Originally published in Flower‘s May/June 2014 issue:
FLOWER: How would you describe your floral style? KATE: My style is totally borrowed from nature—as if I went in her closet and pulled out a nice dress and tried it on. It’s not really “mine.” I feel like whatever my style is, it’s firmly rooted in materials nature gives me to play with—the colors, textures, and shapes she lays before me. Not to be too spiritual about it…because to me, each time I work with flowers it is not that exactly. It’s more like a relationship; a thing of balance and an exercise in finding balance. Layers, lines, shapes—all of it to me is like a soft, sculptural, breathing puzzle. It can be a big, sloppy mess or it can be a thing that makes you stand back and reflect on why we have such amazing things as flowers. They are these perfectly balanced, thoughtful, little things full of intention, and we are just monkeying around with them all the time!
What inspires you the most? My 6-year-old daughter’s creative insights and how close she is to her own true self and thoughts. Her singing is raw and full of truth. Her drawings are so uncontrived, and her personality is honest and open. She makes me want to be a better person all the time, and allows me to see the world through her eyes. It’s really hard to recapture that sort of wild and free spirit of a child, but she helps me get closer to that. Other than that, I look for inspiration in colors and textures, lines and form, composition, and shape. It’s not really one place or one medium. All mediums are most often outside my realm of expertise.
What is the best part of your job? My job allows me so much freedom to be with my family, and when I am working I’m surrounded by creative people. It’s like a community outside of home, and I find that community extends into the workshops we do, too. Teaching is all encompassing, but it is alternately the most rewarding experience ever. The workshops give me a creative space to test out new ideas, get outside my comfort zone, and stretch a little. The biggest bonus is we are creating a space for industry people to build friendships among themselves. We see them leave the workshops stronger, more connected to each other, and they are able to share resources and knowledge. I have to say, when I began Flowerwild 10 years ago, there was absolutely no community between other floral vendors and designers. That’s changing and I think it’s really wonderful.
What is on repeat on your iPod? My go-to music choices are Joni Mitchell, The Band, George Harrison, Pearl Jam, Bill Withers, a good Miles Davis album or two, Van Morrison, Linda Ronstadt, Harry Nilsson, and Tumbleweed Connection by Elton John (play “Amoreena” and try not to fall in love!).
What’s your favorite item in your closet? I’m into my moccasins right now, and all things creamy and white. I’m drawn to flowers and patterns, but I’ve learned that’s the wrong wardrobe approach for me with all this crazy hair! Toned-down and simple outfits work best for me. I wear anything white with blue jeans, a simple belt, pretty necklace, and I’m good to go.
Who is your favorite actress/actor? I have a huge love for Diane Keaton. She’s classy, sophisticated, and clearly has her own sense of style. Plus, she can really act. I always feel drawn in by her performances.
Where is your favorite summer vacation spot? Probably some place I haven’t been yet! But for now I’m happy vacationing at home. With all the traveling we do, being able to stay home and relax is quite a luxury. Some of our favorite get-away spots: Carmel, California; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and, lastly, my hometown of Chicago.
Do you have an essential travel item? Extra pillows, almonds, water, hand cream, lip stuff, and cute socks or slippers for the plane.
Could you share your favorite public garden to visit? The Huntington. I love it!
What’s your favorite flower? It is impossible to choose a favorite. I love the paper-like quality of poppies and the painterly markings on certain ‘Weber’s Parrot’ tulips. I appreciate the simplicity and fragrance of lily-of-the-valley—it has much nostalgia for me—and lilacs. Other flowers I love: the garden roses David Austin ‘Evelyn’ and David Austin ‘Sally Holmes’, ‘Hot Cocoa,’ and ‘Distant Drums.’ I also like sweet peas, hybrid delphinium, gloriosa, tiger lilies, begonias, peonies… I could go on and on. There are too many to list. I’m leaving many famous and important souls out, I’m sure!
By Jena Hippensteel | Photos by Elizabeth Messina