Harkamal Ubhi is country’s first Asian master florist
A SOLIHULL man has become Britain’s first Asian male master florist!
Harkamal Ubhi realised a lifelong dream when he was recently awarded a Level 5 Master Diploma in Professional Floristry – the highest floristry qualification in the UK.
And in doing so the 43-year-old, who works full-time for National Grid as an Analyst, became only the second male and the first Asian fully-qualified male florist in the country.
The qualification capped off five years of dedicated studying which took Harkamal across the country as he aimed to turn what started out as a hobby into a fully-fledged profession.
“I am absolutely delighted to be the second male and the only Asian florist in the country to have reached this level.” Harkamal told The Asian Today.
“Less than one percent of qualified florists in the country have achieved this qualification. It was very hard, with long hours, several assignments, portfolios, traveling and expense but it was all worth it in the end. I had distinctions in all my assignments, practical exam and a credit in my written exam and I feel really proud of myself.
“Fresh flowers are amazing to work with, the colours, the scents, textures and forms are astounding.”
Harkamal’s love of flowers can be traced back to Kenya where he grew up as a young boy.
“I’ve always loved nature since I was a child,” he reveals.
“I used to spend a lot of time in the garden growing plants and flowers and I often used to buy fresh flowers and arrange them in different containers just for home.”
But it was a family event ten years ago that made Harkamal turn his hobby into something more. He arranged the flowers at a cousins wedding and spurned on by a fantastic response from family and friends he enrolled onto a part-time course at Solihull College – during which time he was named Student of the Year.
He went on to study at the City of Wolverhampton College in Compton at the Cedars Horticultural Centre where he gained a Level 4 in Floristry, and more recently at the Academy of Floral Art in Exeter where he was awarded the prestigious Level 5 qualification.
Harkamal admits the courses were a challenge – but well worth the effort.
He said: “My first three years were a lot easier in comparison to my Level 4 and Level 5 course. I thoroughly enjoyed all my courses and we had to produce portfolios of all our work. The Level 4 and Level 5 courses consisted of five theory modules and five practical modules that required a lot of effort and research outside of college. Working full-time, married, young children and parents to look after made this a real challenge, often requiring me to work very long nights and using my holidays to study. However, I still really looked forward to the classes and made some really good friends and learnt so much that I could not wait to put into practice.”
For family and friends who knew of his passion it came as no surprise when he officially became a master florist. But for others it was quite a shock!
“My family were very supportive as they always knew that I had a creative streak in me,” Harkamal says.
“At first, they thought it was just a hobby but soon realised that it was my passion. A lot of my friends were surprised and had no idea of my talent. I graduated with a Computer Science degree from University and this was no way related to my education or career!”
And he admits he raises a few eyebrows when clients realise their master florist is a man!
“I get quite a few surprises when people find out that I am a male freelance florist. Most people don’t actually realize how much effort and time it takes to produce the designs. There are not many qualified Asian florists.”
And Harkamal’s already putting his highly-trained skills into action and is a man in demand.
Naturally family and friends have been quick to hire him for party and wedding events, and he’s even had exposure at the National Asian Wedding show.
“I recently created some designs for the models in a catwalk show at the National Asian Wedding Show,” Harkamal said.
“These consisted of eight silk flower hair pieces that matched each individual outfit, and eight fresh flower bridal bouquets of different colours and styles for them to hold. The designs were inspired from the bright colours and incorporated decorative wires, beads and pins to provide the wow factor. I had a lot of praise from the organiser of the event and several visitors at the show. All the feedback makes the intricate designs worthwhile.”
For now Harkamal will continue to combine working full-time for National Grid with freelance floristry work.
But looking ahead this master florist is confident his passion will bloom into his very own business.