Ponderosa and Thyme is an event and workshop florist who works throughout the Portland Metro area, doing some gorgeous, progressive floral designs. They have recently been voted Best Floral Design by Junebug Weddings. And are known for their innovative foraged floral work featured many times in Oregon Bride Magazine. Katie Davis, the owner of Ponderosa and Thyme, and her floral accomplice, Katie Stewart, have an evident passion for all things woodsy and create worlds within their flower work that you can not only see, but smell, touch, and sense. We at Medicine Mama's Apothecary sat down with Katie Davis and talked with her about how she's found sustainable beauty and has been able to bring it to life in her work, home, and heart.
Why did you choose the name Ponderosa and Thyme to represent your floral work?
One of the actual meanings of the word Ponderosa is "a safe place for weary travelers" and I wanted that to translate into my work. When people interact with my work, my hope is that it could create a safe, peaceful, beautiful place for them. In ancient days Thyme was carried by warriors going into battle to give them strength and courage. Sometimes creating beauty takes great courage and there is usually a battle that goes along with it, so when I was creating a name for the business I thought Thyme was the perfect fit.
I’ve been doing floral design for 12 years but have only really found my artist's voice the last 3 years. Ponderosa and Thyme was launched a year and a half ago.
What were some challenges you had to overcome in the beginning of building your floral brand?
Space to create was hard to find. I’ve worked in garages, at kitchen tables, bathrooms, anywhere I could find a surface to use. I was always finding thorns in my carpet.
Another challenge in a visual career was how to present myself. The first time a blog wanted to feature my business and wanted to post pictures of me designing flowers was really scary. That first photo shoot was hard, I had never designed in front of anyone, let alone a photographer. There was a lot of anxiety that day but thankfully the photographer was very helpful and he captured some really wonderful photos. Since then I’ve had a lot of photographers teach me how to angle my body, how to hold my flowers, how to turn my head in certain ways that are flattering for me. It’s a very humbling process to realize I’m not naturally photogenic, but I’ve learned enough about my body angles that it’s become much easier. In the past, if I’ve ever had a wonderful photo, it’s been a happy accident. It’s in taking photos over and over again, and having people in my life who help encourage and instruct me that has made the difference in getting great results. Posting photos of myself will always make me feel vulnerable. When people see me connected to my brand, I hope they see my heart. Trusting photographers to capture me in a way that’s beautiful is still a challenge. I did a workshop last weekend and out of the corner of my eye I saw the photographer. I had to say in my mind, “I trust her”. She has my best interest at heart, she’s looking for the best angle… and she’s going to find at least one!
How have you kept yourself personally challenged with the floral workshops you put on?
Teaching has been a huge, happy challenge. It’s the thing that I’ve wanted to tackle the most because I love teaching!
I’m so passionate about seeing creativity come alive and watching people accomplish something that they’ve never tried to do before. Helping my students find the courage, and the safe place within that creative process is what makes it so amazing. Knowing that frustration will most likely be there in the process for my students at some level and encouraging them to embrace the process is an important part of my teaching. I encourage students that if they are stuck or frustrated to take a break, go on a walk, go grab some foliage outside and then come back to the task. Then suddenly they’ve created something they didn’t know they could and it feels like magic. For me, teaching is a lot more than just creating flowers, it’s helping to unlock creativity in people. It’s a very deep place to go with them.
What inspirations do you draw from for your floral work?
I worked in a flower shop at 16. I was the “night girl”, scrubbing floors and cleaning up. It wasn’t my job to make bouquets, but if no one was there, I was allowed to create something if a customer asked for it. I always wanted the experience of giving people flowers, because no one’s ever grumpy when getting flowers. Out of high school I went to floral school and learned some good basics. I’ve had to teach myself a lot by trial and error. There are a lot of people I’ve followed online across the world whom have helped inspire what I do.
You specialize in free-form floral, can you talk more about that transition and the first steps of that walk?
A few years ago (right before I’d launched my brand) I was at a book store and found this floral design book. I glanced at the first few pages and knew I needed it in my world. I can’t say I really read it, I mostly just looked at the photos and it said to me, “there’s a different way!” I had only learned about round or triangle shapes... I’d never experienced free-form floral design until this book. I didn’t know how to do it yet but I knew there was a different path. I didn’t want to copy but I had permission granted to do something different.
For the next year, anytime I had free time and extra flowers I’d make a bouquet saying “If I’m a bouquet today, what do I look like?” I allowed my mood to guide my arrangement. I also did a lot of traditional wedding flowers that year but in my free time I was creating things for myself. Thats when I began foraging in my backyard and neighborhood so I could practice without “wasting”. I started giving these foraged bouquets away to coffee shops and they got a hugely positive responses from people which surprised me.
Then, last summer I had a bride contact me, gave me the colors of the wedding, the budget and said ,”We like you, do whatever you want to do.” I was really excited to be given that freedom. I was so elated to give her the flowers because as I was creating her bouquet I was thinking about her! I wasn’t thinking about a photo or the rules, I was thinking about the bride and who she was. That wedding was the turning point of my career and as an artist.
Timeless beauty is healthy and sustainable, what pieces have you put in your life to maintain beauty longterm?
Weddings are very physical, while I have strength and energy to do them now, I want to continue to have that strength and not get burned out. So my goal is as I continue with floral design that I can put more and more energy into teaching (which is less physical labor and brings my heart such joy). What I do know is flowers, the love of flowers, and the love of creation. I know that I’ll always want to help people experience the raw joy that working with flowers creates.