How Fabricator Kelly DeWitt Merges Furniture and Flowers
When fabricator Kelly Dewitt began creating flowers installations to compliment her furniture shoots, she didn’t think this would eventually lead her to start a company solely dedicated to merging furniture and flowers.
Dewitt created Ranchito in 2016 as a way to merge these two passions and bring plants and floristry into interior spaces in innovative and unexpected ways– an extension of her and her husband Travis Norman’s fabrication company KKDW. She named the company Ranchito “because we live on a small ranch out here in Central Texas, and I have a studio out on the property now,” she tells us.
Before Ranchito, DeWitt still found creative ways to weave floristry into her work. “If we’re delivering a piece of furniture, I’ll try to include a little floral bouquet or floral bundle in the delivery,” she says. “I try to bring fresh florals into all the elements of our work.” The more she did this, the more frequently she was commissioned to create floral-related pieces. Ranchito was the first venture that allowed DeWitt to take this element of KKDW to another level.
DeWitt designs floral installations in a range of different formats, from small-scale furniture for individual homes to large installations for sizable corporate spaces. Recently, she created a 6-foot diameter mandala in Nashville, Tennessee with air plants and other fresh botanicals. True to form, DeWitt designs and builds wreaths, chandeliers, walls, and arbors that feature floral installations with a minimalist and modern aesthetic, all the while maintaining a timeless look that has put Ranchito on the map among design lovers.
In addition to her own work, DeWitt teaches a variety of day-long workshops on welding and floristry, with Norman in their studio in the Hill Country of Central Texas. In their wreath workshop, participants will spend the first half of the day learning how to weld a ring from steel. Then they’ll style the wreath with florals, learning how to decorate the same piece they’ve just built, and ending the day by hanging up the final pieces for photographs. “The first half of the class is loud and messy and tough from welding,” DeWitt explained. The second part, where the class turns off the loud machines and shifts to floral design, she says, is “meditative”. “You can hear the birds chirping,” she says. “It’s the perfect kind of ying-yang.”
DeWitt collects her flowers from a myriad of places. “A lot of times I’ll forage for branches and other greenery around our property, or around the area that I live in because there’s so much out here that I can use in arrangements and installations,” she says. She also gets her flowers from a wholesaler in Austin as well as a farm five miles away from her house.
Shortly after she graduated from college in 2011 with a degree in English, DeWitt began designing furniture and trying to figure out how to build large scale pieces using the tools in Norman’s studio (he was her boyfriend at the time). After experimenting for a few years, DeWitt created KKDW with Norman in 2013. Since then, she’s expanded to larger scale fabrication work including designing and building steel doors and windows for commercial spaces like offices and restaurants.
Reflecting on her last six years as a fabricator, DeWitt insists that what surprised her the most about her work was how flexible the process is, and how constantly it evolves. “When I’m in the shop, it can feel like a very isolated thing. It’s loud and you’re by yourself, so it can either feel lonely or meditative. But on top of that it’s also this community thing, because on the simplest level, I am up here with other people working,” she reflects. “If I’ve built something large, I need help to move that and it’s going to someone else, so there is built-in community.”
This flexibility also extends to the ways DeWitt envisions working within and expanding the boundaries of fabrication. When she first started, she hadn’t yet envisioned a way to fully incorporate her interest in floral installation into Ranchito. “Going into it, I thought I would just build things and had a naive idea of what being a woodworker was,” she tells us. “And now I’m realizing it’s whatever I want it to be.”