Based in Seattle, Botanique is housed in a freestanding studio located just steps beyond Kelly Sullivan’s family home, surrounded by a vibrant cutting garden that serves as muse.
Like many ﬂoral designers, Kelly has responded to teaching requests in the past – from CSA customers eager to learn a few skills to aspiring ﬂorists requesting one-on-one instruction. At the same time – at least in Seattle – the market has become ﬂooded with competition for ﬂoral design education.
In response, Kelly has ﬁne-tuned the themes of her workshops and also the way she teaches. Teaching underscores what is uniquely her brand and personal ﬂoral design aesthetic. She shares essential design mechanics with her students but also oﬀers content they aren’t able to ﬁnd from other workshops.
Two recent courses illustrate the direction she’s taking. Last fall, Kelly taught “Grow, Harvest, Design,” an on-site workshop at her cutting garden and studio. “This appealed to people who wanted to learn how to grow ﬂowers and design with what they grow and harvest,” she explains. “Students cut whatever they wanted from my garden and then learned how to design a compote arrangement.”
In May, Kelly’s “Forage and Create” workshop moved from Botanique’s cutting garden in the city to a more spacious setting at Wildshoot Forest & Farm, a boutique wedding venue in Granite Falls, Wash., about 35 miles north of Seattle.
She partnered with Wildshoot’s owner Celia Eizik and Seattle area ﬁlm photographer Anna Peters to design an immersive experience true to season and location.
The course description promised an alluring experience: “Armed with clippers and a foraging tote, you will be invited to harvest woodland treasures, blooming branches, gorgeous foliage, spring wildflowers and any other natural elements that inspire. We will combine these found and gathered pieces with beautiful, seasonal blooms and textures to create lush, magical bridal bouquets.”
Kelly began with an overview of the seasonal ﬂowers and foliages she sourced from local growers. “I wanted people to see those blooms ﬁrst so they would have an idea of the colors, shapes and textures while foraging, especially if they were inspired by a speciﬁc ﬂower,” she explains.
The group then set out for Wildshoot’s woodlands and meadows as Kelly demonstrated hands-on tips for proper cutting and clipping. “It was late May, so we had access to Celia’s garden, which was ﬁlled with wildﬂowers, foliages and other cool weedy items. The woods oﬀered maple and aspen; tree branches, deciduous huckleberry, tons of ferns, and a plethora of other interesting textures,” Kelly says. “Celia invited everyone to forage anything they wanted from her property. Her generosity made the day really special.”
Participants returned with their wild-gathered treasures to Wildshoot’s barn, a spacious venue with plenty of design space. Kelly showed how to process foraged stems and branches to extend their lives in a bouquet or centerpiece. While demonstrating her design approach that combines commercially grown ﬂowers with foraged elements, questions from the group of six students guided Kelly’s instruction. “We talked a lot about color and mechanics for creating a bouquet that has dynamic movement but is also a sturdy piece that isn’t going to fall apart,” she says. “I ﬁnd that’s one thing people struggle with when designing in this style. The bouquet needs to be mechanically tidy while looking loose and natural.”
Kelly also led a discussion on accurately calculating the “value of foraging,” especially when pricing for wedding and event pieces. “I tried to give students the experience of what I do, which is purchase a lot of ﬂowers and then also ﬁnd these really cool, unique, foraged and grown pieces to add,” she explains.
After a day of foraging and designing, Anna Peters worked with a model to capture images of each students’ bouquet for portfolio use. “We make sure everyone gets a really good portfolio piece in addition to action shots of them working with ﬂowers or even foraging,” Kelly says.
Teaching oﬀers wedding and event designers a way to diversify and add a new revenue stream, Kelly acknowledges. But her advice is to develop a curriculum unique to one’s brand – otherwise, the return isn’t always ﬁnancially rewarding.
“The truth is, there are a lot of workshops out there right now – it’s a saturated market. I’m trying to get really clear on what I have to oﬀer that is unique and not generic in any way. My workshops always include some sort of foraging or harvesting component, which very much lines up with how I design,” Kelly explains. “I really believe in making works that are speciﬁc to a time and place; what’s happening here, right now. That feels authentic and true for me.”
Botanique, botaniqueflowers.com, @botanique_flowers_seattle
Wildshoot Forest & Farm, wildshootforestfarm.com
Anna Peters Photography, annapetersphoto.com, @annapeter_s