I’m delighted today to feature a guest blog post by fine art digital and film photographer, floral stylist and visual storyteller, Chikae Okishima Howland.
The past few months have been such a whirlwind…and life-changing. I spent March-June travelling in Japan and America, studying and working with some of the most wonderful and best Fine Art Photographers and Floral Designers the industry I love has to offer. I’ve yet to post these stories I have to tell and the photographs I have to share on my blog. But I assure you I will someday soon!
For now, I wanted to share with you a story of the time I spent with Sarah Winward of Honey of a Thousand Flowers.
For the past couple of years, I’ve found inspiration through all different types of media…books, my environment, nature, my surroundings, the sights I encountered, etc. Instagram is of course one of the most widely known for finding and sharing inspiration, as well as Pinterest. Naturally I found Sarah Winward through Instagram.
Sarah’s work got me thinking from the very start about how she was clearly doing what she loved, and it truly showed in her imagery and work. Her wild, overflowing arrangements that really call out nature’s beauty, and curating and gathering it in a way that didn’t look forced. Her use of colour was impeccable and I still to this day think that she really is the pioneer for the floral arrangements we see so frequently. She’s the prime example of someone who doesn’t let social media dictate her life or business. She merely uses it as a portal for sharing her passion. This is the vibe that I got from her and I so wanted to learn from her in person.
Once I’d decided that I wanted to take three months out of my then business Okishima & Simmonds to re-evaluate me, myself, and I. And by ‘decided’ I mean I was sitting in a cafe in Brooklyn, New York and had a light bulb moment. A life’s too short moment. Without thinking twice, I booked a workshop with Sarah Winward. I corresponded with her via email back and forth as we discussed what I would like to do and achieve with my time with her. I mentioned that I’d love to learn the way she arranged flowers, how she got started, re-evaluate what I’m doing now, re-write my business plan and just generally meet her and understand how she became a success. With the workshop booked and my bags packed, I travelled to Japan and then on to America, where Utah, Sarah’s hometown, was my first stop in the US.
The workshop was over two days and was really one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever had. On my first day, I walked into her studio, anxious to see what she had in store for me, as well as to finally be able to meet such an amazing, inspiring person such as herself. Instantly I knew that she was exactly the way I had envisioned her to be, like when you read a book and the character resonates with you so well that if you were to make a movie, you know exactly the actor or actress who would play that character. I was so overwhelmed with excitement and joy. I knew the coming days would be ones I would never forget.
We spent the first day discussing the aforementioned list we had discussed via email, so that she could get a better understanding of what I wanted to get out of the one-to-one. We realised how incredibly similar we were to each other, and how she had once been on a path very similar to mine. I immediately felt at ease, ready to take on everything she would throw at me.
Once we had discussed business and exchanged our life stories, we made some gorgeous vibrant red and pink arrangements in stone bowls, with smaller accompanying arrangements that sat amongst candles to mimic a gorgeous dinner table or wedding table, which we styled and then myself and Kate Osborne, a Fine Art Photographer who was there for both days, photographed. We then made a larger arrangement in a different colour palette, a lot more muted and soft, with gorgeous blossoms which Sarah and her husband had foraged earlier that morning.
Day Two entailed us making bouquets – the famous Sarah Winward style that she is known for, some buttonholes, floral crowns and a large archway full of a different blossom from the day before, intertwined with foxgloves and spiraea. Kate and I then photographed all of the above together, with Sarah’s sister who kindly came in to model for us and style our bouquets and floral crowns underneath the archway.
What we had achieved in a two day workshop was unbelievable, but the dedication that Sarah puts into her craft and the passion that drives her shone through, but with such grace and humility. Sarah is one of the most humble, kind, generous, inspiring people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. I so badly want to share with you all the amazing things she taught me with regards to business, florals and design, but that would be telling…
She is worth your time and money, I assure you. I say this, because she was the first step into propelling me forwards into finally taking the leap to rebrand and start my new brand Chikae O.H. that now specialises in Floral Styling and Fine Art Photography. From the moment I got to Sarah’s studio, I knew that there and then, life would never ever be the same and a new path was to be set as I embarked on this trip of a lifetime through America.
Using everything I’ve learnt from Sarah and many other Creative Directors, Floral Stylists and Fine Art Photographers who helped me to shape my own style and brand, I’m now hosting workshops of my own, as well as Bespoke One-To-Ones. And you can find details on my website. If you’d like to be the first to hear about my future workshops, please feel free to sign up to my newsletter through my website also.
I wouldn’t have been able to finally find my voice and refine my brand if Sarah hadn’t started me off on the right foot. So Sarah, I thank you…
Thank you so much to Chikae for sharing her time with Sarah on Flowerona! I had the pleasure of meeting Chikae at our very first Social Media for Florists workshop, back in July 2014. It’s been mesmerising watching her floral journey progress and I absolutely adore her stunning new branding, offering and website! I can’t wait to follow the next chapter…! Social media wise, you can find Chikae on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.
(Images : Profile Photo – Betany/Chloris Floral | Chikae Okishima Howland & Kate Osborne Photography)