Flourish | An Interview with a Florist

Spend time with a florist and I can guarantee you will feel inspired. Kate, owner of Flourish, proves to be one of the most graceful, positive, and family-oriented women, shedding light on her floral business, her love for her city, and her inspiration from wildflowers. I sat down with her in her lovely Ocean Beach abode and spoke with her about her florist + creative journey.

Tell us about yourself.

Well… In college, I studied English. I just love everything about words and how they change people. I’m really passionate about people being everything they can be and that’s exactly why I named my company Flourish. It’s because every passion that I have comes back to: how can I make people flourish and how can I make people fully live out their true selves? For me, flowers make me feel like my true self. When people ask for flowers, they’re usually celebrating things and they’re usually celebrating the fullness of life, who people are, and the fullness of their stories. It’s like being in the crux of their moments.

Why did you decide to start your own business, versus work for someone else?

I guess I just felt like I could. Maybe that sounds a little pretentious (laughs). I just feel like I can do a good job and I work really hard to do those things. I love designing things by myself rather than people telling me what to do, not necessarily because they’re wrong, but because thinking about it myself and going for it is just the most exciting thing I can think of. Having these things I create and watching them grow is so much fun.

Do you remember when you first learned about floristry? How did you discover what it was and how you knew it was what you wanted to do?

I think it’s been a really long process. Although I initially decided to go into teaching, I have loved flowers since I was five years old. If you ask my family or friends, I have arranged flowers on the sides of the roads and make people pull over just so I can arrange them right there. I loved it from before I can remember. For the actual techniques,  like composition and color, I feel like a lot of them were ingrained in me just as an artist by nature. Things it takes to actually understand and arrange flowers, I learned through trial and error, research, watching people and studying their bouquets, and really just thinking about them in the middle of the night.

You mentioned that a lot of techniques are ingrained in you because you are an artist by nature. What other art do you practice?

Well, life is art. I think in teaching, it requires a lot of skill and strategizing. I think about art as a wider topic like who you are as a human. Looking at things outside of the box, thinking about raising my daughter, how she thinks, and how to incorporate that into teaching all require a certain element of artistic ability. But I also love to watercolor and I love to craft... Paint... Cook... All of those things.

What was the best piece of advice you were given when you were starting to create?

I have a group of girlfriends who encouraged me a lot. I think the best piece of advice I received was to just go for it. “What do you have to lose? Worst case scenario, you were able to play with flowers and do what you love to do. There’s nothing you can lose out of this situation. When people try to bring you down or discourage you, you’re already everything you need to be and you don’t need to get their approval.”

So when you were first starting off, did you feel like you needed that reassurance?

Yeah, I feel like having people say that empowered me in a way that I couldn’t. I had been doing flowers for friends for a while and for them to say, “Why would you not do this all time?” really encouraged me to listen to what was inside my head.

What was the most difficult part of starting your business?

Not getting clients. Not hearing back for weeks. It just made me think, “This is all over now.” I think having the strength to still have that vision when it’s not a reality is difficult. And holding onto that, not letting it fade, and maintaining that inner vision is the hardest.

Can you think of your greatest business success?

There is a success every time you completely create a project. I feel really proud every time I finish an event. I guess the bigger, the better, the more success you feel from that. Seeing it displayed and altogether and just giving that to someone is very satisfying. Like, “Oh, I just stayed up for two days and here it is, it’s beautiful.”

What’s the hardest thing about being your own boss that isn’t obvious?

It’s hard to figure out just what to do. I have all these ideas, I’ve learned so much from so many people, and I’ve researched more than you can imagine. I have steps I need to take to move things forward but it would be easier if there was someone telling me what’s the best way to get clients and make it all happen. When something doesn’t work because sometimes it doesn’t work, it’s all on me. It’s a great learning experience but that’s hard too because there’s no one else to blame.

What inspires you to create? Is there anyone who inspires you, keeps you going?

I don’t know. I can’t stop. I feel like I’ll wake up in the middle of the night from a dream of flowers or envisioning my clients’ vision. It’s so much fun. I’m always dreaming up new projects. I’m always thinking about new things. Part of it’s my daughter and seeing all the incredible life that’s inside her and watching her learn and create things, like stacking blocks on top of one another. Seeing that thriving life happening always inspires me.

Do you ever collect flowers? What’s been your most favorite location to get those flowers?

My husband’s family owns a ranch in east San Diego with no cell reception. We go out there and watch the seasons change. Because of that, I get to make things that are inspired by that change. A lot of time, it’ll just be greenery and dead things and it’s just so pretty. And in the spring, there are tons of crazy colored wild flowers, like the hot orange, purple, white, bright yellow, and cat tails. I think I like making those the best because they’re not necessarily the most luscious and beautiful flowers but because they’re all so different and challenging to arrange.

When you hit a creative block, where do you find new inspiration?

It happens all the time and it’s so frustrating. A lot of times I’ll just need to leave and not look at them because flowers are beautiful. You could throw them on the ground and they’d be beautiful. A lot of times if I’m not using a technique correctly or getting results, I’ll just go for a walk and take a break. Other times, I’ll look up flowers for inspiration. Based on my client’s needs, I’ll look for size and color that I’m going off of and I’ll pull those as inspiration when I’m arranging them.

If you were a flower, what flower would you be?

That is such a hard question. I don’t know. I don’t know. I have no idea. I feel like it all changes, my style and color palettes change all the time. Maybe I wouldn’t be a flower, maybe I’d be dirt that grows flowers that change all the time (laughs)

What do people not understand about being a florist?

It’s hard to conceive how difficult it actually is to be a florist because like I said, flowers are instantly beautiful. You could throw them on the ground and they’d be gorgeous. You could stuff them in a pot and they would still look pretty. But how it is, like you said, it’s more about being an artist because you have to take a style, a look that someone gives you, and create something out of it. I’m well versed in flowers but it doesn’t always translate into a bouquet. It takes a wealth of knowledge and understanding of different textures, colors, etc. Sometimes clients will ask me things that aren’t possible, either with their budget, season, or color palette.  Like blue is such a hard color to work with and find in flowers.

What is your go-to flower?

I think my go-to changes all the time. I love wax flower, but I haven’t been using that recently. I also love birds of paradise.  I used to hate them but now I just love them. They’re super sharp and strange. Like a bird. I really just love texture. Texture is my thing. I’ve also been loving sweetheart roses. They open beautifully and they die beautifully. The leaves keep curling back and there’s more and more underneath the first layers. Peonies are probably a go-to, as well. They’re just gorgeous.

I have a go-to leaf. This is Ruscus. I’ve also been loving carnations because they open and open and there are tons of layers. It’s also a great fill-in flower because they’re really cheap and you can get it in any color and it looks so natural. Besides blue. Don’t ask for blue. (laughs)

For anyone who loves flowers, where would you recommend they go in San Diego?

Well, because I love flowers, I will say that in Balboa Park, the Botanical Garden has beautiful orchids. I would also say an unknown thing is go to the San Diego Central Library, their top floor is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!

Dani Toscano
The Sand Dunes | A Love Story

The Sand Dunes in Southern California is my favorite place in the world. It’s magical, mysterious, silent, roaring. I think some of the best work comes from this place, not because it’s a mirror of some distant overseas Morocco desert, but because it evokes this foreign, alien-like landscape that causes you to question your entire existence and placement in the world. Combine it with some morning sunshine during a west-to-east wind storm and you have this wonderful, insane, bizarre magic. 

The Process

We left San Diego at 5:00am on a Sunday and traveled to the Imperial Sand Dunes, a destination ~two hours away. Typically, Google maps leads you to the front end of the dunes, where bikers and ATV-riders zoom around, but luckily, we were detoured through the back of the dunes where we ended up staying for the entire shoot. The back of the dunes is close to the campground area, which had been deserted during our session, making the endless rolling hills ours for the day (with no bikers in sight). 

The Shoot

It was breath-taking and a bit chilly. On our way out from San Diego, there was a severe rain storm; luckily, we arrived at the dunes and it was sunny (but definitely had a chill crisp to it). The rule of thumb is whenever there is a rain storm in San Diego, there is a wind storm in the sand dunes. We did not know this at the time so we were met with some fast-moving winds that brought sand into every bag, item of clothing, camera equipment, you name it. It was wonderful for photos. The sand crept into every corner and kissed our legs in each shot. The light bounced off the white sand, creating a natural reflector for beautiful skin tones. The quiet slow-moving hills dissolved and were rebuilt in minutes. 

The Brands

I love to work with independent retailers so I was excited to include a few beautiful pieces of clothing from Pyne & Smith Clothiers, Barnaby Jack Vintage, and Ali Golden. Let me introduce you to these wonderful companies. 

Pyne & Smith Clothiers creates gorgeous linen dresses, sustainably made in California. They are airy, light, and definitely make you feel like you need to be laying in a prairie or having a picnic in a bed of flowers. Joanna sent a beautiful indigo striped v-neck maxi dress, which Serina adventured in flawlessly.

Barnaby Jack Vintage is wonderfully curated with vintage goods so everything is one of a kind. All of Sara’s picks are straight out of my desert-themed dreams. From summer cotton dresses to woven bags to vintage western boots, she continually restocks her shop with items of the best quality. 

Ali Golden, a shop based in Oakland, has some of the most beautiful minimal designs I’ve ever seen. They sent me a lovely pinstripe jumpsuit, which was so comfortable and airy.