Reem Halawi: Delicate Beauty

Reem Halawi’s business, Just Floral by R, which creates edible custom- made sugar and wafer paper flowers for wedding cakes, was born during the pandemic and is now thriving.

There is not much of an upside to a global health pandemic, but now that we may be able to look back, one of the silver linings may be that the lockdowns and the radical change in the work-from-home dynamic allowed many people the time and space to unlock hidden talents or explore passions that the pre-pandemic world had prevented in their frenetic lives. Many developed these passions into side hustles and small businesses that still thrive today.

One of these global “passionistas” is Reem Halawi. A pharmacist by training, she took advantage of the freedom that the lockdown’s quiet time afforded her to renew her passion for baking artistry and began her company Just Floral by R, which specializes in creating handcrafted, custom-made edible sugar and wafer paper flowers as arrangements to beautifully adorn wedding cakes.

Baking was almost the perfect activity for a lockdown. You can do it from home and it is time-intensive — remember early in the pandemic when it seemed the entire world had become sourdough bread bakers? Most importantly for Halawi, it ignited a passion.

“Finding passion in your life or passion for your lover or your children, whatever it is, whatever passion you have, is really important because if you don’t find passion, you’re not living your life to the fullest,” said Halawi, in a recent interview with City Life. “Passion is the most important thing for me. If you’re able to say you are passionate about something, that is really incredible.”

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The edible art of handcrafted, custom-made and designed sugar and wafer-paper flowers is a growing and popular trend in cake decorating. There was even a book about it, Wafer Paper Flowers, published in 2016 by Petya Shmarova, a sugar-crafter based in Sofia, Bulgaria, which was the first book discussing how to create realistic-looking flowers from wafer paper. During the past years, Shmarova has conducted demonstrations and classes in Europe, the Middle East, South America and Asia.

The trend is yet another example of the creativity that has always existed in the wedding industry. As Halawi explains, while the end result is an element of what she terms “delicate beauty,” the creative process with her clients, usually engaged couples or bakers, is arduous and can take up to 24 hours for a single arrangement.

“There is a lot of planning that goes on behind the flowers,” says Halawi. “I sit with my client so I understand their vision. After we decide on the colour scheme, the flower type and the size, this is when the actual work begins. There is the moulding and the intricate shaping of the petals so they look to be flowing and as natural as possible, and then assembling them. So it is a very long process, and the planning and discussions are extremely important.”

Halawi’s current marketing is through word of mouth and primarily her Instagram account, @justfloralbyr, which contains a stunning collection of photos illustrating the creativity, imagination and beauty she brings to her custom-made arrangements.

“If I was to describe my creations, I would say delicate beauty,” she says. “I have a small butterfly in my logo because I have always looked at the butterfly as this small creature that is very vibrant but has a delicate beauty about it. So in describing my work and my business, it is going to be something like the delicate beauty of a butterfly, because it is so beautiful and unique.”

Artistic beauty is at the heart of what Halawi’s imagination and talent create, and beauty is very much in her soul. “The way I would define beauty is that it is something that takes you to another place,” says Halawi. “Beauty is something that makes you disconnect from your present reality and allows you to be somewhere else.”

While her career and her newly discovered Just Floral by R enterprise may dominate her world just now, its centre has always been and always will be her young daughter, Jasmine.

“One of my biggest accomplishments is raising a happy daughter,” she says proudly. “She is extremely creative and artistic, and I’ve been so proud to be able to support her and nurture her talent. I feel art can bring a lot of happiness and joy to people, and I’m proud Jasmine can look at art as a channel to communicate her emotions. Jasmine already spends a lot of time with me doing the flowers, and I’m hoping that when she grows up she’ll work with me if she wants to and we’ll open our own business together — growing this business and taking it to the next level together. She’s a strong character with leadership skills, so I’ll probably end up working for her!”

Success is not financial for Halawi; it is something much deeper. “My business and my definition of success is being able to share my art and love of flowers with others, in actually making a difference for others by helping them bring their visions to life,” she says.

Just Floral by R was born out of a pretty miserable collective global experience, but Halawi is one of millions of people who found a niche, discovered an inner talent and joy and turned a negative into a positive — another example of the delicate beauty, strong will and strength of the human spirit.


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Rick Muller

Rick Muller