For 6 months now I’ve been trying to put words on paper to do this session and my time with Katie justice but I realized that anything I write wouldn’t come close to how the two of us evolved that day. When I was in Ireland attending the Develop and Raw workshop, Katie of Ponderosa and Thyme was the incredible florist that graced us with her art all week. At the time I was just beginning to whisper my dream of doing lifestyle shoots of creatives showcasing the process behind the art. I wanted to know their stories, their heart, their pain points in business and so much more. When Katie shared her story with us I knew it was something I had to tell visually.
After suffering a life threatening disorder, Katie found herself transitioning her life from dance teacher to bed ridden. For a year, the only activity she could muster enough strength for was tending to her new garden. Day in and day out, Katie nurtured her garden of all sorts of plant-life.. vegetables, flowers, fruits, any type of seed she could get her hands on. She sat outside and let the sun hit her face, or the rain and the wind and dug her feet into the earth. Grounded. For a year of recovery, Katie found herself constantly wiggling her toes and her feet in the ground beneath her to say to the world: this is where I belong. I have a lot of fight left in me and I’m going to come out of this battle stronger than ever before. In doing this meditation and nurturing of her garden, Katie slowly found herself getting stronger. Katie was classically trained in floral design when she was younger but the dream of being a designer laid dormant for years as she had pursued other facets of creativity and raising her children. It wasn’t until after being very sick and spending time in her garden that she re-discovered her love for flowers and creating with nature. She began foraging in the forests near her home in Oregon and creating arrangements that served two purposes: to make herself happy and to create for the sake of creating. Today, Katie runs a wildly successful Floral Design Business in Oregon. When we discussed the hardships of her business she said she longed for people to appreciate her designs and see the value in floral arrangements. I piped up and told her that she needed to look at herself in a deeper way. She was not just a florist, she was an artist. Katie, my dear, you create art. And boy is the world lucky to have your art in it.
Ponderosa and Thyme was created from a place of brokenness and has blossomed into such a beautiful, inspiring business. Ponderosa translates to a safe place for weary travelers, and Thyme, an herb, represents courage, which Katie pushes through every day and constantly reminds herself to have with the tattoo on her arm.
On our morning excursion, we awoke before anyone else in the house and I watched as Katie foraged through the forests of Ireland. I noticed as she only took a few branches from each tree or bush in various spots of the plant as she stated she was always forward thinking about the plant’s life in the future and wanted to be sure they still remained full. We wandered the green paths, as the rain pitter pattered on the leaves around us. Drip. Drip. Drip. We both breathed in deep to embrace the Irish weather and continued our journey down winding paths through the property.
We started off foraging all sorts of leaves for the filler pieces of the bouquets she would create later that day.
There, in the distance, was a lonely, yet monstrous tree. You could tell it had been there for centuries. Katie told me when she came to Ireland, it took a great deal of courage, and this tree was her Ponderosa. Throughout our week there, she often found herself grounding her feet in the earth beneath this tree’s safe canopy. I was beyond thrilled to share this experience with her and no amount of words could express the power and the beauty of those moments. As we approached the tree, Katie pointed out a peculiar thing to me: the tree was protected. In a ring around it’s base, two layers of plants surrounded it. One: a layer of thick prickers, and two, a layer of poisonous flowers. (Thank god Katie was with me!) On one side of the tree there was a small opening, that almost looked like a doorway to the safety it provided. We cut through the passage and embraced it’s trunk as a safe place from the rain. This is where all the magic happened. It was a full circle moment for us both, as she found the courage to step out of her comfort zone and fly to Ireland and find her safe place, and I found the spark I had been looking for to create for the sake of creating. I’d be lying if I said we both didn’t shed a few tears in those moments. The quiet moments, where passion and dream chasing came together to create art, to create magic, to create moments that take your breath away when you look back and remember how they made you feel. This will forever be my favorite shoot, because it set my heart on fire. I knew after this that I had to find more creatives to document doing life, and get to know their stories, and tell their legacies.
As the rain began to fall we approached Katie’s favorite tree in Ireland.
She watched and listened as the rain pitter pattered on the leaves and the canopy above.
This is all the greenery that we collected that morning and it made for a stunning piece of art!
I love how connected Katie is to her work, how appreciate she is of nature and preserving it. All her designs are very organic (you will never ever see a bulbous shaped bouquet in her portfolio, as she tries to create the way nature intended to grow. Wild and free and organic.
Can we take a second to say how much I LOVE this bag?
One of my favorites, looking down at all the wonderful plants she selected for the designs to come. One of the key parts to the floral design process, which I never knew about!
Katie, you are such an incredible artist and I hope someday our paths with cross again, Until then, continue to face each day with courage and heart and passion, and believe that what you do has such a great impact on the world.
Until we meet again,