When we were tagged in a photo on Instagram featuring artwork of preserved baby’s breath, our first thought was, “Wow! This is beautiful!” Admittedly, our second thought was, “But, what does this have to do with our wedding flowers?” Then we saw that a past bride had made the post and also tagged Soil + Soul Studio. Turns out, the tiny white flowers were actually taken from a bouquet of baby’s breath we made for Holly, the past bride, to carry at her wedding last year. We then reached out to Holly for more details.
“I found Soil + Soul through one of my many lengthy Instagram search sessions while I was planning my wedding,” Holly remembers. “I loved the idea of preserving my wedding bouquet, but a dried or boxed arrangement wasn’t my style. When I saw the unique pieces that Natalie made, I knew I had to work with her! I sent Soil + Soul my bouquet and one of my bridesmaids so we could use the greenery in the piece. Having the greenery incorporated into the final piece made it all the more special to me.”
Just after her wedding Natalie LaRosa was struck with the desire to make her wedding flowers last forever. For Natalie, her bouquet carried symbolic and personal meaning. Sensing other brides felt this way too, she started researching flower preservation. She began to devote her early mornings and late nights experimenting with materials and techniques. Natalie’s hard work and commitment paid off and she eventually left her full-time job to give complete focus to Soil + Soul Studio. Needless to say, we couldn’t wait to feature Natalie in our Women Paving the Aisle Interview Series. Here, Natalie talks about her artistic journey, the challenges of starting your own business, and how she stays creatively inspired.
We always like to start from the beginning. Can you tell us about your background? Did you have any creative interests growing up that hinted to having such a unique profession?
Growing up, I always felt pulled to the creative arts and found most joy spending time testing my hand at them. I certainly did not excel at any one art form in particular though. In college, I bounced around between creative majors trying to find the “perfect fit.” I ultimately felt frustrated when I wasn’t able to find my clear fit in a creative field, which made me deeply question my creative ability in general.
*Queue existential crisis*
I ended up enrolling and graduating from nursing school and worked as a Registered Nurse before pursuing my artistic passion full-time! Through my experience, it has occurred to me that that when you don’t feel like you belong in a clearly defined space, you need to create or find your own.
We love your work. Where did the idea to preserve flowers come from?
Thank you! I have always loved nature and for years I tried to keep a wide variety of house plants alive so that I could enjoy them on the daily. It turns out, I have the opposite of a green thumb. A black thumb, maybe? Naturally, I started to become intrigued with the idea of the afterlife of plants and flowers. For me, their beauty still remained long after most would send them to their big-garden-in-the-sky fate.
In my free time, I began experimenting with countless preservation techniques and a variety of medium concoctions to achieve what I had envisioned. That time was filled with endless trial and error. Ok… primarily error, but a whole lot of fun.
Can you tell us about your decision to launch Soil + Soul Studio? When did you know it was the right time to make the leap and start your own business?
After my husband and I got married, I saw my wedding bouquet on the counter the next morning and my first thought was “What do I do with it? I want to keep it forever!” That same moment, a little light bulb went off in my mind and I knew that with my learned knowledge of botanical preservation art forms, I really could keep my bouquet, forever.
I felt strongly that other brides felt this deep sentimental connection with their wedding bouquets too. I wanted them to be able to experience the joy that I felt when I realized that I could hold onto my special blooms. The seed for Soil + Soul Studio was planted in this moment and I haven’t looked back since.
What were those early days as an independent business owner like? Looking back, do you wish you had done anything differently?
At the time that I decided to pursue Soil + Soul Studio as a business, I was a full time, 9-5, nurse. This essentially meant that before and after hours, I was consumed with experimenting, prototyping, marketing, building, learning, growing, adapting and evolving.
I am a pretty risk-averse person, so the thought of leaping head-first into such a venture was a decision that I approached cautiously in the early stages, despite the intense belief that I felt in my art and concept.
As Soil + Soul Studio grew, I was so fortunate to have understanding and supportive employers who adjusted and evolved with me from working full-time to part-time to working from home. Ultimately, they let me make the decision to say “goodbye” to my nursing career.
Looking back, I can’t truthfully say that I would have done anything differently. What I can say, however, is that I did experience great fear associated with all of those early transitions. Fear of the unknown, fear of loss, fear of finances, fear of change, fear of failure. Although I wouldn’t necessarily change anything, I do wish I could go back and give myself a solid *high-five* and a hug, you know? We’re pretty hard on ourselves.
Can you walk us through your process? What should a bride-to-be keep in mind when she decides to have Soil + Soul Studio preserve her wedding flowers?
Once a bride-to-be decides that they want to preserve their bouquet with us, the first step is to reserve their bouquets spot! Due to the time, care, and attention that we provide each bouquet, we only accept a limited amount of bouquets in our studio.
Prior to their wedding day, simple, step-by-step instructions are sent on how to care for, pack, and send their wedding bouquet. This ensures that the client has everything they need to easily and successfully get their bouquet to our studio, as safely and efficiently as possible.
After the bride gets married and sends us their bouquet, we have a design consultation with them to learn all about the special details of their wedding day, the favorite elements of their bouquet and their design preferences! Our Botanical Artists then hand design and create a one-of-a-kind piece of art so that they can cherish their flowers, forever.
How saturated do the colors of the flowers and greenery stay once they are preserved? Are there any flowers that don’t preserve as well as others?
Floral preservation is both an art and a science! We hand prep every single flower, petal, and stem to ensure that we are optimizing for color retention and texture.
We never use any added or artificial coloring in our process and totally pride ourselves on our preservation techniques to achieve the quality of our art. Retaining the special qualities of each bouquet is our priority, while still always respecting the natural and organic nature of what we do.
Can you tell us about the different preservation options you offer?
Our most popular artwork option is our “For the Bride” floral display. This artwork choice best allows us to capture the essence of the full bouquet while giving us and our clients the creative freedom to explore composition and design with their unique flowers.
Additionally, we offer other artwork options that can make great accessories and gifts! One of our personal favorites is our ring holder because it is not only practical, but we also believe it makes the perfect little heirloom to pass down to the client’s future generations.
Our “Bridesmaid” and “Flower Girl” artwork options are perfect gifts for all of the people that you would like to thank for being a special part of your wedding day, like parents and your bridal party!
What do you like most about working in the wedding industry?
The connection and trust that we get to experience with our clients is so special and meaningful. This is such an important day in their lives – it’s an honor to get to be a part of it!
How does it feel knowing that your art holds such personal meaning and will be treasured for years to come?
It means absolutely everything and is at the heart of what we do and why we do it. The fact that our clients trust us with something so special is humbling – we deeply respect and cherish this opportunity to create art they will have forever.
Your work has a modern and clean aesthetic to it. What inspires you artistically? Do you have any favorite artists or designers?
When Soil + Soul Studio was created, it was so important for me to provide a fresh and modern take on bouquet preservation. Bouquet preservation, as a service and concept, is not new. However, the idea of a unique perspective and innovative artistic approach to it was something that fueled me and still does to this day! As a bride myself, I simply wanted to create something that I would feel joyful about displaying in my own home – combining sentiment with art.
If you could pick one bride in all of history to have Soil + Soil Studio preserve her bouquet, who would it be?
Just one!? I am still recovering from not having the opportunity to preserve Meghan Markle’s wedding bouquet, ok? Moving forward, however, J-LO, if you are reading this, pretty please let us preserve your bouquet!
What advice do you have for our readers who are thinking about starting their own business?
To date, the absolute hardest thing that I have had to overcome starting a business is simply that. Starting. It is so easy to mentally stop yourself before even starting. So, even though this may sound silly, my advice is probably the most simple and hardest advice I can think of. To Start. Just start. Where you are, right now. With what you have, right now. You have something of value and importance to share with the world and only you can bring your unique vision, idea, product to life.
How do you stay creatively inspired?
By playing and experimenting, with no purpose and for no one in particular. As an artist who makes commission-based artworks for others, I think it is super important to make art for yourself as well.
You finally have a day off. How do you spend it?
When I was a nurse, I spent my days off doing creative activities to get my fix! Now that my career is creative in nature, I am learning how to spend my free time in non- creative ways. I believe that by giving myself this space, it only fuels more future creativity. I am still learning on how to master this, but it is a work in progress!