Editor Kendra Aronson here again! I’m back with my Q & A column showcasing florists that I highly admire in the field-to-vase movement. A few years back when I stumbled upon the work of Sweet Root Village my jaw dropped. Everything they make—florals, photo shoots, styled events—is an ethereal work of art! Every little detail is just breath-taking and fueled by their excitement, passion, and creativity. Rachel Bridgwood and Lauren Anderson of Sweet Root Village are frequent contributors on the Field to Vase blog, be sure to check out their other blog contributions: Five Things to Consider Regarding Flowers When Planning a Locally Sourced Wedding (May 2014), Creating Wedding Centerpieces with Local Blooms (September 2014), and Wreath Making with Foraged Seasonal Greens (December 2014), How To Treat Your Farmer (April 2015), and Designing with Greens (August 2015).
(1) What are you individual creative backgrounds? What sort of formal training do you both have (if any)?
Rachel: I was creatively inclined towards a variety of things growing up, and then settled into photography and graphic design in college! Graduated with a degree in Visual Arts just as I was dipping my toes into floral design. I’ve learned everything I know from Lauren over the years of doing business together—it’s been such a fun adventure!
Lauren: Similar to Rachel, I loved all sorts of creative outlets growing up: painting, film photography, floral design, etc. and always talked about being a florist when I “grow up.” Not sure I’ve grown up yet, but I do love what I do! I learned everything I know about flowers through hands-on experience and a few wonderful mentors throughout the years. It’s a constant learning process!
(2) How and when did you start your floral business?
Both: We met during college and became fast friends. It wasn’t until planning Rachel’s wedding in 2010 and considering what our professional futures would look like that the idea of starting a business formed! We like to say we started a business on accident. We really just wanted to have our hands in all the creative things we love. Though we didn’t quite know what we were getting ourselves into, we are so crazy excited about where we are now and how much is in store for the future!
(3) Why was sourcing American grown flowers intentionally built into your business model?
Rachel: We both have sustainable mindsets, though Lauren was more conscious and passionate than I had been, so she was definitely the force spearheading us into sourcing locally from the beginning! She personally called every farmer in Virginia that she could locate and we’ve since formed some amazing friendships with farms all within 60 miles of our studio! We love the amazing variety of flowers grown all over the world and are grateful for all the opportunities we have to design with any of them, but we absolutely believe in supporting the amazing farmers close to home and we love being involved and seeing the process from start to finish!
(4) Where do your source your flowers? Do you have favorite growers?
Lauren: During our local growing season, we typically will source as much as possible through a few of our favorite growers! We especially love Wollam Gardens in Jeffersonton, Virginia. We’ve gotten to do some really fun events with Bob at his farm and have had him over for many a lunch times at our studio in Alexandria over the years. He is one of our favorite people and we love the amazing beauty he grows all over this gorgeous farm!
(5) What does it mean to you to be part of the local, seasonal, field-to-vase movement?
Lauren: It’s an exciting movement to be a part of. When we first started designing in this area, we hardly heard anything about sourcing locally, so it’s really wonderful to be one of so many who are supporting American grown farmers and being passionate about designing seasonally!
(6) What does a typical day in the life look like for you?
Rachel: Well since we offer both event floral design as well as editorial and portrait photography, our days can vary pretty wildly! Each event is different and every season is different. Some days are spent pretty much entirely in front of the computer screen. We always have photos to edit, piles of emails, and heaps of finances to manage! Then of course we are prepping, packing, cleaning, and sorting inventory before and after weddings and events. We are receiving, processing, designing, and delivering flowers throughout the week as well as collaborating with fellow creatives in the industry and meeting with current and potential clients. And that probably only scratches the surface of the millions of things to do each day. Small business is no joke—but we love it all!
(7) Now or in the future, what do you want to be known for?
Lauren: We feel like we are constantly learning, growing, and refining our aesthetic. While we love the organic flowy garden-style that we’ve become known for, we also love to change things up and create a variety of styles. The constant change is part of the excitement! I would say that we want to be known not necessarily by a specific style of arranging, but rather by our passion for our clients and interpreting their vision into beautiful works of art.
(8) What are some of your top favorite seasonal flowers to design with and why? What is the most exciting or challenging aspect about designing with seasonal flowers?
Lauren: I absolutely love designing with poppies, hellebores, and any kind of blooming branch and vine! Springtime just has some of the best blooms and widest variety of gorgeous things to work with, and you’re extra happy to see them after a cold winter! However, the challenge with seasonal flowers is that they are only here a short while, and the local weather can affect their ability so drastically, that you really have to savor them while they last!
(9) Who is your typical client/demographic that you cater to?
Both: Since we specialize in weddings and events, most of our clients are engaged couples. Our ideal client has an appreciation for how an artist works and comes to us because they want to work with us, not because they’re just looking for a florist, because we’re not just any florist! We pay special attention to our clients and treat each event as a work of art.
(10) What is one piece of advice you would have given your younger florist self when starting out?
Lauren: I would’ve told myself to forget all the rules. There are some philosophies of floral design that hold strictly to certain “ways to do things,” but I see floral design as another creative medium, just like painting or photography. While it’s important to learn the “ways,” it’s also important to create without inhibitions and not get stuck inside a box. Sometimes I find myself gravitating to how something is “supposed to be done” and forget to just create.
(11) What types of gigs are your favorite and why? Events? Weddings? Restaurants? Styling for photoshoots? Workshops? Custom deliveries?
Both: This is a toss up between weddings and styled shoots for us. Styled shoots are so much fun and we often get to create things that we haven’t had the chance to do for a client. It’s our time to let loose and allow the creativity to flow. However, there is absolutely nothing like seeing a bride gasp in delight when seeing her bouquet for the first time or her mother yelling across the room to thank us for making their vision come to life. That is truly rewarding and why we do what we do.
(12) Anything else you’d like to add?
Both: We never imagined we’d be doing what we’re doing if you had asked us 5 years ago. Our job is high-paced, exhausting both physically and emotionally, and often stressful, however incredibly rewarding. The challenges of owning a business aren’t for everyone, and if you are crazy enough and passionate enough, we highly recommend diving in and embracing every second of it.