Today I’m pleased to have Nicole Land from Soil and Stem join me for an interview as part of The Farmer & the Florist Interview series. From her Utah-based studio, Nicole designs flowers for weddings, events, editorials and also teaches design workshops online and around the globe.
Nicole has an incredible gift of transforming ordinary things we see everyday into something extraordinary. Using seasonal plant materials, she creates unique pieces with beautiful colors and textures and teaches others to “take a walk in the woods, your community garden and examine pictures or paintings of plants and the environment. In this inspiration, create designs to be an extension of the environment you’re working in.”
I’ve long admired Nicole’s organic design style and recently had the opportunity to take a few of her online classes, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I recently reached out to Nicole to ask her share a little bit more about her herself and her work with Floret readers.
Erin: Nicole, it is a great pleasure to have you in this space with us today. I’m personally really interested to learn more about your flower journey and appreciate your willingness to share it with Floret readers. For those that aren’t familiar with you, can you tell us about yourself? What was your path to becoming a floral designer?
Nicole: Hi Erin, thank you so much for inviting me today. I’ve been a huge admirer of yours for the longest time, the pleasure is mine to be sharing with you and your readers. I provide floral design services for weddings and corporate events as well as teach floral design classes online and host floral design workshops around the world. I live near the east mountain bench of Salt Lake City, Utah with my husband, Skyler, and our two young children.
I have always been an enthusiast of the arts; dabbling in design, painting, and drawing. However, I repeatedly found that I could rarely translate to paper or computer what I had envisioned in my mind. It wasn’t until I discovered nature mediums, floral design specifically, that I found satisfaction in my work.
This journey to finding flowers began in 2011. I was working a corporate job at the time and taking college classes on the weekends for graphic design. My sister knew I enjoyed creativity asked me to help her with her wedding flowers. An acquaintance helped me to order flowers for her event from the local wholesaler. (I remember being so nervous picking up my very first flower order, thinking they’d spot me as an imposter from a mile away!) It was a long and tiring weekend, but at the end of it all, I came away with a sense of joy when working with flowers. It was a moment of inspiration for me; the moment I decided to pursue floral design.
At that time, there weren’t many options I could find for taking floral design classes beyond a handful that were out of my budget or that took me across the country. I ended up enrolling in a course at a family-owned floral shop in a small town about an hour away. Two days a week for four weeks I made the two-hour round trip drive to learn to tape, tie, and chop! Although a far cry from the type of designing I’m ultimately doing, it taught me some very important basics.
After completing the course, I thought I was ready to take on a part time position at a shop closer to my home. I recall walking into one of these shops with high hopes. I was smart and a quick learner, I had some training, and I hired people for a living. I would get a job here, no sweat. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The shop owner took me by surprise, telling me I would hate being a florist, that I wouldn’t get to do the designing I wanted to do, and that I shouldn’t quit my day job. I was crushed. I left in tears, feeling defeated. This encounter, along with a devastating miscarriage a few weeks later left no space or emotional energy to continue my pursuit of a career change.
A little more than a year later I gave birth to my daughter and quit the 9-5. Although motherhood has been the ultimate blessing for me, at the time I was overwhelmed and I desperately needed an outlet. I remember feeling a sense of lost identity mixed with a roller coaster of hormones. This is when I kept coming back to flowers. I poured these emotions into quiet moments of creativity between nap times. Taking pictures of my floral designs from the corner light of my garage, I downloaded this app I didn’t know much about called Instagram and began sending my designs into the void. Before I knew it, I had a whole network of new friends, fellow designers, and industry of support which helped be become who I am today as a human, designer and business owner.
Erin: What advice would you give to others who are considering making a similar leap?
Nicole: Give yourself permission to put yourself out there and do what makes you happy. Set goals, have a support system, don’t compare yourself with others. Once you find a groove things come together, but getting there takes a lot of work and sacrifice.
Erin: Yes, having a support system is so important. I’ve been told that it is difficult to succeed without accepting lots of help. In your life, what kind of help have you asked for? What has been the best help you’ve ever received?
Nicole: I agree 100%! My strengths, achievements, and confidence gained as a mother, designer, and business owner, was birthed from the love and support others gave me.
I’ve learned from many florists whom I’ve had to ask for advice regarding situations I’ve never been in before, handling care for a particular flower, and secret foraging spots! I’ve asked for help from photographers and industry experts. Even Instagram followers have helped me with last minute freelancers. Most importantly, the help of my friends and family from babysitting, animal sitting, to working a job with me! My friends and family have been there. However, the one constant and best help I’ve ever received is the unyielding support from my husband, Skyler. He’s held me up through the toughest of times. Without him there most definitely would be no Soil and Stem.
Erin: What’s been the biggest surprise about owning your own business?
Nicole: I found out that I have a really hard time saying ‘no’ to people. Can anyone else relate? This got a bit out of control as my business began to quickly grow. Work/life became unbalanced. The one thing I tell myself whenever I get caught up in making a tough choice is remembering that by saying ‘no’ to one thing is really saying ‘yes’ to something else, and vice versa. Whether that’s in my home life or work life. Learning to say ‘no’ and making conscious commitments helped me manage my time as a business owner in a healthy way.
Erin: You describe your work as nature-based floral design. Tell us more about your approach to incorporating natural ingredients and locally-sourced flowers into your design work.
Nicole: There are so many opportunities to design with what our immediate environment provides us and to make the most of the seasons by collecting plant materials that grow around us. Foraging and gathering locally first came to me out of necessity. In Salt Lake City we don’t have a flower market and very few local growers with small seasonal windows. So everything I order is shipped to the Salt Lake City airport for me to pick up from the freight courier. Shipping overnight or same day freight can be expensive (not to mention a large carbon footprint), and sometimes product shows up the wrong color or damaged. That’s when I began to look to my surroundings to supplement what I couldn’t get from my wholesalers. This evolved into a more conscious effort as I began to understand the relationship local and seasonal flowers played into my work.
I’ve found that when gathering from nature, I learned to find beauty and appreciate the unconventional. Flowers, branches, seedpods, and berries grown in a native environment are unapologetic in the shape their surroundings have sculpted. These materials can tell a story about the habitat they grew in. I strive to foster this extension of the environment and season in my designs in hopes of creating a feeling of belonging and authenticity. Even one special stem from the garden or roadside can bring an entire design together with just enough wildness!
Erin: What botanical ingredients are you on the hunt for? What are some floral finds that make you the happiest?
Nicole: Anything that is light in visual weight! Usually that means vining or bell shaped flowers. One variety that gets me every time is Campanula punctata or the Spotted Bellflower. It has the most delicate, heart-shaped foliage with fairy-like, scalloped bell blooms traveling up its stem. I find these types of stems can carry color, direct eye-path, and layer over heavier weighted flowers in a gentle way.
Erin: I recently signed up for three of your online classes, Hand Gathered Bouquets, Garden Centerpieces and Natural Installations. You are such a gifted teacher! Can you share with readers how can they learn from you online and in person?
Nicole: I offer small seasonal classes each year at my studio in Salt Lake City alongside a handful of overseas workshops. My online courses are a compilation of design-specific video lessons students can watch from any device. During these video lessons, I guide students through my approach to nature-based floral design. Students come away with how to achieve breath and dimension in their work, understand the flower varieties that lend themselves to natural floristry, along with knowledge of mechanics, tools, supply lists, and my step by step design processes. Online courses are a great option for those who don’t have the time or budget for traveling to in-studio classes or multi day workshops. This year I’ll have some new courses available including a bouquet intensive and tablescape design class.
Erin: Thank you so much, Nicole, for taking the time to share your story today. I’ve enjoyed following you on Instagram for so long and it is such a pleasure to learn a little more about you as a mother and business owner. Thank you for sharing so much beauty with the world!
Thank you so much for your kind words and having me in this space with you today! I am forever grateful for all of the support and generous feedback I’ve received. This flower community is amazing and I feel beyond fortunate to get to reach all of you to share the same love for nature, design, and learning.
Update: The giveaway is now closed. A huge congratulations to our winners, Zefanya Samantha Sahusilawane and Joan. Thank you all for entering!
As part of our celebration of 5 years of the Farmer & the Florist Interview series, I’m giving away a FREE registration to Soil and Stem’s Garden Centerpiece Workshop and Nicole is offering a generous $250 course credit. For a chance to win one of these two great gifts, simply post a comment below. In your comment, please share your favorite spring flower. The deadline for entries is March 3rd.
Please note: If your comment doesn’t show up right away, sit tight, we have a spam filter that requires we approve comments before they are published.
Learn more and connect with Nicole at Soil and Stem: