Kathleen Dore on a florist’s daily routines, Instagram inspiration, & how her relationship with flowers has evolved.
by Victoria Derr Valencia
The color palette of Native Poppy on a Wednesday morning is more energizing than a double shot of espresso could ever be at 8am.
Bunches of blossoms stuffed in cylinder vases, shelves lined with flowers and modest price tags, all underneath the South Park location’s iconic sign – pink neon that reads “Native Poppy. Pretty. Wild. Flowers.” Outside on Fern Avenue dog owners strolled by, a leash in one hand and an Americano in the other. Inside Native Poppy, Kathleen Dore prepped for her day, going through the morning routine of a florist in a neighborhood flower shop. Standing before the shelves of vases, she surveyed the blooms.
“It’s looking a little sparse right now, we have a huge flower delivery coming in today,” Kathleen said, her hand reaching towards the blossoms. To the untrained eye, the wall looked overflowing with shapes, colors, and blossoms.
Wearing a pink jumpsuit and rocking pink hair, the flowers Kathleen began to pick for a bouquet were also pink. She reached to grab stems with one hand, and with the other hand held the now growing bunch.
“Do you have a favorite color?” I asked the classic third grader question, curious to know whether her current palette would reflect the answer.
“Well actually,” her fingers paused before reaching for the next stem. “It’s more about shape than color. I like to play with shapes.”
Suddenly, the shapes began to stand out as much as the color did. The shape of the flower, the shape of the stem, the shape of Kathleen’s squared collar and her oval turquoise ring. The wave of her hair, where originally I had only seen the color pink. Her bouquet also began to take shape. Florists, gardeners, and others who work with Earth hold flowers in a distinct way – with care, and a level of familiarity akin to knowing the flower will continue to live even without the most delicate touch.
Wrapped in paper and presented with a giggly smile, Kathleen’s first creative endeavor of the morning was pink: coral charm peonies, zinnias, Icelandic poppies, honeysuckle, and carnations. And the day commenced, with the balance of right and left brain.
NTCH got the chance to chat with Kathleen about Instagram inspiration, creating volumes of work, progressing through volumes of work, the left and right sides of the brain, and how her relationship with flowers has evolved.
On being a florist…
K: Day to day, I would say my job is a good mix of the left and right brain: handling orders and deliveries, weddings, social media, the logistics of the shop while also getting to create beautiful things with flowers. The logistical stuff requires a bit more discipline and focus from me; I would say the artistic stuff comes a bit more naturally to me now. It didn’t always. Actually, Leandra Medine just referenced this Ira Glass quote that very eloquently summed up what I feel…
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.Ira Glass
The first year that I was learning floral design, was a challenge. I wasn’t fast enough, my perception of color theory was still developing (but not quite there yet) and I was still learning the basics. In short, I felt like I was ready to run before I had learned to walk. I would see arrangements in these editorial shoots and on instagram and I wanted to make THOSE. I wanted to be THAT good. When Ira Glass says, “it is only by going through a volume of work, that your work will be as good as your ambitions,” that resonated with me.
Being a beginner was challenging, not “getting it” was difficult, and pushing through that feeling was daunting. I’m extremely fortunate and grateful to have had and continue to have really patient and incredibly talented women at Native Poppy teach me floral design and that continue to challenge me as a designer and as an artist. I’m a Capricorn, so I’m very work driven. If I feel like my work isn’t good enough I obsess over it until it is.
It wasn’t until I started working these big weddings and events and doing big volume that I started to feel confident in my work and started to see my skills align with my ambition. Once I got a bit more confident and brave, I started to push my own creative boundaries. Victoria actually reminded me of a quote that one of my high school teachers used to say, “You’ve got to know the rules to break them.”
On designing arrangements…
K: What I’ve deemed most important for me, is shape. For the most part will choose something based on the movement it can create within the arrangement. When I first started, I was really fascinated by depth. The depth that was created by snipping the stems to different lengths and placing them strategically sounds really simple, but when done well it still blows my mind. Other things I consider while creating are color, size, longevity of each flower, height, how many ingredients I’m using, the vibe of the arrangement or even the event (desert-ey, lush, tropical, minimal, ikebana etc.) and more depending on design parameters.
A few months ago, I was chatting with my boss and friend, Natalie Gill, and we were looking at another florist’s work, and we noticed that every bouquet, arrangement etc. had only 7 ingredients max, some had less, but somehow these arrangements still looked wild and organic and like they could contain way more than 7 ingredients, but didn’t. So we’ve been challenging ourselves to use 7 or less. Why use 8 when you could use 7? Applying the less is more mindset here.
K: Honestly, I pull a lot of inspiration from Instagram. I feel like a lot of people have this weird relationship with the app thats pretty love/hate, and I think that stems from a pretty simple issue and that’s that they follow people that just at the very basis, don’t inspire them. I found myself having a relationship with it that resembled that a few years ago. Thus leading to a Marie Kondo-ing of who I was following. Asking myself if this account inspired me or not. Highly recommend doing that, if you’re having that problem.
I constantly see stuff on Instagram and I’m like I can do that, or why am I not doing that, or how can I do that in a different way? I like to think that my saved grid resembles what the inside of my mind looks like. Currently, my saved grid is an eclectic mix of editorial floral shoots, black and white portraits of my favorite musicians, and pretty much the entire Bon Appetit feed (ok, ok and the occasional inspirational quote, I’m a words of affirmation person).
I will notice patterns in things I save; some weeks it’ll be really heavily orange, or some other color, or the black and white photography thing. Patterns are interesting to me. When I’m lacking inspiration, I’ll open that up and I truthfully get butterflies looking at those photos, my gears start turning, my heart starts racing, I start heavy breathing… (ok the last one is for dramatics). But you get it – I really love Instagram and believe it’s made me a better artist because it challenges me, it shows me that I can create remarkable work, because I am seeing other people do so.
I also get a lot of inspiration from different art mediums. Paintings to be specific. Dutch Flower Paintings to get even more specific. Yes, I love their arrangements and the flowers they paint, but what I truly love is the composition. How the bright, light, delicate flowers contrast against this harsh, dark, almost ominous backdrops. I just love that. Look up Rachel Ruysch’s, I seriously get chills looking at her work.
I’m pretty open to letting whatever yields inspiration play a role in my creative process. Lots of times, it’ll be something I see in my neighborhood, a certain way a passion vine is smothering some industrial cinder block wall or how on the side of the freeway tons of wild flowers popped up. I love when industrial meets organic, in this imperfect, symbiotic, wabi-sabi kind of way.
On relationships to flowers (outside of work)…
K: I really have a great appreciation for the seasons and the flowers that grow in each season. I’ll be on a walk around my neighborhood and, ask my friends, I will stop and admire every single flower. It’s probably correct to say it’s moved past the point of appreciation and has been a steady obsession for a while now. My friend, who also works at Native Poppy, Grace and I have this love for this specific Matilija Poppy bush at the end of Florida St. We send each other pictures of her when she’s in bloom and it is truly breathtaking sight. Thousands of people drive by it every day and probably don’t even notice it, but we notice it. We notice it every. Damn. Day.
To see more of Kathleen’s daily inspirations & floral arrangements, follow her on Instagram @kcdorey.