Wolds Wreaths Decor: The Yorkshire wreath maker with famous customers from The Queen to Noel Fitzpatrick
What started as something of a festive hobby making unique wreaths in the shape of horses’ heads has turned into a year-round thriving international business for Julie Smith with some very famous customers, from royalty to Olympians.
From her home near Pocklington, ably assisted by her 84 year old father in law Les, she makes more than 350 wreaths a year and sends them around the world.
What makes Julie’s wreaths different is that they are made of high quality artificial silk flowers which means they last a long time and are better for the planet than cut flower arrangements.
“Some of the designs include 450 individual pieces of foliage and flowers,” explains Julie. “They can take up to /…. to make and many people buy them as family heirlooms to pass down to future generations.”
For more than 30 years she worked in sales rolls including charities and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.
“I loved my job and I loved getting out and about in the open – the countryside and my horses and my dogs are my passions,” she says.
“But when Covid and lockdown happened I was worried about our jobs and I was right as I was made redundant – even thought I had sort of expected it it still came as a shock. I just thought ‘what now?’”
The previous year before Covid struck Julie had started making artificial flower wreaths inspired by her beloved fell ponies. “I’ve always had a passion for flowers. I thought it was a bit of a crazy idea of making a wreath in the shape of a horses head but when I put it on social media it went mad. People just kept asking me to make wreaths for them – I think I made ten or 12 that Christmas.”
So when she was made redundant Julie dug deep and decided to turn her festive hobby into a business.
She launched Wolds Wreaths Decor in October 2020.
“We were still in various states of lockdown and people were losing loved ones and I had people messaging me, asking me to make them wreaths to cheer them up or in memory of people they had lost – the comments I got back were unbelievable.
“I started to feel that I was doing something really good, I was putting smiles back on people’s faces.”Having done fell pony wreaths she decided to branch out and do different breeds of dogs, including terriers, poodles, Scotties, and even a Schnauzer – which turned out to be a big success which gained celebrity attention.
“I got a call from Noel Fitzpatrick (The Supervet) asking for one of my wreaths. I sent him one of my Terriers down to his vet practice.”Then came and even more unexpected call, this time from HM The Queen’s head groom, Terry Pendry. “I couldn’t actually believe it was happening,.”
Her Majesty had fell ponies like Julie and was patron of the Fell Pony Society. Through friends on Facebook Terry Pendry had seen her designs and asked her if she could make one for the Queen.
"It as all very hush hush. I had to send it down to Buckingham Palace. I then got a letter back from the Queen thanking me. I think she put in it in her stables.”
The Royal connection continued after the Queen’s death when Julie was asked to make a wreath for her funeral.
“It was such an honour to have been asked to make a wreath for a tribute for HM the Queen at her funeral. I placed roses for her beauty and thistle for her love of Balmoral Scotland and the fern, acorn and other embellishments for the countryside she loved to be in,” explains Julie.
“The wreath was placed at her stables next to her favorite Fell pony Carltonlima Emma.” Emma stood on the grounds as the Queen’s coffin made its way up the Long Walk to St George’s Chapel.
Other supporters of Julie’s equestrian wreaths include World and Olympic champion dressage rider Charlotte Dujardin.
“I was just getting ready for Christmas 2021 when I got a phone call from someone called Charlotte – I thought at first it was someone taking the mickey but then I realised with was Charlotte Dujardin. She’d seen some of my wreaths and would very much like one. I said of course. When she received it she posted it on her social media which was phenomenal and things just went crazy.”
The following year Julie got to meet Charlotte and her winning horse Valegro, and she said she was happy to support her in anyway she could.
She has also started to make more traditional circular wreaths and take bespoke commissions, demand is such that it keeps her busy all year round and she sends more than 50 across the world as far as New Zealand and Australia. Her horses are particularly popular in Texas.
"The tricky part is because I use the best quality artificial foliage and flowers from the UK they are only really available around Christmas and so I have to buy enough to keep me going throughout the year. I won’t buy anything unless I have seen and felt it myself.
“The foliage is of such quality that people have to touch it to make sure its not real.”Working with the foliage that forms to base of many of Julie’s designs is where her father in law Les comes in.
“Each wreath has around 240 pieces of spruce and Les cuts then for me and puts them on to the horses head and I do the rest.”
Demand for Julie’s wreaths, which prices tart from £65, has exploded since she first started out with her ‘crazy idea’ with November being her busiest period.
“Last November is had 135 orders in 24 hours and had to close to new orders or else I wouldn’t have got them all done and shipped in time for Christmas.” But it has become much more than just a seasonal job.
"We started making wreaths on January 7 this year and have never stopped.” Despite this success and increasing demand Julie has no plans to expand her business. Something of a perfectionist she believes she would find it difficult, if not impossible, to let some else work on her designs – unless it’s Les of course.
"I also think a lot of people buy my wreaths because they have been made by me not someone I have just employed.”Julie says it is her late mum who died in 2016 she has to thank for following her hearts and setting up her wreath making business,
“Before she died she made me make a promise to her to do something I really loved and can really say that’s exactly what I am doing.”
And moving forward Julie plans to pass on her knowledge to other by holding wreath workshops which she hopes will attract hen parties and groups of friends who want to get together and try something new.