As the old saying goes – do what you love and you will do it well. Sophia Kaplan is testament to this. I first read about Sophia in Gourmet Traveller – she instantly resonated with me as an adrift woman because in 2013 she resigned from her job at a creative agency and moved to Paris to follow her passion for floristry. She’s since gone on to found her namesake business, focusing on floral and plant styling for events, weddings and photo shoots. I met up with Sophia at a coffee shop in Balmain around the corner from her studio, and we chatted all things flowers, the world of floral design and fusing your passion with your career.
Where did your affection for flowers and gardening come from?
I spent a lot of time growing up in my Nonno’s garden, being toured around and shown all the incredible growth and then instructed on how to grow everything, from roses to rhipsalis, to a whole kitchen garden worth of basil (seeds he saved from Italy), grapes, figs, avocadoes, coffee beans, Italian celery, citrus…the list goes on. I also became obsessive about weeding at this time, something that I’ve backed off from now; weeds are plants too and have their own beauty in the right spaces.
In terms of flowers I’ve always been in awe of the natural world around me and the intricacy of flowers along with their role in our ecosystem. It was probably American florist Amy Merrick who first put the idea in my head of being able to have a career as a florist. Her floral designs and her life in general – summers at her family’s flower-filled property in New Hampshire – were enviable. I’ve since discovered a whole host of amazing florists around the world as well as back here in Sydney, some of whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and even working for.
You resigned from your job at a creative agency and moved to Paris take up floristry – did it feel like a risk at the time?
I was ready to make this change in my life. I have always found sanctuary in Paris and although I wasn’t sure what my next career move would be, I was confident that I would find myself inspired and invigorated just by being there…as I do every time I go!
Since launching your business last year, what have you found most challenging about being a business owner?
Accepting the inevitable ebs and flows of working for yourself has been a bit of a challenge. I’m a lot busier than I would have anticipated this early into my business, but I am still accepting the irregularity of it all! This is also often a plus, as I love the increased flexibility of my days. It can be a lot of responsibility on one person, but I often have assistants helping and when I’m catching up on admin I usually go and work side-by-side with a friend who also works for herself. As I become more of a regular at the market the faces of the growers and the other florists have become more familiar, and I feel like I have a little gang there now – we all help each other out with advice and an extra pair of hands when needed!
What does a typical day look like for you?
Every day is different, but when I have an event on I will be up at 4am to head to market. There’s usually time for a quick coffee before the roller doors open at 5am and then it’s go, go, go: sourcing the most beautiful, locally grown, freshest blooms for my clients. If I have extra time I will stop for a chat with the growers, and sometimes grab another coffee and a cheese toastie with the girls when we’re all done before hopping in my van and heading back into town. Once I’ve got all the blooms unloaded they must be processed. Excess leaves removed, stems re-cut and then quickly but gently placed in their buckets of water. Then I’m hankering to start arranging! This usually goes on all day, playing with and admiring all the flowers. If I have time I will try and meet a friend for lunch or duck out for a swim.
Your work involves all sorts of events, weddings and photo shoots – what do you enjoy most about each?
I love the combination of them all. Doing different things keeps you on your toes. Weddings you are dealing with really excited, happy couples and their families who want to create a whole atmosphere for that special moment in their life. Photoshoots are great because you’re often working with other interesting creatives and have a chance to be a bit more adventurous. I also have some great PR and production companies whose events I flower for, these guys are great – they have a clear vision of what they are after, are super organised and have a fun, energised vibe to work with. I’ve also done music festivals and some NGO work – everything has its own appeal, not least that they all involve playing with plants and flowers!
You have successfully fused your love of flowers into your career – now your passion is also your business, do you still love what you do every day?
So far, I really do! I have seen people become burnt out and cynical in this industry. I am really conscious of this, and am trying to build a business that, despite all the early morning and schlepping about, will keep me motivated and engaged and most of all, happy! I never want to lose my love of flowers, but to be honest I just can’t imagine that happening. I guess it’s about balance and making sure you have time for yourself and non-work related botanical adventures.
On your blog, The Secret Garden, you photograph and write about gardens, flowers and design – what inspires your personal style?
This is a tough one, it comes from everywhere doesn’t it! I guess a lot of it would have to be travel. A lot of my posts now revolve around my trips – it’s exciting to see what’s happening botanically in different parts of the world. Being inspired by the plants themselves, you’re constantly discovering new things. I’m also inspired by my friends, from plant people to any other interesting creatives along with people killing it with their own businesses and ambitions.
Any advice for creatives looking to move into the world of floral design?
I was lucky enough to be introduced to the wonderful Jardine Hansen by a mutual friend and she has really opened this world up for me, taught me a lot of what I know and introduced me to a lot of the other girls. If you’re thinking about making the move get as much experience as you can before quitting your day job! See if you can assist someone already working in the industry or do one of the many workshops offered by some of these same people. Instagram is also a great way to connect with people across the world.
How do you relate to the word ‘adrift’?
I’ve always felt a strong need to travel, to be adrift through the world. If I’ve been home for a month I’m already thinking about booking the next flight. My change of career was a big drift for me, definitely in the right direction. Now with my new business I need to spend more time here growing with it, but I won’t stop travelling and managed last year to work while I was in Europe – organising shoots with friends and meeting and working under some amazing florists in Paris and Berlin. I hope to continue to drift around this world, picking up botanical tricks and treats as I go.