In 2014, Paulina Nieliwocki took the leap into a second career and opened her floral design studio Blue Jasmine in New Jersey. Since then, she has proved herself to be one of the most interesting and creative flower voices out there. She also loves to share her knowledge with others—the scenes accompanying this interview come from one of her recent workshops held at a historic home in Barnstable, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod.
For more from Paulina, don’t miss her demonstration at Flower magazine’s upcoming virtual event, ADAC in Bloom, on July 21.
Flower: You named your floral design studio Blue Jasmine after your grandmother’s favorite flower. Can you tell us about your grandmother and how she inspired your love of creating with flowers?
Paulina Nieliwocki: My grandmother was a special soul who always sought to see beauty in the small things. Her favorite flower was the “jazmín celeste” (the actual botanical name is plumbago), which has small-faced blooms in a hypnotizing pale blue color. They remind me to find the special in all of the small things—small gestures, small blooms, small acts of kindness, small happy moments—and to really appreciate them.
She also just loved flowers and loved caring for them; this love was ever present for me. I hold on to the memory of her warm smile when I handed her my then-version of a hand-tied bouquet, created mostly out of clover flowers and dandelions. She relished each and every bouquet I ever made her, and it’s these happy feelings elicited through the flowers that inspire my creations.
Before becoming a floral designer, you were a high school teacher and a translator. How do those past professions inform your work today?
I am so thankful for the years I spent in my previous professions. When teaching floral design workshops, I structure the classes as I did my foreign language classes, whiteboard and all! I believe in teaching a method, or strategy, so that students can be successful. If students have a method, they have the scaffolding needed to allow their creativity to flow without incurring high levels of frustration that can ultimately stifle that creativity.
And as a translator, listening and extracting “meaning” is what we did best; I use that skill whenever I communicate with clients. It is the cornerstone of understanding a client’s needs and translating them into their “vision.”
We love following you on Instagram at @bluejasminefloral. There is so much movement and play in your compositions, and we’ve come to recognize your posts as soon as they pop up in our feed before we even read the name. Tell us about your design approach?
Firstly, I am so flattered! My approach starts with using many different varieties in varying shapes from circles to lines to star shapes, so that I can achieve texture and movement. My favorites are to include small blooms that have curves and personality and really highlight that nuance.
What are your favorite tools of the trade?
- Scissors: My favorite at the moment are from Toyama Hamono.
- Mechanics: The 3-inch pin cup from Harmony Harvest (American made!) is my go-to flower frog. I also love using chicken wire for pretty much anything.
- Vessel: Any vessel from Accent Decor is a joy to design in, and at times I do play with the occasional soup bowl!
Your biggest floral design hack is …
Removing all the greenery on an alstroemeria stem, and leaving only 2 to 3 blooms facing different directions. It makes them take on a whole new life—they read like a high-end bloom!
By Terri Robertson | Photography by Jessica Gallo of Fine & Fleurie
- Event and Workshop: Blue Jasmine
- Photography: – Jessica Gallo, Fine & Fleurie
- Floral team: Flora Moon Flowers and @rosalie.nyc
- Flowers: Hautau & Sons, Hilverda De Boer USA, DVFlora, and Garden State Flower Cooperative
- Compotes and candlesticks: Accent Decor
- Pin frogs: Harmony Harvest / Floral Genius
- Tools: Tabor Tools
- Rentals: True North Event Rentals
- Bridal gowns: Modern Vintage Bridal
- Model: Kelsey Tynan, @kelseytynan
- Ribbon: Silk & Willow
- Catering: The Pineapple Caper Café