My favorite part of every Instagram takeover we do is the follow-up interview. The photos we see on our feed are always gorgeous, but getting to know the designer behind those beautiful images is it what makes each takeover so unique. Every interview I’ve done has been fun and insightful, but I’m not gonna lie, this lil lady has been one of my faves! Her energy and passion for this industry shines through, and I can’t guarantee you won’t want to be best friends with her by the end!
So without further ado, let’s learn a bit more about Summer Robbins of Summer Robbins Flowers!
So tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you found yourself in the flower industry!
Well this answer could get incredibly long-winded but I’ll try to keep it short. 😉 I’m Summer, and I own an event floral design studio in Bend, Oregon. I’m Rich’s wife and Cedar & River’s mama. Our family is rounded out by our fur puddle, the ultimate lap kitty TT, our 10 chickens, and 2 beta fish. Black coffee & red wine are my drinks of choice and I could literally eat tacos every day. I’m obsessed with music and business podcasts. Book stores are my happy place. Running is how I meditate. And in an effort to be a true Bendite and to keep up with my family, I just learned how to ski this year, so wish me luck on the slopes.
Floral design is my second career and it took me over a decade in fashion design, DIYing my own wedding, a whole lot of vision boarding, a supportive husband, and eventually taking floral design classes to discover that flowers was truly where I was meant to be.
I love how much overlap there is between different creative fields. How did your background in fashion influence you as a floral designer?
My fashion background has influenced my floral business in every way. Without all of those years in fashion honing my taste level, my eye for detail and design, developing my work ethic, learning to manage a team and to maximize workflow, as well as how to present and talk through ideas, my ability to best serve my clients confidently would probably have taken a whole lot longer to develop. But given that I had a whole career beforehand, my floral business has grown steadily and organically since I went out on my own 3 1/2 years ago.
Tell us a bit about your experience at the FlowerSchool New York!
Where do I begin here? A good friend of mine who is an event floral designer in Virginia recommended I take classes at FlowerSchool New York when I was starting to think that floral design might be a career option for me. The school is right down the street from my old office, so it couldn’t have been more convenient. The very first class I took there was a master class with Ariella Chezar, the queen of flowers, and I was totally hooked from that point on. After a couple of months of floral classes, I signed up for their professional program and quit my job to pursue floral design full time with the goal of one day starting my own business. I figured that I had spent 4 years at Parsons to study fashion design, so I owed myself at least 1 year to study floral design if this was to be my new career. During that year I took every class that FlowerSchool New York offered. I studied under Ariella, Lewis Miller, Emily Thompson, Christian Tortu, Shane Connelly, Oscar Mora, Remco Van Vliet, and Sullivan Owen, among others. Then I apprenticed with Belle Fleur, Ariella, Polux Fleuriste, and Sullivan Owen. I couldn’t have been more fortunate and I have so much appreciation for FlowerSchool NY and their amazing staff, alumni, and master florists. I highly recommend the school to anyone serious about developing and honing their craft.
I absolutely adore Bend, OR, but it’s obviously a huge change from living in New York City for so long! Can you talk about how your surroundings have inspired your style – from the architecture of New York to the beautiful landscapes of Oregon?
Bend is the Wild West. It couldn’t be more different than New York City, which is why we chose to live here. Everything about our high desert landscape is endlessly inspiring to me with its dusty neutral color palette, dried grasses, juniper, desert sage, and tumbleweed on the East side of town and the ponderosa, lodgepoll pines, and manzanita on the West side. I LOVE incorporating our native elements into my work so that I can honor this magical place. If I was doing a wedding in Portland where it’s always raining and mossy, and ferny, and perma-green, I can guarantee that my work would look much different because the landscape is vastly different.
Even though Bend is experiencing a lot of growth at the moment, it still has that small town feel. What is the floral community like out there?
Yeah, Bend is big, but it feels small because we are kind of an island in the center of Oregon with Portland 3 1/2 hours Northwest over the Cascade Mountain Range and the next most populated town East is 2 hours away, so we are surrounded by wilderness. The floral community is AWESOME and super supportive both here and statewide. In Bend most of us are friends and we refer each other and help each other out. In my experience flower people are generally an exceptional bunch, so I feel like that’s no surprise.
So your studio is on the farm you live on (sigh)… do you grow any of your own flowers on the farm?
Hahaha! We are trying to grow flowers. Meaning my husband is trying to grow flowers. It’s pretty tough here. We’re in zone 6, and our farm is located at 3500 feet above sea level. We get freezing temperatures at night sometimes in June or July. The sun is also super intense, it’s arid, and the soil is volcanic. My husband is in charge of the farm and his focus over the last 3 summers has been to amend the soil and experiment with different floral varieties. Greenhouses may be in our future.
Aside from the flowers, I get the feeling that one of your favorite parts about this industry is the relationships and connections you form with each client. Can you tell us a little bit about that, and how you look to your clients for inspiration in their unique event?
I would agree with that 100%. Client relationships and the connections we forge are the thing that I value above everything else in this business. My goal is to serve our clients wholeheartedly, without ego, and with respect. Every bride deserves to be wowed on her wedding day and exceeding her expectations is what gets me excited and keeps me inspired. I think if you approach it that way, you can’t lose.
I’m certain we all get the same 20 or so Pinterest pins depending on the season, but I would go totally insane with boredom if I had to make the same thing every week, and most couples really would prefer something personalized over a knock off. So instead of deciding to create those Pinterest floral ideas verbatim, I use them as a starting point. Then I take those ideas and create a design direction unique to my client based on their story, things they love, their venue, their color palette, the season they’re getting married in, their budget, what they’re wearing, and the vibe of their wedding. I get so excited and inspired by it all.
Alright… you knew it was coming! Favorite flower? I’ll allow a couple, because even I can’t choose just one 😉
Well thank you for not making me choose just one favorite, because that would be impossible. Sorry I can’t even nail it down to a couple because every season is so different. So, will you allow me to go seasonally?
In the Spring I love all forms of fritillaria, anemones, ranunculus, and hellebore.
I’m all about berries, peonies, and scabiosa in the Summer months.
For Autumn, bring on the dahlias, nandina, rudbeckia, seed pods, and decorative grasses.
And lastly in Winter, peonies from overseas.
But throughout every season I am a rose-a-holic. So, I guess in all honesty you could say they are my true favorites.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to go back and tell yourself during your first year of designing?
I would tell myself that all of the money spent, hard work, sacrifice, and time away from my babies will all be worth it because I end up building something that’s becoming pretty great.