Long time no see! Well, I didn’t actually go anywhere, I’ve still been blogging and Instagramming and doing marketing-y things. What I mean to say is, #AliTheFlorist is back! You may or may not remember, but at the start of 2015 we started a little story on my journey into the world of flowers. A quick recap: I grew up in the flower biz, but decided to pursue my love of interior design and studied Interior Architecture in college. Fast forward a few years, and I’ve found myself in the family flower business with a desire to learn the ins and outs and possibly/hopefully find out how to transfer my interior design skills over to flower design. With 2015 coming to a close end (when did that happen?), and looking back on how far I’ve made it on this journey, the answer is… not far. But I keep reminding myself that sometimes journeys take awhile. Life happens, work gets crazy, and other opportunities show up on your doorstep. So while it may be a slower process than I imagined, I’m still truckin’ along and figuring it all out.
Anyways, back to the main point of this blog – FLORET. A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a farmer-florist workshop at Floret with Erin Benzakein, up in Washington’s Skagit Valley. Since I live in Seattle, it was just a short little jaunt out of the city and into the countryside. I’ve been to Erin’s farm once before (read about trip no. 1 here), but this time I was going for myself and to connect with other women from across the country – even world! – and to share an experience we’ll never forget. We spent part of the weekend on Erin’s farm, learning all about her farm equipment, growing practices and team. Even though I have zero growing experience, it was so cool to get the full spectrum of the flower industry from the ground up, literally. Hearing about it through others is helpful, but actually seeing it with my own eyes, and getting to try out the equipment, plant seeds, harvest dahlias and more, really made me appreciate all that goes into it from the start.
When we weren’t at the Floret farm, the rest of the time was spent on Nina Foster’s family farm, specifically inside a beautiful barn that her husband spent twenty years restoring. Here we had discussions about business, weddings, and farm life, as well as heard from Erin and her awesome team about their experiences in this business (shout out to Mandy, Sue, Stephanie and Erika!). Sue from Passionflower was one of the ladies on Team Floret for the weekend, and she held a little instructional workshop on living jewelry. So cool! (And awesome to meet her, she’s a special lady). And finally, on the last day, my *favorite* day, we were able to get our hands on the flowers and let our creative juices flow. I told myself that morning that if I didn’t enjoy myself that day, then flower design might not be for me. I mean, using gorgeous flowers in a fairytale barn surrounded by inspiring women from all over the country? Yeah, if this wasn’t fun, I was on the wrong path. Luckily, that was not the case, as I had one of the most inspiring days I’ve had in awhile. It had been some time since I’d really gotten to make something with my hands and be creative in that sense; I love graphic design and using my computer, but it’s just… different. So after Erin gave us some short demos on centerpieces and hand-tied bouquets, we were set loose and allowed to create our own magic. There were no “rules,” just helpful advice and supportive words from the team. Oh, and did I mention the beautiful flowers and foliage GALORE? Well there was that too.
For the first time in a long time, I felt that, excuse the corny line, fire in my belly, and had a smile on my face the rest of the day. I was surprised that I actually loved what I created, and didn’t want to hide from photos and throw it in the garbage right after. Thank you to Erin and your wonderful team, and to all the women there who were so welcoming, friendly and inspiring. I came into that weekend nervous and feeling like the inexperienced outsider, but left with friends and a rekindled passion for flowers and design. If any of you are considering attending one of Erin’s’ workshops, my only piece of advice is this: do it.