WHEN IT COMES to expressing heartfelt emotion, we’re often encouraged to “say it with flowers.” Floral arrangements accompany life’s most significant moments and have a way of elevating everyday life. While it’s natural to focus on the receiver, BLOOM Imprint, a local indie publisher, is sharing a look into the lives of the makers behind floral artistry.
In a recent title, Teresa J. Speight, author of “Black Flora: Profiles of Inspiring Black Flower Farmers + Florists,” tells the stories of 22 inspiring and influential Black floral creatives working in wedding and event design, botanical art, horticultural therapy, cut flower farming, entrepreneurship and activism.
As Speight writes in her introduction: “Younger generations of Black plant-lovers are seeking inspiring examples of successful floral artists and entrepreneurs. When they see their potential — through representation of people who look like them in farming and floristry — the possibilities of the future enable their dreams.”
“Black Flora” offers a look at people from around the country, including several floral creatives from our region, who are infusing the profession with diversity and broadening the beauty of botanical storytelling.
You’ll meet Kristen Griffith-VanderYacht, whose Seattle-based Wild Bloom studio produces luxurious florals for wedding and events. Griffith-VanderYacht’s designs focus on bridging the gap between nature and modern living, an approach he introduced to the world as the charismatic judge and lead mentor on the Netflix show “The Big Flower Fight” in 2020.
“Flowers are a tool for healing because they force us to live in the present,” the designer observes. He encourages his clients (and flower fans of the show) to reframe the narrative around flowers from “How long will they last?” to “Enjoy them while they last,” and savor the experience.
Former printmaker turned floral designer Hannah Morgan characterizes herself as having “a BFA in one hand and a pair of pruning shears in the other.” Morgan is the owner and lead designer of Fortunate Orchard, a floral design studio operated out of her family’s “charming but tiny” home located in a quiet corner of South Seattle. Morgan, who is committed to using local and U.S.-grown materials, often sources branches and blooms from her own garden to capture fleeting seasonal moments.
Morgan believes in everyday flowers for everyone. Known for her opulent wreaths and naturalistic arrangements, the designer appreciates the immediacy of flowers, compared to an art print behind glass. “I love the ability to put art in somebody’s hands, right in their living space,” she says.
Portland-based Joy Proctor produces dreamy destination weddings all over the globe, styling each event to tell a “love story in flowers.” In the summer of 2020, Proctor, whose design artistry is recognized by top-tier fashion publications, leveraged her experience to produce the Say Their Names Memorial, a traveling exhibit designed to further the conversation around systemic racism and social injustice.
Kiara Hancock designs florals and produces weddings that capture an event and celebrate her clients from a studio and workshop space in Tacoma. “The act of delivering positive memories of a joyful occasion or moment is worth its weight in gold,” she says in the book.
Like so many of the creatives Speight interviews in “Black Flora,” Hancock hopes to inspire other young Black artists to join the floral industry. As her profile in the book concludes, “We are going through a cultural revolution at this very moment,” [Hancock] shares. “It is a change I embrace, and it is long overdue. As an African American in this industry, I know there are some of us who are still afraid to show who we are. Yet, it is time to share who we are, and when we do, we find our audience.”
“Black Flora” tells a timely and important story that enriches and expands our understanding of the floral community. “My hope in writing [the book] was to inspire others to come out of the shadows and walk in their beauty,” Speight says.