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October 11, 2021 —

Meet the Maker: Yuki Brittain of The Tsubaki

Bringing together her love of nature and creating using felt, Yuki Brittain started The Tsubaki in 2017. Now, just a few years later, she’s known as the felt florist - making beautiful keepsake flowers, to be adored long after the seasons have changed. We spoke to Yuki to hear about her journey so far…
Shelley Welti
91 Magazine online content editor,
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91-magazine-meet-the-maker-the-tsubaki

Hi Yuki. Why and when did you decide to start The Tsubaki? 

I was brought up in a very creative family in Japan surrounded by craft and people designing and making things! My grandmother made Kimonos, my grandfather taught me how to make straw shoes, my father still loves DIY and making his own fishing tools from scratch and my mother was also involved in the craft world. Naturally I absorbed a lot.

However, my design career took off when my daughter started to go to nursery and I was able to have more time for myself. I started to make doughnuts when my children were playing pretend shopping. They told me that they wanted some doughnuts as a toy (whilst not flowers, I do still like doughnuts)! With the feeling of attempting to be creative, I tried to sew one using felt and luckily, my children really loved it! They then started to ask me for more and more! I got great delight by seeing how much my children loved playing with my colourful soft toys that I had created for them.

This was back in 2016, and it led me to think of more and more things I could make. It gave me the confidence to move to my greater passion of flowers and create and then arrange them in pretty patterns (floriography). This was so exciting. I was loving the aspect of creating things out of felt which has almost developed from a passion to a slight obsession! When I discovered a real enthusiasm for making felt flowers, I seriously started to think of starting my own business. My daughter starting school accelerated this and I opened my Etsy shop in October 2017. This was the beginning of my journey.

91-magazine-meet-the-maker-the-tsubaki

How did you decide on the name?

The name ‘The Tsubaki’ came from my love of camelias which are one of Japan’s most well-known, traditional flowers. Hundreds of tsubakis (camelias) bloom in winter and the leaves are evergreens all through the year meaning it is not only one of the most popular but also one of the most beautiful flowers in Japan. To me they evoke the feelings of passion, beauty and loyalty.

How would you describe the brand’s ethos?

Simplicity and calm. I attempt to create a sense of peacefulness all the way from my products to the design of my website to the service I provide. My aim is to transmit the beauty of nature into people’s homes and to give people a moment of clarity.

91-magazine-meet-the-maker-the-tsubaki

Can you tell us a little about the processes used to create your work?

My inspirations come from the outside world. I enjoy walking in the woods near my home, seeing the changes in nature throughout the seasons. My ideas on what to design usually come from these moments when connecting with nature. They can come at any point when I am outside so I always carry a sketchbook to write or draw designs as soon as inspiration hits!

I am also a keen student of flowers and visit many gardens throughout the UK and keep updated with the latest trends through social media, the internet and magazines. I like to make my flowers as representative as possible to real life so I practice the designs many hundreds of times before settling on a style.

You’re an enthusiast for getting people to slow down and be in the moment – why is this important to you?

As a wife and mother of two children, I recognise how life can regularly feel pretty chaotic. The world is a busy place, especially these days, with a lot of external noise around. It can be easy to forget to take a moment to yourself and just celebrate what is around you and what brings you pleasure. By not doing this, we lose focus and perspective and things can become overwhelming.

It is proven that flowers have a positive psychological effect and there is research to say they could even lower blood pressure, reduce feelings of pain and anxiety as well as help with fatigue. A view of flowers in the home can help people to physically de-stress, relax and reconnect again with the beauty of home and the outside world.

91-magazine-meet-the-maker-the-tsubaki
91-magazine-meet-the-maker-the-tsubaki

Which is your most popular product? Why do you think that is?

My eucalyptus wall hanging is my bestselling product. I think the simplicity and (green) colour helps customers feel calm and reconnect with nature. It evokes a sense of calm, a perfect size to hang up and goes well anywhere in the house.

Do you have a favourite design?

I feel strongly about my peonies. It took me more than two years to make the perfect shape! I tried so many different petal shapes, colours, and materials before settling on what’s in my shop. This is the most popular flower for men to give to their wives as a 7th wool anniversary gift!

91-magazine-meet-the-maker-the-tsubaki
91-magazine-meet-the-maker-the-tsubaki

What does a typical day look like for you?

I do stretches and yoga in the early morning, followed by my routine with the kids including the school run, and then start my work around 9am with a fresh coffee.

I pick them up at 3pm when we do homework, reading and catch up on their day whilst cooking dinner. Once the early evening arrives, I look to do some more work for a couple of hours before switching off for the day.

How does your location inspire you?

I grew up in the countryside, in a small town near Hiroshima city in Japan. Whilst growing up, I was very fortunate to be surrounded by so much diverse nature. There are four seasons in Japan like here in England and it always inspires me to see how beautiful the outdoor world is and to go and explore.

Currently I live in the countryside in Surrey. I have amazing woods within a five minute walk which I never take for granted as it gives me such a sense of belonging, amongst nature, flowers and the outdoors.

91-magazine-meet-the-maker-the-tsubaki
91-magazine-meet-the-maker-the-tsubaki

How do you approach PR and marketing?

My marketing is mostly through social media. Instagram and Pinterest are my main resources and I try to be as interactive as possible as I recognise how important that is. I also send out press releases when launching new collections.

What’s been your business highlight so far?

Every sale I make. Each sale is so important to me and I never take that for granted. I couldn’t do this without my loyal customers / followers. They give me ideas and inspiration and their positive comments push me to keep going and to continue to create more and more designs.

91-magazine-meet-the-maker-the-tsubaki
91-magazine-meet-the-maker-the-tsubaki

If you were to share any words of wisdom with readers looking to start a creative business – what would you say?

Believe in your vision! You have to really believe in yourself and your idea as that comes first before anything. Picture what you want to do, study your passion and then go for it. Anything worth having takes time and there are many ups and downs. However, if it was easy everyone would do it so enjoy the process, laugh lots and be kind to yourself as doing what you love is the best feeling in the world!

QUICK-FIRE QUESTIONS

Describe your work in three words?  Simple, minimalist, realistic.

What are your creating rituals? Surrounding myself in nature.

Tea or coffee? Coffee!

Mountains or sea? Mountains.

Night owl or early bird? Early bird.

I wish someone had told me… To take more photos when I was younger and to practice my photography skills!

See more from Yuki at the-tsubaki.com and on Instagram.

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