I’ve been following Amber Hammersmith from Hope Blooms Floristry since being acquainted with her kind nature and her beautiful little flower business at the Gathered SA markets mid-last year. Her floral arrangements are simple, eclectic, and are bound to brighten up anyone’s day. She is able to cleverly craft neutral tones with pops of bright colours that make her bouquets of flowers a showstopper.
What I didn’t know at the time of the bushfires that swept through the Adelaide Hills in December 2019 is that Amber lived in the heart of the area that was deeply affected by the flames. The days following the bushfires, I vividly remember Amber sharing via her Insta stories about the level of devastation and images of a land that was previously lush and overflowing with greenery, now in its more barren form.
“It’s funny… I was actually making a flower delivery the morning the fires started. I’d just been on the phone to my best friend (it was her birthday) and I was excited to deliver the flowers to a graduation ceremony. That’s when my mum called and said there was a bad fire.”
When Amber evacuated from their residence in the Adelaide Hills on the day of the deadly Cudlee Creek bushfires late afternoon, they didn’t care about what might happen to their home. The fire came fast once the wind changed so they made the decision to get away from what was quickly engulfing them in flames and wanted to make sure everyone got out safely.
“I’m okay though. It was pretty scary when it first happened and even today, it’s hard not to be constantly reminded of the devastation. But throughout all the devastation and the disaster, my whole family is safe, which is what’s most important. That’s really what I was most concerned about: making sure my family was safe”.
Amber and her family (mum, dad and one of her brothers) used the back ways to try getting back that night. They wanted to find their neighbours, as they weren’t sure if they were okay or needed assistance. She also knew that she had to get back to see what was happening because otherwise she wouldn’t have been able to cope with not knowing. Upon getting into the car with her brother, they drove through the back ways and couldn’t escape the sight of flames everywhere.
“There was so much fire everywhere we looked – it felt so surreal. No matter what way we took, it was lit up. Was this really happening? At one point, I remember thinking, “this is what hell must be like.”
”It wasn’t entirely safe to return, but we found a way in. I needed to know if our neighbours were safe: they’re family to us. That was really the main priority and to see how much damage was done.”
Upon returning home, Amber saw that her beloved home studio, which was stocked with flowers, props, personal keepsakes, family photos and other business essentials – now was a heaped combination of ash and rubble on the ground.
But she digresses, “it could have been worse. We are all alive! Our main home is not damaged (apart from the smell of smoke and ash that won’t dissipate) but we are all okay.”
The family also had a decent amount of livestock. Luckily for them, the cows were smart enough to go across to the part of the Hills that wasn’t on fire and took refuge there. With their back property fence compromised and damaged from fallen trees, they had no choice but to sell some of their cows. However, the smaller herd of cows that they were able to keep are securely contained and are safe on the property (of what remains).
“They are quite tame and will often go to wherever they think they’ll be able to access some food and a bit of shelter.”
So what has Amber and her family noticed in the weeks following the bushfires?
“We have seen the community really come together and uplift spirits in ways we didn’t think possible. We have had so much help from everyone within and beyond the Hills community, where we have been given goods-based donations and even hay donations for our cows. Especially in the early days, when we were limited in supply of necessities like food and fresh water people just appeared with what we needed. Not to mention all the amazing people who came and helped us put out fires on the day and the ensuing weeks.”
Participating in the upcoming Gathered SA market next weekend, Amber is hoping to offer her customers (new and loyal) with “cheerful flowers”, which will inject a bit of joy and give a pop of brightness against the contrast of the burnt landscape.
Amber admits that the floral community as a whole has noticed a significant impact, through their flower farms and general supply being in limited quantities. However, with the support of friends and family who went the extra mile and overcame road restrictions that temporarily hindered her ability to run her business, “it all worked out in the end and I’m so pumped for the market bringing a sense of harmony and hope to families like our own that could really use that!”
The location for the Market next weekend at the Fabrik Arts building is so beautiful and pretty – it’s the old Lobethal Mill that has a rustic and industrial blend to its aesthetic. Amber hopes that the market weekend will give the people a chance to relax and recuperate from the last six weeks. At the moment, it feels like people are in a bit of weird limbo, not completely certain of what’s to come. However, there is a great sense of hope and a need to be together with each other, for each other.
Amber Hammersmith and her family from Hope Blooms Floristry will be participating at the Gathered SA Market in Lobethal on February 8 + 9, 2020.