Your name: Nancy Teasley
Your Business name: Oak & the Owl
Your Location: Southern California
How did you start your business?
I moved to Southern CA when my son was 4 months old. I had been working as an interior designer in the bay for the previous 5 years but I didn’t have any connections in LA to continue working freelance. I knew I didn’t want to go back to working in a firm when my son was so little and I reached out to my floral design friends. Nicolette Camille, my friend who I worked with in Oakland, referred me to Kate Holt of Flowerwild and I started working as her lead assistant last May. I made some great connections through that as well as was introduced to the world of large scale events. Because of that I knew there was a market for my kind of design in Southern California. So, during the off season between 2011-2012 I designed my website, put together my marketing plans, and launched this past February. I’m still working for Flowerwild and love it! It gives me a chance to slowly start my business while getting to work for one of the best designers out there.
How many years have you been in business?
I launched Oak & the Owl in February of 2012 but my business has been around in different forms for the last 7 years. I started this impromptu career when I was 19 as a side job while in college. I worked at a little flower shop in Oakland, CA where I learned flower basics – from the best way to process all types of flowers, to the business side of running a flower shop, designing flowers on demand either in my hand or quick vase arrangements while clients stood watching me, as well as doing event florals for weddings, parties, weekly accounts for restaurants, or business functions. It was an amazing foundation for starting my own business. After leaving Bloomies in Oakland, I started Nancy Jr. Designs and had my own wedding clients. I also worked freelance on the side for floral designers Max Gill and Ron Morgan while going back to school for Interior Design. So, that makes it 14 years I’ve been working with flowers (crazy that it’s been that long).
What is your design aesthetic?
I would say my aesthetic is very lush, romantic, and I’ve been told feminine with the feeling of an old world/painterly effect. I design arrangements where there are a lot of flowers yet there is air and classic form to them. I don’t cram the flowers in so that they’re all on one plane, I like to create subtle in’s and out’s with the flowers which has the effect of more visual interest and is generally more dynamic.
How do you create your style and where do you draw your inspiration?
I’ve been fine tuning my style ever since I started working with flowers. And it was really about finding this level of enjoyment and excitement with my design. And that started with how it felt when I was actually designing. You know you’re in the sweet spot of your style when the flowers come together with ease and don’t have to be forced. And it can take a long time to get to that place. I had so many years of working in the shop where I had to discern what my client wanted and produce it, that I was able to navigate through the styles and find my design voice. When a client would come in and want an architectural and sculpted bouquet of hard edged flowers, I was able to produce it, but it didn’t “feel” good while I was making it. If a client came in and asked for a soft, romantic bouquet with movement, I was in my sweet spot and I was done without even realizing time had passed. Now that doesn’t mean I don’t have to work on perfecting that style. That takes years and years and I’m still working on it. Design is a process and there’s always something to learn. I’m just lucky that it’s so much fun I want to work on my days off.
I draw my inspiration from so many things. Nature is the biggest one, and has been a driving force for me since I was very young. Now I drive around my town with my clippers next to me and hop out whenever I see something really beautiful. Then I drive around some more to find something to pair with it. I love making totally wild, in season and completely local arrangements on a whim. It invigorates all my design. But I also constantly research design around the world (one of the reasons I love Flirty Fleurs – you make it easy). I’m always in search of what people are creating and what trends are picking up and why. And I don’t research to copy, I just find it intriguing how different artists and designer see sometimes the same thing. I always strive to do something new, or that hasn’t been seen recently. Or even take an idea that is popular and find a way to tweak it’s perceived use, like the floral chandelier I recently made out of embroidery hoops. Another thing I do if I’m stuck on inspiration for a shoot is go to furniture stores and try and find one piece that really speaks to me and then build the concept around that. As an interiors person, I want all the work I design to have the sensibilities of a well designed space, not just a beautiful flower arrangement – although the flowers are typically my favorite part and create the biggest impact.
What are the trends, flowers & colors that are unique to your region?
The style in Southern California is pretty diverse. With so much influence from the movie studios, you see a lot of tightly arranged, sculpture like arrangements, with the use of flowers as a color impact vs. appreciating their shape and uniqueness. But then the vintage theme is still going strong although I see it starting to finally fade out. The use of beautiful antique furniture will stick around (I hope) but it won’t be used with such a strong lean toward mismatch and vintage. The flowers for weddings are starting to get more garden and old world like, which is great for me because that’s the style I’ve had for years. It feels to me that some of the Bay Area design sensibilities of lush and free form florals where flowers are used in season and are allowed to show off their individual beauty are starting to happen down here which I love!
Are you a retail shop, studio/warehouse or home based?
I currently am home based. I work out of my fully air conditioned 3 car garage and travel all over California for events. I have weddings from San Diego to Napa this year.
Do you offer any services in addition to floral designs?
My business is an Interior and Floral Design Studio so yes, I offer much more than florals. I have a degree and over 5 years of experience working for high end interior designers and that background fully informs all of my work. Because of that I’m available for full styling of events and shoots and am working at navigating my business towards that.
How do you balance the desires a modern bride when purse strings rest on the shoulders of traditional parents?
I believe both parties are so important when putting together a wedding and I will listen to both points of view and try my best to come up with a middle ground. There typically is one to be found, where everyone ends up happy. I work hard at pulling images so that my clients know what is being verbally described. So if the language coming from the bride is super modern and I can find an image of say, a graphic linen with a traditional compote floral arrangement, both parties end up understanding what the other wants and how best to achieve a compromise. It can be done and I actually really enjoy that challenge.
What tool in your toolbox can’t you live without?
My clippers! They’re sooo old and have little chunks taken out of them (from wire which you’re not supposed to do…) but they’re still so sharp and will cut through anything. I’ve tried to replace them, and have spent a lot of money to find the next best thing, but nothing compares.
What’s your favorite flower?
Ahh man. I can’t find one single favorite flower but if I had to choose a few, I’m a classicist. I really love flat face English garden roses with a huge passion, and parrot tulips. I just think they’re phenomenal. They can literally drag me out of a grumpy mood, and this is after working with them for years. But I’m also a sucker for clematis, flowering branches, pierris, peonies of course, ranunculus, dinner plate dahlias, and there are so many greens that can make an arrangement all on their own. I truly just love flowers with such fervency that it’s impossible to even narrow it down to 2.
Anything else you’d like to share with Flirty Fleurs followers?
Just that it’s really wonderful to be a part of a community of florists that share joy and excitement in each others accomplishments and creative genius. Thank you Alicia for having a forum where we can learn about so many amazing designers around the globe. And thank you so much for including me, it’s an honor.