flowers + reading
I’m overjoyed to have Sachi dropping by BB today to share a little of her story with us. If you’re not familiar with Sachi’s work, you’re in for a treat! Her designs are artistic and stunning. Enjoy!
Botanical Brouhaha: Welcome to the Brouhaha! What inspired you to become a floral designer? When and where did you start your business? What did you do prior to opening Sachi Rose?
Sachi: I fell into it by accident in actuality! I come from an artsy-fartsy family, and have always been a creative person, so when I graduated from art school and realized the irony that I couldn’t actually pay my student loans making paintings, I decided to look for a side job. I had just moved from Chicago back to LA where I’m from, and got word that my sister’s friend was opening a flower shop. I figured it would be an easy way to make money until I found something “real”. That’s when S#%T got real. Easy? No. Completely gratifying? Yes! I went from sweeping floors to becoming the manager & head designer. I had to juggle a lot there, from walk-ins every minute to writing proposals to designing arrangements while taking phone orders. I had my hands in everything, and learned to do it all by the seat of my pants. The owner (former fashion designer, Stephanie Schur) was really the first person to ever open my eyes to the fact that flowers could be arranged differently than your average “flower ball”, and I began to think of it as another medium that I could express myself. It became a creative outlet for me, just like painting.
In 2011 I moved with my soon-to-be husband to Brooklyn to try a new life style. I jumped around between a few shops, and finally settled as a designer at Flora NY whose style is very modern and angular, unlike my own. It was a big learning experience for me to create arrangements that weren’t my style. I learned a lot more of the business side of things there, and I think it made me a little more well rounded in terms of technique. Pretty unexpectedly, the owner decided to close up shop and move back to Taiwan. I had always wanted to start my own thing, but never quite knew how. Suddenly when Flora’s doors closed, another door opened for me. Luck happens when an opportunity presents itself, and you take it. I got lucky, and was able to take Flora’s clients with me as I started out. I came home and told my husband, “Well, I’m out of a job. But I think I can do this …”. I applied for a tax ID, made a Facebook business page, sent introductory arrangements to event coordinators at hotels, made business cards — it all happened really fast. And then suddenly I had a business. Little old me! I started out doing weddings from my tiny apartment. We had to make a path through the buckets of flowers just to get to the bed! Imagine flowers in the sink, flowers in the bathtub, flowers in the refrigerator — they were everywhere! And then finally I outgrew my apartment, and graduated to a workspace in an old warehouse in East Williamsburg — the current Sachi Rose studio.
BB: Are you completely self-taught or do you have some formal training in floral design?
Sachi: I don’t have formal training (like from a school), but I don’t think anyone really needs that. Instead, I learned just by jumping right in and doing the grunt work in a boutique flower shop. I started out sweeping, floors, cleaning flowers, and answering phones. And all the while, I watched what the designers did and tried to learn. Eventually I was taught the basics, and it was all just practice from there. It’s like driving; someone can teach you the basic rules, but you only get good by doing it on a regular basis.
BB: Can you describe the Sachi Rose design aesthetic?
Sachi: Sachi Rose is luxury floral design for the wild at heart. Our aesthetic is very much influenced by nature & art. We like to let organic elements speak for themselves. Whether it’s a twisted tulip or a craggy branch, I would so much rather embrace the shape of something “imperfect” than to pack it tightly into an orderly arrangement. Why take something natural and try to make it look man-made? Nature always does a better job, and I feel like it’s my job to call attention to that. At the same time, I think there’s a fine line between wild and messy, and we are very careful to draw that distinction in our work.
BB: The quality of your daily images is outstanding. Do you take the images? If so, what kind of camera do you use? Do you have training in photography?
Sachi: It’s funny that you mention that because I never feel like my photos are as good as other florists I admire on Instagram — so thank you! I did take a few photography classes in college, however I attribute any of my good photos to natural light. I use a Canon Rebel T3i, which is about 6 years old but works like a champ! When I’m working in the studio, I always take photos in our freight elevator (see above) because it has great natural light and beautiful old wood floors. As pretty as the photo may be, the truth is we are usually sweaty, dirty and improvising in an elevator. Ha!
BB: What would you say has been the highlight of your career up until this point?
Sachi: I’ve had the honor of creating custom arrangements for contemporary artists such as Marina Abramovic & Wolfgang Laib. A well known art critic ordered them, and asked me to create arrangements that echoed their work. It was a really fun challenge for me. Wolfgang Laib is best known for his work with flower pollen which he meditatively picked by hand to create large, yellow (almost glowing) installations. The arrangement I made for Wolfgang was very minimal & architectural, and consisted of blooming mimosa, craspedia, and a Buddha-finger lemon. Marina’s arrangement was dark & dramatic (like her performance art), with red charm peonies, black callas & black spray painted plumosa that reminded me of her hair. Other than that, I think the best is yet to come! We have some pretty exciting events in the works for 2016, but I’m not ready to spill the beans quite yet … Stay tuned!
BB: How do you find balance between your business life and your personal life?
Sachi: Both lives are very much intertwined. My first intern, Olivia, is now one of my closest friends, and so are a handful of event coordinators and photographers I met through work. I truly believe that it’s not work when you love what you do, and the same goes for who you do it with. I try to surround myself with people who are not just talented at what they do, but people who I would genuinely want to spend time with. At the same time, I try to keep my husband and work separate. He’s friends with some of my work friends, but I try not to ask him to help me too often with anything work related because he’s the only aspect of my life that isn’t totally absorbed by flowers. Some people are happy working with their significant others, but I think it’s important to recognize when it’s better for a relationship to keep work & romance separate.
BB: What have been your greatest struggles/frustrations while building and then growing your business?
Sachi: Making money and justifying costs to brides. I have so many brides who come to me with beautiful, grand visions, and then when I find out they have a $3,000 budget for what should cost $10,000, I completely deflate. Most people are getting married for the first time and simply don’t realize what flowers and labor cost. I’ve heard so many recently married couples say things like “Don’t florists make a killing from weddings? Ours was so expensive!” and the answer is a resounding “NO!” After many hours of meetings and proposal drafts, buying and processing flowers, designing arrangements and arches with a team of people (who have to all be paid), delivering, installing, and finally breaking down an event — we really don’t make very much per hour. Have you ever heard of a rich florist? Yes, ok, there’s Preston Bailey, but he’s the 1%. Most of us do what we do because we love it, and not because we make a ton of money.
BB: When you think back over your career, does one design stand out as exceptionally meaningful to you?
Sachi: There was one arrangement for Samuelle Couture Bridal that always stood out as one of my favorites. I used a neutral mix of cream garden roses, cafe au lait dahlias, purple succulents & trailing vines. I always felt like it exemplified our signature style; wild & organic, but never messy.
BB: Where do you find inspiration to sustain your creativity?
Sachi: I try to go to the flower market as much as I can, since I find inspiration from specific flowers that I see. It also keeps me on my toes in terms of what’s in season. I didn’t used to like anthurium, but after running into a black one at G.Page (NY wholesale florist), my mind is completely changed after using it. Now I love them! I also find inspiration from the vases I use. I try to get as many one-of-a-kind vases as possible, because it forces me to work with different shapes and color palettes.
Image courtesy of Mikkel Paige Photography
BB: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received along your flower journey? Have you had mentors along the way?
Sachi: The best advice I ever got was to only put out in the world what I want clients to order. In the beginning of starting Sachi Rose, I took any business that I could, and made lots of modern, angular arrangements that weren’t my style. But when I posted pictures of that work on social media, eventually clients would turn back around and just order more modern arrangements. I realized that it backfired on me to take all the business I could, because it watered down my style and didn’t leave room for the orders that I really wanted to get. I finally decided to refer those clients to other designers so that I could leave room for the clients who were a better match for me.
Also, never sell yourself short! I’ve been told this a million times but I had to learn the hard way. After too many occasions of bending over backwards for clients whose visions didn’t match their budgets, I finally realized that you can’t please everybody. When you value your own time and stay true to your prices, you naturally weed out the clients who don’t value your hard work, and make room for the ones who do.
Image courtesy of Mikkel Paige Photography
BB: What long-term dreams do you have for Sachi Rose?
Sachi: I have always wanted to travel more for events, and am just starting to advertise that. This year, we have a wedding coming up in Detroit that I’m super excited about, and I hope to book more! I am also actively trying to expand to weddings & events in Los Angeles where I’m from. I would love to find a way to be bi-coastal so that I can see my family more often, and get a regular dose of that California sunshine that I miss so much. And if all goes well, I would really love to get a bigger studio and a full time employee to help tackle proposals, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.
BB: Can you describe your studio space for the readers?
Sachi: The Sachi Rose studio is located in East Williamsburg in an old warehouse. It’s a large room sectioned off and shared with a fashion designer on the other side. Our side is pretty small at about 250 SF, but somehow it works. We have a vintage floral refrigerator, a slop sink and a freight elevator — so all of the basics are covered. My favorite part about the studio are the white exposed brick walls, the high tin ceilings, and the JM trains riding right past our windows. It feels very old New York, which I love!
Image courtesy of Mikkel Paige Photography
BB: Do you have a favorite flower? Favorite rose? Favorite color palette?
Sachi: I have a lot of favorite flowers, but at the top of the list are garden roses, ranunculus & Japanese anemones! I couldn’t possibly choose a favorite rose. It changes depending on my mood. Same goes with the color palette. But as of now, I’m interested in an almost unnatural vintage palette, like a tinted photograph. Something with polar blue, muted pink, beige, burnt orange and gold. I have always been a sucker for kitsch, and lately I’ve been experimenting with painting leaves, vases & props to create stylized still lives.
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