Today, as part of my Florist Friday blog post series, I’m delighted to feature an interview with the incredibly talented Susan McLeary of Passionflower.
?Could you tell us what prompted you to become a florist?
Becoming a florist was really accidental! I was in college, working as a waitress, and I had a hobby of making jewelry for friends and for sale at a local boutique. I was making wedding jewelry for one such friend, and one night, a few months before her wedding, she told me she hadn’t hired a florist and needed my help. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but said yes without hesitation. The experience was definitely messy, stressful and exhausting…but also wildly exhilarating! When I had those flowers in my hands, I knew I’d found my medium and my life’s passion. It just felt right. After her wedding, I did a number of other friends’ weddings, then friends’ of friends, and before I knew it, I was working as an event florist!
Could you tell us how your floristry career has progressed?
One friend’s wedding turned into 10 friends. I used these weddings as on-the-job training. I read as much as I could about floral design and really immersed myself in this new-found passion. I did many friends’, and friends’ of friends weddings, designing out of my little kitchen. After a few years, I felt I really needed more experience, plus, it’s hard doing this work all alone! I found a job at a large wedding and event floral company and really got to stretch my wings. I took a certification through my state floral association, and through friendships made there, began to freelance all over the state. A really strong passion had been sparked and eventually, I felt ready to open my own studio, Passionflower. At first I specialized solely in weddings, but now, after much exploration, experimentation and study, my focus includes living jewelry, floral wearables, and editoral floral styling.
When did you start your business and where are you based?
I opened my studio 5 years ago and am based in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the United States.
What kind of floristry services do you offer there?
I still do many weddings a year and also love designing for university dinners, art shows, wine tastings and gatherings of all sorts. I also have a living jewelry business on Etsy called Passionflower to Wear and this has kept me quite busy! I ship succulent jewelry to lovely customers all over the US. These pieces have been especially popular gifts for bridesmaids. My true love is creating floral wearables…headpieces, hats and jewelry of all types. And I’ve been receiving inquiries to create these for magazines and art shows. This is the aspect of my business I’m especially excited to expand.
Where do you get inspiration for your floral designs?
Ha! I’m not entirely sure! I’m really always thinking…when I’m driving, shopping, on a walk, playing with my kids. My mind is always swirling around strange floral ideas! Also, I’ve always been very fond of fashion and I’m inspired by clothing and accessories, especially from designers whose work borders on strange…Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano. I look at their work and feel inspired to create something that hasn’t been seen before…that is the goal, at least! I also have to mention the Belgian-born American designer Francoise Weeks. I had followed her work for years, before finally having the luck (I won a contest! ) of attending one of her workshops a few years ago. Her uber-natural, unusual, textural work has always blown me away. After attending her workshop, I had the technical knowledge needed to achieve the designs I had in my head and sketch book. I have to say, I really began to feel I had an artistic ‘voice’ after spending time with her.
How would you describe your style?
Textural, unexpected, natural, abundant…I hope exciting! The goal of my work is to try to get people to be as wild about flowers as I am!
Could you tell us about your floral jewellery?
Certainly! As I said, I got my creative start making jewelry, so this is just such a nice full circle experience! After returning from the above mentioned Francoise Weeks workshop, I made a fresh floral necklace for a photo shoot. The response I got to this piece on social media and from the other vendors at the shoot was astonishing! My wedding work had never received that much interest or excitement! Shortly after, I received a request for fresh floral jewelry from a pair of photographers in California. Of course I said yes. I can never say no to the prospect of gorgeous photos, but then I had to figure out how to make pieces that I could ship across the country. This is when I started making the succulent pieces. They’re sturdy, hardy and look gorgeous for weeks after being cut. Shortly after, at a Chapel Designers Conference in New York, I gave a succulent ring to the floral editor of Martha Stewart Weddings magazine. She shared it on Instagram and the huge response really gave me the push to start marketing this idea. I opened my online shop that very day! The response to these continues to amaze me. I feel very grateful to the flower friends that have encouraged me to purse this new angle!
What are your plans for 2015?
2015 promises to be a wonderful year. I have a nice wedding schedule and am happy to say that brides are starting to come to me with inspiration photos that are actually mine! In addition to weddings, the living jewelry store is already gearing up and will certainly keep me busy. I’m also planning my first destination wedding in Piacenza, Italy, which has been a dream of mine for many years. A book project is also in the works…currently in the infant stages.
What is your favourite flower?
The passionflower has got to be my favorite, but I also can’t resist sweet peas, frittilaria, muscari, deep plum ranunculus, lilac and hellebore.
Thank you so much to Susan for all her help in compiling today’s blog post. If you’d like to see more of her breath-taking designs, do pop over to Passionflower website. Social media wise, you can find her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
P.S. When I posted images of Susan’s stunning succulent jewellery on Facebook last April, there was an absolutely incredible response! Click here to see…
(Images : Susan McLeary | Passionflower)