While lazily exploring Instagram via the hashtag #RestonVA one day, I stumbled upon the most breathtaking floral arrangements I had ever seen. Literally, these pics were showstoppers. I had to find out more. Who was behind these stunning works of art? Are they local? Could I arrange to renew my vows in the next week so I could hire them???
After doing some sleuthing I discovered that Taffy Floral is indeed a local business operating out of Chantilly. The creative genius behind the veil of flowers is Michelle Samson. Michelle has a keen design sensibility and sees flowers as a medium between art and fashion.
Modern Reston caught up with Michelle to find out more about her services and inspirations.
MR: What types of services do you offer?
Floral design and styling for editorial work, events, and weddings. I also do custom work upon request.
MR: Do you have a storefront or do you work out of a studio?
Neither. Since Taffy Floral’s start last summer, I have been working out of my tiny apartment kitchen. Thanksgiving was a challenge because my kitchen sink clogged so I was churning out flower arrangements from my even tinier bathroom. I make it work. My business is young not even a year old yet. One day I will move to a larger studio, but for now my kitchen is fine. I am content!
MR: What made you decide to become a floral designer and where did you learn the tricks of the trade?
I have always had an interest in plants. Growing up my mother was (and still is) an avid gardener. I always tagged along with her to the local garden shops. At one point I even sketched landscape diagrams and checked gardening books to see if the plants I grouped together were compatible. I was nine. After high school I studied fashion merchandising in college, interned at fashion designer Anna Sui’s showroom in New York, and worked at a small boutique for a few years as well as worked in accounting for many years. The thought of making my secret interest in plants and flowers into a creative career did not dawn on me until earlier this year. I used to put together flower arrangements for fun and bring them into my old office. Our office door was always kept open so people would walk by and ask where I got the flowers, price, etc. The big push from working with numbers to working with flowers came from my family’s almost moving out of the area. Since we did not end up moving, I was out of a job, thought it would be a good time to switch from accounting to floral design, couldn’t land a job in a floral shop, and thought what the heck – why don’t I just start a floral business!
My knowledge so far has come from attending workshops, asking fellow floral designers questions, meeting flower farmers and asking them questions, and reading books. Some of the old guard tend be chilly and competitive but I’ve been lucky enough to meet other floral designers and flower growers who don’t mind teaching and sharing information. I think in this industry we should all work together, really and not worry about having clients stolen! Later on I’d like to teach younger floral designers about what I do, how to do it etc.
MR: Where do you find inspiration for your work?
My inspiration comes from nature. I look at how plants grow for example the way branches arch. Plants grow so much differently in nature than they do in a green house. They have more of a rambling growth pattern, imperfect. I lean towards a more organic and garden-focused style. I also like Dutch flower paintings. The arrangements in the paintings are not so precise, not so perfect, almost wild-looking. Despite my preference for a more loose style, I still admire more traditional styles, even Ikebana which is a Japanese style of flower arranging.
MR: Where do you procure the flowers you work with?
I try to purchase from local farmers and if I can’t find what I need locally at least from a farmer here in the States. Most people don’t know many flowers come from outside of the United States mainly Holland and South America. I like to use locally grown as well as American grown flowers to show people that you can get just as pretty arrangement from a flower farm stateside. I also go out in the fields and cut my own items. I mean, I must love what I do – I almost fell into a ditch one time trying to cut a branch that was the shape I was looking for!
MR: Any simple floral design tips for non-professionals?
Most people are used to the standard flower companies that use roses and alstroemeria which are flowers that last FOREVER. Since I use an assortment of flowers, I always stress flower care. Changing the water every few days, adding flower food to the water, and keeping the arrangement in a cool place are all good ways to keep the flowers fresh longer. Think of flowers as vegetables. Vegetables have an even shorter shelf life when left out. But when you refrigerate them, they don’t perish as quickly.
Oh, and don’t cut the stems too short!
MR: Anything you’d like the readers to know?
This line of work requires a lot of physical work. It’s a hard job and definitely not a 9 to 5 job. I don’t go out in the fields or go help out at a flower farm dressed up in an Anthropologie dress. It’s more like chinos, my commando sweater, a beanie, and my tool belt. You really need to be passionate about this job in order to succeed. It’s not just a lifestyle. Despite the hardwork, I really love working with flowers and hope to one day teach younger floral designers (and even learn a thing or two from them!) There’s always a better and faster way to do things.
*All photos provided by Taffy Floral.