Curiosity has taught me a lot, not just about floristry but about life. Education is a pillar of my work as an artist and my curiosity to learn more about my profession has led me to some incredible places, including Ponderosa and Thyme.
Founded by Katie Davis in 2011, Ponderosa & Thyme is an internationally acclaimed floral design studio based in Salem, Oregon. Katie is best known for her work as a floral artist, particularly her textural designs inspired by nature, but she is also an incredible mentor with a passion for education and community.
As a florist, I’ve admired Katie’s work from a distance. And I was curious to find enlightenment throughout partnership, even though I would have to travel thousands of miles to experience it. But I trusted my intuition and flew up to Oregon to participate in a 1-on-1 Mentorship Workshop with Katie in the Ponderosa & Thyme classroom where they also host incredible group and individual workshops for floral artists in search of artistic reinvigoration. To be honest, I expected to build a more transactional relationship with Katie. That’s the nature of a lot of workshops that I attend —— you invest in the lesson and hope for a return. Of course, Katie proved my assumption wrong. So much that even a week after our lesson, I’m still processing our time together.
Katie gives real hugs. The kind that forces you to feel good even if you tried to resist it. Recognizing that I required a different approach for our lesson, Katie curated the structure of our class to address my specific needs as an artist. She focused less on the mechanics of floristry and tapped into the spirit of creation, challenging me to work from the soul. She pushed me to trust my instincts and to think big as an act of returning to my artistic form and removing myself from practicality. Artists, especially those of us that have made a business from our art, forget the importance of spontaneity and risk. Those are the things that push our art forward and out of the safety nets we’ve carefully crafted.
I learned that never for a moment should we lose sight that flowers are a means to an end rather than an ending. When we design a bouquet, our journey with those flowers ends when we hand them off to a client. We forget, however, that those flowers have journeyed long before we became acquainted, and that their journey will continue when they leave our boutiques. The same principle applies to our souls. There is life before, during and after.
If we’re not creating safe places for ourselves and for people we love, what are we doing? Katie’s classroom is a safe, loving atelier open to the broken and the beautiful where friendships are foraged and love blooms. And maybe our time together was transactional - similar to that of a therapist - which allowed me to be unabashedly honest and raw. This has been my most emotional floral journey by far.
When I started my drive back to Portland, the song “Alive” by Sia played. I cried. That moment affirmed a shift in my artistry. Sia’s most touching lyric reads, “ I saw my life in a stranger’s face / And it was mine.” In her classroom, Katie uses a large mirror as a teaching tool with the purpose of reflecting our design process. Until my time with Katie, I couldn’t remember feeling creatively charged. I finally saw myself as a designer. As someone with a point of view. As someone who is valid. As someone who can be because of, not in spite of. My experience with Katie was wildly life-changing. There is a shift deep inside of me that has happened - as a creative and a human.
Along that drive, I stopped at Cannon Beach with the pieces Katie and I created. I can always depend on the beach for a moment of reflection. After a few moments of silence, I decided that these pieces needed to live on this beach. My journey with them had come to a close, much like the journey with my art before meeting Katie. I was a new person with a new perspective on creation and on life. Those pieces represented what could be. And feeling this change within me, I tucked the large bouquet into a rock formation and released the other into the surf. It was a ceremonial return to nature for all of us — flora and fauna — prepared for a new journey, surfing out into the horizon.
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