Located in the quaint college town of Boone in North Carolina’s beautiful Appalachian mountain region is the dynamic floral design firm, Philosophy Flowers. The creative talent behind the bridal bouquets is Kelly Perry.
EB: You have a beautful blog that always has gorgeous photos (I so wish I had a seat at those stunning tables you created). On one of your recent posts, you talked about aspiring to be a lifelong learner. You’ve actually learned your craft from some of the best—including Ariella Chezar and Saipua and Nicolette Camille of The Little Flower School Brooklyn. How have their design styles influenced your work? And moreover, how is your work distinct?
KP: Yes! I’m so thankful for the time I’ve spent learning with these ladies! My life changed the day I met Nicolette. She and Nog awakened a deep love inside me for flowers with their book “Bringing Nature Home” and I’ve never recovered. The day I met Sarah was the day I realized that I was supposed to quit my job and do flowers. I’m so thankful for her push. And Ariella, her flowers are sprinkled throughout a book I’ve been keeping of Martha Stewart articles since middle school. I’ll never forget watching her arrange flowers for the first time on a YouTube video at my kitchen table. She is a thoughtful arranger. Every little flower was polished and carefully placed. It was poetic. And actually, more than a particular style or technique, what these women have taught me is to be thoughtful in my arranging — to live with both eyes open, drinking in every minute of everyday and appreciating the fragility and beauty flowers bring to the world. As for what makes my work distinct, well I’d have to say that’s me! When you follow after what you think is beautiful and use the materials that are around you at that moment your work becomes alive in a way that is all yours.
KP: I use local all the time, as much as possible! I collaborate with an amazing grower who loves flowers as much as I do and understands color, shape and seasonality. She has lots of land and knows when all the patches of wild things are growing — forget me nots, poppies, lily of the valley, sweet peas and solomon’s seal are some of my favorites. I’m so spoiled and thankful for her! As for product I grow personally, my husband Jesse and I have a small garden, and I filled it with foxglove. It’s my favorite flower! So once the foxgloves are done my garden is a little…bare! I’m working on developing true gardening skills. I have a few other things in the garden — clematis, wisteria, roses, peonies, hellebore, rhododendron and bleeding heart.
EB: Ok, a quick game of flower association:
Favorite fall flower: I love the fruits! Persimmons and apples…it’s what I think really makes the arrangements special. The color variations in them is so beautiful and it just makes my heart sing!
Splurge-worthy flower: Distant Drum garden roses. I got teary the first time I saw them.
Most under-appreciated flower: The wedding world is full of garden roses and ranunculus (which are beautiful!), but what I love and feel called to find and show the world are the flowers growing in ditches and along streams. The flower world would be even more interesting if we all took more walks and noticed the things around us that are just growing wild, pure and unadulterated.
EB: I saw that you hosted a three day floral design workshop in late May, which sounded phenomenal. One of the activities was the ability to “contribute to the design and implementation of a group editorial project.” I’m totally intrigued—can you tell me more about it? And can you share some photos?
KP: Yes! I thought it would be really fun to do a group project at the workshop. Something we could experience and contribute to together! I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out! You can see the images and the story over on Once Wed and you can check out all the beautiful student work at Team Flower.
EB: You also had a session on “Wardrobe Essentials for the Modern Florist.” My work “wardrobe” typically involves jeans and a stained apron, since I’m in the flower fields so much. But, I’m guessing that’s NOT the kind of wardrobe essentials you were discussing.
KP: Haha! Let’s be honest, my work wardrobe is the same! This is a messy profession! Actually, that is why I wanted to add this segment to the workshop. It is challenging to move from “messy” clothes to professional clothes, but you are selling a luxury product and you’ve got to dress the part! So we talked about how to troubleshoot this dilemma. For example, on event day wear black pants so if you spill water all over yourself it will blend in! Also, wear a dressy top underneath a chambray. The chambray is standard florist fare and looks appropriate for setup. It’s durable and can get messy. But when it’s wedding time you can remove the top layer and have a clean dressy top underneath and blend right in. All you need for your “quick wardrobe change” is a pair of shoes! Another essential is a pair of leather boots. They are perfect for prep and walking flower fields and transition easily into installation attire. Pair of clippers airborne? Candle wax spill? No worries, you’re feet are covered!
EB: Your explanation of creative direction & styling services is one of the best I’ve read. The photos from your events are incredible and it is obvious you put a lot of attention into every last detail. Can you share photos and a few details from a particularly memorable event for which you provided the floral design and creative direction services?
KP: I had a client last year who initially approached me wanting flowers in mason jars, but I just had this gnawing feeling that mason jars weren’t “her.” So I asked some questions, listened and then suggested that she might be a little fancier than mason jars. She ended up giving me full control to pick any flowers and arrange her intimate family wedding however I wanted. What a dream, right?! I traveled all over gathering local product and flew in Peterkort Roses from Oregon. The bride loved it and she and her husband ended up being a cover couple for Inspire Magazine. It was fun!
KP: “Rustic” and “natural” are the two most common words brides come to me with, and that is fitting and logical because of the landscape here. What gets tricky is the interpretation of what those words mean. A lot of times girls think it means a wood slab with a mason jar and hydrangeas, and for some girls, yes, it fits. But, a lot of times it’s the trend talking and not really who they are. Who they are is so important! You can still be rustic and natural without a mason jar. Blending the essence of the individual with what’s blooming at that moment and in my heart is the most important thing.
So if you’re fighting trends and think, “well, that’s just how it is in (insert your town)” — I challenge you to use the clues your clients bring to you to dig deeper into who they are. Use what you learn to build better arrangements and push yourself to a new level of creativity and freedom — one that transcends trends! You’ll never get tired of your work if you operate this way because everyone is so different and interesting! I’m living proof that sometimes fancy royal feasts are disguised as mason jars.
EB: Any trend you’ve singlehandedly started—-or perhaps one you’d like to start?
KP: Haha! I’m not very good at being trendy. I’ve always been attracted to classic shapes and styling. My wardrobe looks just about the same now as it did when I was in middle school — black pointy flats, a blazer, silk and some sparkle. I want to be authentic. Maybe that’s my trend :) I want to sketch out all the fun dreams in my mind, weld, wire, tape and pin it together, and encourage the world with it.
Thank you, Kelly, for sharing with us today. I learn so much from these interviews. Thank you!