled “Floral Fanfare” which was held at Ascot RacecourseWAFAS hosted the AFAA at this event. Many floral artists from all around Australia converged on Perth to compete and attend. Heather Hammond from New Zealand was the guest demonstrator and provided workshops. Mary Sweeney from New South Wales also provided a demonstration.

In 2007, the society celebrated its 55th “Emerald Anniversary”, at Heathcote Galleries in Applecross. Norma Gordon from Tasmania was the guest demonstrator.

In 2010, WAFAS and AFAA hosted the 4th Australian Floral Design Convention, entitled “Floral Rendezvous”. This was held at the Boulevard Centre, inFloreat and Rendezvous Observation City Hotel in Scarborough. There were about 180 floral designs entered in the various classes. Our special guest was Hitomi Gilliam a floral designer from British Columbia, Canada. Noreen Donovan from Victoriaand Clement Lee from Perth both provided workshops. Eileen Gill from the UK attended and was the NAFAS (National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies) representative. There were many members of the public who enjoyed the exhibits.

In September 2012, WAFAS celebrated its 60th Anniversary with a celebration entitled “Diamond Anniversary”. WAFAS hosted the AFAA during this event. This was held at the Boulevard Centre, inFloreat. Our two special guests who provided workshops were local floral designers Clement Lee and Bev Milling. WAFAS was also involved in a community project which encouraged artistic expression. We liaised with two local primary schools from which students made designs depicting the theme of Pinocchio, which was the theme for the WA Ballet Company (also celebrating their 60th Anniversary the same year).

In August 2015, WAFAS hosted the AFAA and held its State Championship in conjunction with the Flower Designers Club of Bunbury (an affiliated club of WAFAS) to celebrate Bunbury’s Golden Jubilee Celebration and Blooming Art Exhibition in Bunbury, WA. Over 2000 people visited the exhibition during the event. The demonstrations were provided by special guests from Setagya, Tokyo, Japan and the workshops were provided by Annita Bokolbi, a local floral designer.

We continue on today, with traditions set in place quite some time ago, whilst, at the same time, keeping abreast with current trends both in Australia and worldwide.