Life celebrated with flowers

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Have you ever wanted to disappear from the bustle of the city and surround yourself simply with nature? Change office job into something much more creative? Mother and daughter Sally Love Yoder (60) and Shannon Brooke Yoder (27), creators of the “Natural Design Studio” (based in Pennsylvania, USA) believe that all people should bring a little piece of nature in their homes and souls sometimes. Here we talk about big ambitions, love for floral design, decorative art and all things natural.

- How long ago did you find your passion for nature and art creation? How has it all started?

Sally: Years ago, whilst working in a crowded office with plenty of stark lines and bland space, I would bring wildflower bouquets to brighten the mood of co-workers and clients. One stunning display of Orange Butterfly Weed caught the attention of my boss, who asked if I’d be willing to slip away and make a similar bouquet for his wife that afternoon. The feeling of freedom to be out of the office collecting wildflowers was exhilarating. That day my quest for turning a gathering hobby into a business began on the hillside. A few years later, I opened a consulting studio and workshop center in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania’s Amish Country. People from all over the Northeast made regular visits to attend open house events and learn how to gather and create with botanicals. With the success of the workshops I knew I wanted to share my knowledge of flowers with a larger audience, so with the help of my daughter Shannon, who also has a love of nature and a Fine Arts degree from the New York State School of Ceramics at Alfred University, we have partnered to create Natural Designs Studio - a website/literary platform to showcase and share all things floral and herbal.

Shannon: Since my childhood, I can remember going on gathering excursions into the countryside. This left a permanent impact on my creative outlook and view of the natural world. After traveling and exhibiting fine art for several years, I wanted to shift my career’s direction to a broader audience by getting out of the gallery circuit. It just happened that partnering with “Natural Designs Studio” became the perfect opportunity to share how the creative process contributes to wellbeing. I also feel that what we’re doing gives significance to domestic art forms, like floral design, in a modern culture that has gotten away from making things by hand.

- What is your biggest inspiration?

Sally: People are becoming more nature deprived. Most of the population lives in cities and does not have the luxury of walking into the forest right from their doorstep. That is why we share the mystery and beauty of the countryside with our readers each week so they can experience the calming elements of nature at anytime. Everyone can bring nature indoors by placing a fresh centerpiece on the table or lining up a row of forest finds, like stones or moss, on the mantle. We want people to be inspired to get outside and make something beautiful, even if it is as simple as buying a bouquet of fresh blooms at the market. As for our work, we are most inspired by 18th century florals, baroque floral art, still life paintings, the photography of early 19th century writer William Nutting, all forms of shaker style, Colonial Williamsburg, Fraktur Folk Art and the list goes on.

- Have you always thought about wildcrafting as a business, or more like your leisure activity?

Sally: Wildcrafting for us is not a business, but a means to share useful knowledge and help people recognize the value of plants by utilizing the techniques of gathering. It is also an enjoyable form of exercise. Plants offer us many uses from beautiful decor for the home to medicinal herbs that heal the body. When people realize the benefits of plants, we think they’ll be empowered to see the natural world differently.

- How big is your business now? What is the best part of your job for you?

Sally: Being able to do what we love is by far the best thing about what we do. Being outside almost everyday has its perks and keeps us in a rhythm of seasonal changes and climate. We are always creating for commission work and private orders, but for now, we are more focused on growing the website.

- Is your own home full of plants and natural products?

Shannon: Growing up, our house was filled to the brim with botanicals, fresh and dried. Massive dried flower medallions and swags were made to grace doorways while wildflower arrangements took center stage in the dining room. Up to this day we still use herbal remedies, dig our own roots for healthy medicinal teas, grow our own food, and preserve vegetables and fruits for the winter. It’s a wonderful and rewarding way to live.

-How long ago did you start posting all your works online? How did that change the way you work?

Sally: I began blogging about 5 years ago to keep people in touch with my workshops. Then Shannon came on board about two years ago and we’ve become much more serious about photography and content ever since.

- What are your plans for the future? Do you plan to continue doing what you do the best or even try something new?

Sally: We will keep growing our literary platform and continue to showcase ways to design with botanicals. We also expect to have Gathering & Wildcrafting e-book this fall. Shannon will be presenting her pressed botanical works for sale on the website. We want to keep expanding our style and audience.

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