When I began my Art of the Trade series for artists and small business owners, I wanted to bridge the gap between artists’ stories and their audiences. Over the past few years, I’ve been having wonderful conversations and experiences with the people I meet, and I always leave these interactions thinking, people need to hear this. Art of the Trade is a chance to peer into an artist’s world of creativity and skill, and also a way to share that with the world through photographs on a more intimate level. It’s completely organic. For me, it’s about listening and learning from someone else…a time when I get to be completely present…it’s a true gift.
I don’t know about you, but I want to know the people that I choose to provide services for me – I want to hear about their families, their dreams, their values. I want connection. I’d like to have a chat and share a good laugh with them, and I want to know their story. It’s a relationship that we can’t build through Googling each other and reading reviews…it’s the comfortable way someone makes you feel when you spend time with them. These are the people I want to give my hard-earned money to—people who care deeply about others and our planet—who are using their businesses to propagate good in their own corners of the world. That’s what I want to support, collaborate with, and celebrate. On a human level, we are nothing without each other. We are a social species, and we must depend on one another to survive. The Art of the Trade series is a way to explore this idea of connectivity that, personally, I’m really craving.
When I met Elycia Feldman of Wild Blossoms Studio by chance at a local coffee shop, we learned that we had parallel feelings about bringing a certain level of authenticity and humility to our businesses. A couple of weeks ago she invited me to her home studio where we completely lost track of time taking photos, laughing our asses off, sharing our experiences and eating lots of snacks (v important). When I got to her house, she brewed up two French presses of coffee and we chatted like old friends at her dining room table with the morning light beaming in. After coffee, she pulled out some chicken salad and fruit for lunch and we just kept chatting. Later we meandered into the studio where I watched her craft a gorgeous bridal bouquet and wandered around asking, “what’s this?” and pointing to random floral design tools. I’m so thrilled to share the results of that day and I absolutely adore how Elycia’s love for her work and her overall delightful personality shines through in photos and words. This is what Art of the Trade is all about.
T: What are you working on right now in your business?
E: (laughs) Well, I’m working on a lot of things always, but right now I’m trying to focus on building healthy rhythms in my life; managing bookkeeping and mainly learning how to ask for the right help. Finding good mentors and exploring ideas whether through clients or books and podcasts. Being gracious. Lots of fun creative work with many talented people!!
T: I haven’t heard that before…what’s an example of a healthy rhythm?
E: On a weekly basis, I’m managing my household, I have two young children in elementary school, and then I have my business which, it’s like another baby. I love creating. I would throw everything I have into this business and everything else would go on hold, but life doesn’t work that way, it keeps going. Nourishing myself, early bed time, contributing to my family.
T: That’s huge. That’s one of the perks of having a 9-5 job, right? You go to your place of work and when you come home, you’re no longer at your place of work. The work you need to do is waiting in your office somewhere else. And your home is a sacred place, a work-free zone, you know? But those lines can get blurred so easily when your place of work is only a few steps from your home space…
E: Exactly. I can tuck my kids in at night and then stay in the studio until 2am working, because I get so involved! Rest is important. So, a good healthy rhythm is nourishing myself and making sure I’m sleeping. When your eye twitches from stress you realize that there’s too much going on!
T: No way! (laughs) Well, it’s a nice physical reminder to slow down.
E: It really is!
T: Let’s talk about social media. I think a lot of us are looking around at our social media outlets like Instagram and they can become toxic, right? We’re following all of these accomplished artists and instead of being inspired we’re thinking, “Shit. The competition is so steep.”
E: Exactly. You have to start somewhere. I’ve owned Wild Blossoms for the past eight years! That’s persistence and a lot of help from people like my husband and family. I have worked my butt off and learned to not put myself into degrading situations. But without going through those experiences I don’t think I could be putting myself in these more graceful positions because I needed those to learn. You have to start somewhere! We all have to start somewhere. As a florist, it’s with small jobs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t dream big!!
As for Instagram, it can be hard because you don’t see all the work that goes into it. But you know what? These people appreciate your services. Are you going to give them less because they’re paying less? Absolutely not. You’re going to do the very best you can do that way these customers are thrilled and you’re becoming more and more ready for those bigger jobs down the road. And you have the skills and knowledge to carry them out.
T: How did the evolution of your business unfold? Were you always doing floral design?
E: So in high school there were college courses offered; nursing, hospitality, and horticulture. I decided on horticulture and fell in love. Working with plants…I love having my hands in the dirt and learning about different species. My first floral experience was in Laporte, Colorado in a little shop named French Hen flowers and falderal. I realized my love for working with plants to create art. From there it was kind of a no-brainer for me. I went to college for landscape and floral design and started working for an English woman who taught me the wedding side of floral. I totally fell in love…the energy, the excitement, the look on the bride’s face when she sees all the beautiful flowers…I loved seeing people come together to support couples and their lifelong choices. It’s truly a magical experience if you let it be that.
Then after college I took a job at an herbal company where I worked for 7 years. This was a key experience in my life. I worked with my best friend and had many wonderful business mentors; a group of women who changed me forever. I had my first son and while working there I was selling my pressed flower artwork, greeting cards, and beautiful dried wreaths at local markets. Eventually I transitioned into fresh floral, I was able to draw out my IRA to pay for my midwife and buy out a floral business in Denver.
It was kind of a whirlwind at that time, really…
T: What do you mean?
E: Well, my husband and I had decided I could transition from my 9-5 job to pursue my floral business; one week later I found out I was pregnant with our second son. It was a motivating factor; I knew I needed to contribute. We found a flower cooler on Craig’s List and it was kind of the leaping-off point to starting my business.
T: Lots of change at once.
E: When we went to pick up the flower cooler, it turns out that the designer was just lost to leukemia. She had a successful floral design business with her partner and family.
T: Wow. Was it an emotional time being in their home?
E: It was surreal. They were nice people, with a lovely garden and home. It wasn’t like going to a shop…it was obvious that she really loved her business and her plants. They had lost someone very precious to them. I was really excited to be receiving all of these wonderfully cared for and used things. It was so bittersweet for everyone.
T: And now all of this woman’s beloved equipment is in your capable hands and continues to be loved each day.
E: Yes! And it’s really the reason I was able to start doing weddings. It launched my business.
T: Switching gears a little bit…what do you think of this mentality of “the hustle”? It’s a word that gives me anxiety and sometimes makes me feel that to be a creative, I should be scraping desperately and living on caffeine. (laughs)
E: I think the way we use ‘hustle’ is degrading. The mentality of the hustle makes us feel and be perceived as desperate. But in reality, there’s plenty of work out there for all. It can become a viscous cycle. But if you can slow down and think through things a bit, really decide what you want for yourself, I believe we can accomplish a better balance. We have so many talented beautiful people around us in this wedding industry and I feel that collaboration is SO important…
T: Over competition…
E: YES. Sometimes we forget that it takes a team. We all have so much to learn from each other, not just in the industry but in life. It’s easy to get into the mindset of “busy, busy, busy”, and if I let myself live there, I will. Connection people, we need it!
T: I think it all goes back to realizing we’re all in the same human predicament, right? We’re all people, we’re all doing the best we can and most of us genuinely want good things for each other. But we can’t be comparing ourselves to our peers because success looks completely different for all of us. Bigger isn’t always better…
E: Bigger is NOT what we need. You’re right. So what does my success look like? Each of us has to measure our own success. It’s going to look different for everyone.
T: What does it look like for you?
E: For me, success means that my kids are happy, they’re taken care of. I’m servicing each of my clients to the best of my ability. I want them to walk away from their experience with me saying, ‘Wow. What an amazing human. This was beautiful. This is something I will remember forever…I loved this and this was a good decision.’
I am privileged to do what I do. It’s a pretty big, special part of your life to get married, and I need not ever forget that it’s a privilege. When I design flowers for your wedding, I want to do it with a healthy, happy heart. You know, that’s success to me—having a healthy, happy heart. Parenting, being a wife, being a business owner, all of those things…I want to do all of these things with a healthy, happy heart.
T: I love that.
E: But we don’t always live that way, right? And we get down on ourselves and we digress, and we slide back into our old habits. But we need to be soft. We need to forgive ourselves for not being superwomen. You know? We DON’T need to hustle.
T: It feels like the ‘hustle’ takes away the meaningfulness of the experiences, doesn’t it?
E: In our society, we lack having memorable experiences. I think it’s so important for us to connect with one another…there’s a need to feel involved and we’re trying to do things with more grace. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what we’re doing that we forget to stop and take in all the beauty around us. Weddings are one of those experiences where we can admire the beauty and be surrounded by love, and it’s a dream come true to help create that experience for others. I’m always learning. Yes, I have a degree in this and yes I’ve been doing it a long time, but I’m just now in my business figuring out what kind of help I need.
T: And there’s no way to know until you try…
E: No way to know. So there are so many lessons to be learned. You know, there is a tremendous amount of faith involved in owning your own business…
T: Faith in yourself?
E: Faith in yourself and faith that the business will come when you’re ready for it. You have to grow slowly and grow in a way that is true to you.
T: Right. You’re the only owner of Wild Blossoms Studio, you’re the only mom to your boys, and the only wife to your husband. It’s all relative, right? You’re doing the very best job in your specific situation…
E: (laughs) Right! We’re doing the absolute best we can and we’re doing GREAT. Sometimes I can get wrapped up in all of these things I dream of…I want to have a team, I want to grow my own flowers…but I have to stop, look around, and remind myself that I am living my dream; right now. I have a team, flowers, creative friends, and clients. I’m living it every single day. ~
Elycia is based in northern Colorado where she spends her days with her two sons and husband, on their small acreage outside Fort Collins. She delights in creating beautiful floral designs in her studio with a healthy, happy, heart. Learn more about her work at https://wildblossomsstudio.com/.