Oh Joy

career day / a floral designer...
2 Jun 2016

Career Day with a Floral Designer

I first met Kelly Cuadra of Viva Voce over 5 years ago when she was the assistant for a local event planner. Little did I know that years later, she would be running her own floral design business and making some of the most beautiful creations I have ever seen. For our newest Career Day, I took Ruby to visit Kelly and learn about her process and how these beautiful arrangements come together. We first went on a trip to the Los Angeles Flower Mart where Ruby picked blooms in her favorite colors, pink and yellow. Then, we went back to Kelly's home studio to turn them into a whimsical arrangement and learn more about her process...

Career Day with a Floral Designer

Career Day with a Floral Designer

What’s your background and when/why did you start Viva Voce? During my sophomore year of high school, my family moved from San Francisco to Sonoma, CA. I worked for a few years at Beltane Ranch - a super sweet Bed and Breakfast in Glen Ellen which sat on a 1600 acre working farm. I'd clip stunning zinnias from the garden out front and create rudimentary arrangements for the guest bedrooms. The property was fairytale-like with a lovely range of wildflowers. The magic, color, and warmth of so many variations always had me thinking to myself "I hope I have a garden like this someday." And so began my love affair with flowers.

As for my start in floral design, I've been so lucky to be mentored by some impressive women in the business: Paige Benjamin of Passiflora, Kelly Harris and Paige Appel of Bash Please, and Danielle Rowe of Brown Paper Design. They all taught me the essentials of large productions, floral design, the never-ending and evolving quirks of the industry, as well as balancing motherhood and creative passion with work. Each of them took a chance on me, and their trust, knowledge and support was monumental in creating Viva Voce. Without their guidance and grace I wouldn't be where I am today. 

Career Day with a Floral Designer

Career Day with a Floral Designer

When did you feel ready to start your own business? At first, Viva Voce was a hobby—I'd take fun floral jobs here and there. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my second baby that I knew I had to figure out a plan that would not only support my passion but also support my growing family.

Career Day with a Floral Designer

Do you have a specific type of floral style? Would you turn down a job that isn’t in sync with your style? If I had to describe my style, I’d say it’s textural yet simple, organic yet organized, eccentric yet familiar. I try to take work I can identify with on some level. Although, I don’t mind experimenting with new techniques and sprouting my skills and knowledge so I'm not swallowed by what's "safe" and "comforting". You learn so many things pushing beyond your comfort zones - notably yourself!

Career Day with a Floral Designer

We love your home studio/converted garage. What are the pros and cons of working out of your home? It is convenient and cozy working from home with my husband and daughters nearby. However, that's a double-edged sword, right? Staying focused can be tough and the lines get blurred (like personal space and familial needs), so work can often feel arduous. The part that is special and rewarding—and that I'd never regret—is being there for my daughters in their early stages of life. Children are constant comedians...it keeps life light.

Career Day with a Floral Designer

Career Day with a Floral Designer

Career Day with a Floral Designer

Three key tips for making a pretty arrangement?

- Pick your favorite vessel and create a base with foliage which is basically the framework of the arrangement. Build a nice shape that feels full and interesting as a foundation for the flowers.

- Add the biggest blooms first, cutting stems at different lengths so some sit high and others lay low.

- Weave in smaller and textural elements high, low, and in the middle. Here is where you can really add some dimension and personality. There really is no wrong way - just have fun!

Career Day with a Floral Designer

Career Day with a Floral Designer

How many hours do you work each day? This changes from week to week... drastically. Since I'm juggling either the business and my family, I feel like I am working non-stop! My work studio is behind my house, and my little girls (a 3-year old and 1-year old) are always within reach of "mama". My daughters are a great barometer of deciding what kind of clients I have time and energy for. In reality, because my business is fairly new, sometimes the work is very much there and sometimes it just isn’t. Finding a way a to be consistently busy would help create balance on the family end because it would allow me to set a more consistent schedule with childcare.

Career Day with a Floral Designer

What is your dream for your brand? I would love a space where I could commit to growing my own cutting garden. Incorporating seasonal blooms of my own into my designs would make it that much more special. My ultimate idea? To grow an experimental garden into a mini-farm. Then, supply a couple heirloom varieties of flowers to designers and brides. There's something about working in the dirt and cultivating a harvest from your own two hands, you know? This seems like a path I would love to pursue—a slower, simpler and more intentional lifestyle for my little family.

Career Day with a Floral Designer

Career Day with a Floral Designer

Career Day with a Floral Designer

Best part about your job? Hands down—the flowers. They ignite so many of my senses and carry such a wonder and beauty. I’m surrounded by them daily—I'm so lucky! To make something from your own hands with a lot of thought, love, and effort is incomparable. Well, to me at least.

Worst part about your job? The toughest part about my job is remembering to pay attention to the actual business side and not get immensely wrapped up in just the design aspects of it. The accounting, the employees, the insurance, the liability, the promotional/social media side...whew, it can all be so overwhelming! I’m definitely a bit bashful so remembering to promote my talents and keep my name and work in the public eye is a constant challenge for me.

Career Day with a Floral Designer

One thing that has happened in your career that you never expected? Career Day with Ruby is pretty high on my list of special moments! I have such a deep love for children. Helping them discover new ideas and adventures keeps the curiosity and kid in me refreshed.

One thing that has happened in your career that you completely expected and had hoped for? One thing that I have been able to experience in my career is a lot of creative freedom. I always hoped for that, even from a very young age, but I never take it for granted. I hope to carry on this journey and show my little girls how important it is to acknowledge your passions and move in a direction that feels satisfying, independent, and imaginative.

Thank you so much Kelly for sharing your world and your path with us!

{Photos by Casey Brodley}

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