From That Girl to That Mama
Born a Brit, raised in L.A. and now a Hong Konger, one of our favourite That Girl’s is now a mama! Gemma Hayden Blest is a former fashion designer turned botanical artist and set designer. She’s got with a keen eye for what’s fab (and, seriously, look how great she looks), so we just knew she’d be fun to chat with! She now spends a lot of time cuddling her son, Dylan, while also maintaining her career. She shares some tips on how to keep those plants alive (if your thumb is far from green!) and how she maintains a work-life balance (which we all want to know!).
Tell us about yourself and how you found yourself in Hong Kong
I originally started off in fashion design but quickly gave that up to focus on botanicals. I met my husband in London and he was transferred to Hong Kong which was the catalyst for my time in Asia.
Describe your personality in three words
Whimsical, delicate, hardworking.
Tell us how you got into the world of flowers?
It ended up being quite an organic progression from fashion. Fashion design led me into creating sets for fashion photography, and with those I started designing around flowers a lot. I soon realised I only wanted to work with flowers.
Your top three favourite blooms?
I love rouge-noir flowers that appear almost black. There are a few varieties that come in such dark shades: Helleborus and Chocolate Cosmos are two of the best. I also love giant poppies, particular Oriental poppies.
Favourite floral project/collaboration you’ve ever worked on and why?
My favourite projects have been collaborations with fashion brands. Having a background in fashion design I love exploring the link between the two. Alice + Olivia and Stance have been two of my collaborations to date.
Name three easy tips for readers to keep their plants alive (for the non-green thumbs!)
- Make sure pots are big enough for the plants. If they have been sitting in the same one for years, chances are they are pot-bound and it’s hindering their growth. Buy a bigger pot and add some fresh soil.
- Make sure plant leaves get washed to remove dust. They produce energy using sunlight and if they have a thick layer of dust on them it makes it harder to grow.
- Always make sure pots have holes in the bottom to allow drainage. If the pot doesn’t, then use a thin plastic container with drainage to contain the plant and sit it inside. Too much water sitting stagnant around the roots will cause them to rot.
If you could choose a new career what would it be and why?
A painter. Total artistic control over a canvas would be very refreshing.
What are your top three tips for busy mums?
- Focus on calls and emails during naps so they get your full attention.
- Try and organise your week for maximum output. For example, cook all baby meals in one afternoon and freeze them ready to use each day.
- Don’t try and cram your schedule with too many social events. Everything needs to be done a little slower.
Favourite organisational hack/tips and tricks?
Making lists! Jotting things down as I think of them to make sure they don’t get forgotten later.
How has being a mom changed the way you view your professional life?
Time is essential now because there just isn’t enough of it. Decisions have to be made quicker and everything needs better planning and time management.
How do you balance work and family life?
I’m lucky that I work sporadic hours and can work from home a lot. Dylan comes to the flower market with me, and most suppliers love entertaining and engaging with him. I need to be solo on heavy production days, but that’s balanced with days dedicated to him.
What do you do to get in that “me” time?
After bedtime there is that blissful moment when he’s sound asleep and the day is finished.
What do you find to be the most challenging part of parenting?
Lack of sleep.
What is the most rewarding part of parenting?
The smiles and cuddles.
Name your most memorable parenting moment.
Being handed a little creature at the hospital for the first time. Nothing prepares you for it.
Favourite family holiday destination and why.
Dyaln is 9 months and he’s been on 15 flights to date. I don’t have a particular favourite place we’ve been with him but I love the fact he’s with us. I love seeing the world through his eyes. The excitement from new things and the comfort from old ones.
What are your favourite spots to eat at with your family in Hong Kong?
Café Gray has always been a favourite. It’s easy to access and there’s a lot of space between tables. We also love taking a blanket and picnic out with our dog!
What’s the best parenting advice you’ve received? Worst advice?
The worst advise is anything that comes up on Google searches from baby chat forums. [Most] of the mums don’t have a clue, and it’s all really misleading. The best advice I’ve received is ‘mama knows best’. Following your own intuition is important.
Something that you wish someone had told you about motherhood?
You spend nine months worrying about the birth, but within minutes you don’t remember any of it.
What has been your most humbling moment as a mum?
There have been many, but pain is particularly hard. I just want to protect him and take it all away but it’s not always possible.
As a mum, I wish I were better at…
Not constantly worrying.
I wake up in the middle of night thinking about…
Everything and anything. What did people do before smart phones?
Bedtime is always smoother when…
He’s had a proper nap during the day.
My favourite moment of the day is…
The morning. Scooping Dylan out his cot and into my bed for his milk and a little play. Sunshine streaming in, coffee, cuddles and picture books.
Thanks to the talented Michelle Proctor of Michelle Proctor Photography for all of the beautiful images above! Follow her on Instagram @michellejproctor and Facebook at www.facebook.com/MichelleProctorPhotography.