Florist Friday: An Interview with Park Slope Florist Rebecca Shepherd
Eight years ago, Rebecca Shepherd was determined to handle the flowers for her own wedding. At the time, she couldn’t have known this would have led to a career change and that she would eventually design the flowers for 400-500 more weddings– she simply had a vision for her own designs.
Shepherd transitioned into floral design after developing a career as a jewelry designer, a massage therapist, and even a brief stint as an EMT. She now runs a boutique in South Park Slope, Brooklyn, under her own name. Today, Shepherd’s work is as versatile as it is creative, a unique combination of vintage and modern. She has designed flower arrangements for weddings, corporate events, and museums– most recently for the Museum of Moving Images. Her work also has been featured in Brides magazine, the illustrious New York Magazine and Well Wed. On a recent rainy Tuesday morning at her studio, we sat down with Shepherd to discuss her work, her design inspirations, and why she loves Greenwood Cemetery, fiddlehead ferns, and asymmetry.
GC: How did you get into flowers? Did you grow up gardening?
RS: When my husband and I got engaged, I started thinking about flowers, and I was set on not spending money on them for our wedding. At the time, it seemed like a total waste, and I was determined to do them myself. When I got to the market, I was looking around I felt my heart kind of skipping a beat. I grew up on a farm in Florida, so I had a rose garden and eight acres of land. I grew up riding horses, digging in the dirt, and swimming in the lake. When I got to the market I felt at home.
I ended up doing my own flowers for my wedding which I absolutely positively do not recommend. But then I sat back and thought that I hadn’t felt this passionate about anything in a long time. That was only the beginning, and I’m definitely not changing careers anytime soon.
GC: Did you have a gateway flower? For example, a flower you completely fell in love with that led to a larger love of flowers, or a flower that you tend to zoom in on whenever it’s in season?
RS: To me the textural elements, like fiddle head ferns and maidenhair fern– and even explosion grass– are what make you look twice at an arrangement. At the same time, when you’re in the proper season for peonies or dahlias, then it’s really just all about that focal flower because they are just so beautiful and perfect that you don’t need texture around it. So it kind of flip flops.
GC: How do you keep your creative drive going?
RS: I heard something the other day about how passion is the most important ingredient to success. I don’t know whether my passion comes from growing up on a farm and constantly discovering new things as a child; it was like this land with no real parameters on your day. I feel like that’s where a lot of inspiration and creativity comes from, because the doors are wide open. I try to make a point of regularly asking, “What will happen if I flip this idea upside down or inside out?”
GC: What does a typical, say, Tuesday look like for you?
RS: That’s a great question. Tuesday is like Sunday for me. Monday and Wednesday are market days, Thursday is prep day and Friday and Saturday are set up days. Once every month or two my husband and I will try to make Tuesday our Sunday. Tuesdays are more fun than any other day in the week because it’s kind of like an “out” day.
GC: What are some of your favorite local spots?
RS: Greenwood Cemetery. It’s incredible. I actually got married there. It opened its gates in 1863 and it’s almost the same size as Prospect Park. It’s huge, and they have all kinds of famous people buried there. The architecture is world-renowned. It’s actually one of the top ten most beautiful cemeteries in the world, and it’s only 5 blocks from here.
GC: Do you have a favorite garden?
RS: Anytime I have a moment when I’m not working, I just jump in the car and go. A few years ago I went upstate to the Hudson Valley and discovered a beautiful place called Cedar Farms.
GC: How do you dress for summer weather? How does your summer style differ from your winter style?
RS: Two differences. Boots versus clogs and tank top versus sweatshirt. That’s it.
GC: How would you describe your style? How has it evolved over time?
RS: I feel like I’m a chameleon of design. I suppose what comes out naturally in something that is asymmetrical, slightly whimsical, but still has form within it. I feel like I generally really love designing for my client, if they want no green but all orchards and weird containers, for example– I love that. I’ll take it from there. My style tends to stay slightly asymmetrical, but it is still formed and a little quirky.
GC: What are your other floral design influences?
RS: I’d say what’s seasonal, what I see at the market, and what new containers are out there [all inform my designs]. I look through magazines sometimes, and I’m constantly on Instagram and Pinterest, but I also ask myself: “What do I want to do that’s different?”
GC: If you could travel to any one destination, floral-wise, where would you go?
RS: Holland. I want to stand in a field of flowers and just look for ages and be blown away by the capacity of it.
GC: How does social media affect your business? How do you interact with it?
RS: I think in this day and age, you can’t not use it. You’re at a disadvantage if you’re not on it. It’s like having a cell phone.
GC: Thanks for the chat. It’s impressive how you manage to get it all done. Florists in particular are some of the most creative, business-savvy people we know, so this is the final question we always like to ask: What’s your coffee order?
RS: Post-baby would be anywhere between 2-5 cups of coffee a day, home-brewed. Two Splenda and a little bit of milk.