Odd Flowers- A Colorful Conversation with Jessica Gring
Heaven is place on earth, and we found it barefoot in the backyard of Jessica Gring’s house and workshop. Jessica is the owner and creator of Odd Flowers, a floral design company focused on sourcing U.S. grown and fairly harvested flowers for weddings, events, and local businesses. We got the chance to spend some one on one time with her, and got to know Odd Flowers through color palettes, white wine, and perfumed arrangements.
How did you get started as a Floral Designer?
"In 2011, I was studying to complete my degree in Horticulture, and got an internship at Jello Mold Farm. Diane, one of the owners of the farm, used to be an artist and a florist. We used to make bouquets at night in the barn for grocery stores before the Growers Market existed. She flipped the switch in my brain that was like "I love growing flowers so much!" to "Wow I really love playing with flowers SO MUCH!". From there, I started constantly experimenting with things from the farm and from my own garden. Various sweet friends started trusting me to do flowers for their weddings, and it sort of evolved from there."
How did you get the name “Odd Flowers” for your business?
"The name Odd Flowers comes from the buckets of "imperfect" flowers that Dennis, my friend and mentor, saved for me in the barn behind the farm. These buckets were filled with the flowers that were a little off; maybe a little crooked or too open, etc. We both knew that these odd flowers deserved love all the same. "
What does a day in your working life look like?
"A workday depends on where I'm working. Outside of my personal business, I work at the Georgetown Seattle Wholesale Flower Market. If I am at the market, my day starts at 4:30AM, and beings with lots of 'ooing' and 'awing' over various product that comes in. Often times, I am selecting and hoarding product for my own accounts like it's the back of the barn. After I have my selections, I start with the arrangements. There is usually a nap and some wine involved. My free time is spent playing with flowers for fun in my garage, which I lovingly refer to as my studio."
Tell us a bit about the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market!
"The Market! The Seattle Wholesale Growers Market is a farmer owned cooperative. In order to be a member, growers have to meet certain agricultural standards, for example, they are all salmon safe. All the product is domestic, most of it from Washington state. They hang out at the market after they bring us their product, drink coffee, and are there to answer questions and nerd out about flowers. It feels really unique and very special."
What are some of your favorite things to create?
" I love to make tiny small things. I collect porcelain figurines. They are small vases, maybe 4-8’ tall, often shaped as animals. They make the sweetest stories when they have just a few flowers in them. I also love to make bouquets in the hand, even if I don't know what to do with them afterwards. It feels like weaving, the way you can make stems bend and express themselves with the support of other stems. I also really love to work with all local plant life. "
Tell us a bit more about your connection to the local plant life in the Pacific North West, and why you choose to work with all local flowers.
"I was raised in a family of wonderful gardeners; my mother poured over seed catalogues while she was in labor with me because it was the thing that would soothe and distract her. When I decided to study horticulture, it was mostly because I wanted to learn how to grow, and was actually focused on food and less on flowers. When I met Dennis & Diane, they changed the way I viewed agriculture and how farming can look for small farmers in America. They opened my eyes to the importance and value of consumption & support of local, independent growers. They aren't subsidized by the government, and every penny is hard earned. They work long hours and do a lot of research about how to alleviate various issues like pests & disease in ways that maintain the natural ecosystems that exist on their land. "
What are some of the most unique/ interesting flowers and plants you have come across? Do you choose favorites?
"This is such a hard question! Some of my favorite things come from the smaller growers at the market, Kelly Sullivan of Botanique and Carey Wendel of Bleedfoot Florals are always bringing in strange garden flowers that I couldn't tell you the name of and sometimes I only ever see them once. I'm also a sucker for super heirloom things, real carnations that smell like clove, old fashioned sweet peas, double click cosmos. MMM. "
What areas of your life do you pull inspiration from?
"Maybe it sounds obvious coming from a florist, but my inspiration comes from nature. I spent a lot of time as a kid outside climbing trees, looking at mountains, collecting rocks and stuff. I think that amount of quiet alone time outside developed a sense of wonder that kind of just grows and grows. It takes forever to go on a walk with me."
Your arrangements are very unique. How do you feel you translate your expression through flowers?
"I think that lots of "alone" time as a kid has turned me into an adult that has a hard time expressing things out loud, or being linear in outward ways. Somehow, when I work with flowers, I feel like I can put all my feelings into a tangible, colorful, and expressive thing. I find an understanding in the weird curves in stems, the colors that you can't name, the smells, and the textures. The less words I can find for something, the more colorful the story is with flowers. Or I just stare at it and talk to it for a little while. "