Your name: Ariella Chezar
Your Business name: Ariella Chezar Design
Your Location: The Berkshires, Massachusetts.
How did you start your business and how many years have you been in business?
About 17 years ago I moved to the Bay Area on a lark, about a year after I began working with flowers. So many of the interesting flowers that came into the New York market came from the West Coast. As I’d expected, the San Francisco market was/is AMAZING! I worked in a few shops, and then was asked to do a friends wedding in Sausalito. The coordinator was impossible. After the wedding she came up to me and said, “I know I gave you a really hard time, but you handled me well, and not only that, your work is amazing. I’m putting you on our preferred list and will be telling everyone I know about you.” And she did. One thing quickly lead to another, and I started to get busy. Busy enough to quit all my other jobs. A year or so later I was approached by Chronicle Books (a friend of mine was an editor there) about doing a flower book. After Flowers for the Table was published I was able to call up all the NY magazines, House and Garden, Martha, Town and Country, etc. ask to meet with them and show them my book. Stephen Orr, now the garden editor at Martha, then at House and Garden was one of my first champions.
At the time, the more organic and natural style of arranging wasn’t particularly in Vogue on the East Coast. I think as a reaction to the 80’s wildness, we were still very much in what I call “Roundy Moundy” mode in New York. Tight, kind of French, safe and chic. Though I don’t believe that my way of assembling flowers is unique, I think I mostly benefitted from timing. My “look” was perceived, at the time, as “new” and “fresh” (though goodness knows, it wasn’t really!) and because of that I got a lot of wonderful press.
How do you create your style and where do you draw your inspiration?
I am happiest in the woods or with my hands in the dirt. I guess it goes without saying, but I don’t just love flowers, I LOVE!!!!!!!!! flowers, and I love color. I am moved and affected by beauty in all it’s forms. The interplay of colors thrills me.
What key moment in your life made you the floral artist you are today?
I’m not sure I consider myself an artist but rather, I think I’m a craftsperson. And I don’t think it was one key moment, but rather many moments, many factors that contributed to who I am and why I do what I do. My mother was Dutch, and an artist (a real one!) of multiple mediums. Everything she touched was an extension of her creative self. Dutch was my first language and we spent much of my youth around her art school friends and their art in Holland. I went to Waldorf schools which, among other things, foster creativity. I grew up way out in the country. Cousins would visit who lived in the city and talk about how boring it was in the country. My sister and I would roll our eyes, because for us, it was anything but.
What tool in your toolbox can’t you live without?
I’ve been using these super sharp pointy, delicate clippers from Hida in Berkeley that I adore. They aren’t good for branches, but for everything else, they are perfect.
What’s your favorite flower?
Seriously!!?? Give me a season, and I’ll give you my favorites. There’s no way I can commit to just one.
Spring: Hellebores, Ranunculus, Frittilaria
Late Spring: Tree Peonies, Tulips
Summer: Garden roses, young, green hydrangeas
Late summer: Zinnias, marigolds.
Fall: Japanese Anemones, Dahlias
Winter: Amaryllis, Quince, Citrus
How do you cope with and prevent creative burnout, what lights your fire, what do you wish you got to do more of?
I know it sounds superficial, but being surrounded by beauty is essential to me, and the opportunity to enhance spaces with one of the most amazing mediums, flowers! is so rewarding. I don’t mean this to sound smug, but I don’t think I’ve experienced much creative burnout. Which is not to say that I’m not absolutely bone tired/broken by the end of most events, it just takes a few good nights’ sleep to feel game again.
I love so much about what I do. I love growing the flowers, I love working with people, I love stepping into someone else’s vision of beauty and translating it into reality for them. Even when I’m not crazy about a particular vision, I can always find something to get excited about. And I love working with my crew. They are all so talented, so lovely. It can feel like a happy miracle when we are all humming along putting out one arrangement more beautiful than the next.
Perfect flowers light my creative fire. And I’m a sucker, like the rest of us, for the new or unusual varieties.
Running a business and being a hands on mom, I guess what I could always want more of is time.
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