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Conversations with Ashton Chase

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashton Chase.

Hi Ashton, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
When I was in college, I saw an ad for a part-time job at a local flower shop in Austin. I was studying Set Design for Theatre at St. Edward’s University, and the shop, Ben White Florist, was right across the street.

I fell for flowers hard. Every time a new kind of flower arrived at the shop, I loved learning their names, varieties, and colors. Learning to care for flowers and the nuances of what each kind needs interested me. Helping people pick out flowers for hand-tied bouquets was my favorite.

I was learning about the fundamentals of design in college, which translated over to floral design well. I would learn about line, color, pattern, balance, etc. in class and started to see these elements in arrangements.

I graduated shortly after and left Austin to pursue the industry I had studied. I missed the city’s eclectic and artistic feeling so much that I came back! I freelanced for a few florists and then became the manager of the floral department for the flagship Whole Foods downtown.

Then: 2020 happened. Like so many others, I was forced to take stock of where I was at in life and in my career. I was tired of being overworked and underpaid, tired of not having creative control, and quite frankly, I was tired of having a boss. So I decided to become my own.

I used a lot of my quarantine time to draft out business ideas. One day, I came across the Ladybird Poppy – a striking red wildflower with black spots at the base of its petals. “The Spotted Poppy” was born. I found extra significance in naming my business after the Ladybird Poppy because Austin is home to the Ladybird Wildflower Center.

It took a year from my company’s launch to become totally self-employed. I left Whole Foods and joined the team at Uchi, so I could deliver flowers during the day and work in the evenings. My management team was nothing but supportive of my business endeavors. In fact, I became their weekly florist and have been lucky enough to teach their team about floral design!

I currently work from home in a tiny loft apartment in South Central Austin. My dining room is my “studio”. It houses all of my supplies, buckets of flowers, a tiny cooler, and a backdrop for photographing arrangements. A typical work week for me looks like a lot of admin work (accounting, quoting brides, ordering flowers), trying to keep my cat out of my flowers, multiple trips to Austin Flower Co, servicing Uchi weekly, and either building a wedding over the weekends or freelancing and helping other designers build their weddings. Lately, I’ve been freelancing for David Kurio Designs, Stems Floral Design + Event Styling, and LOAM Studio. Freelancing has given me the opportunity to learn from Austin’s best designers and become a better floral artist myself.

Keeping up with hobbies outside of my work has been an important way to stay balanced. I love making art (@ashtonchase_art) and I regularly sing around town with my awesome band, Ash and the Endings (@ash.and.the.endings). You can also catch me vegging out at home with my fiancé, Kody, and our little black kitty, Basil.

Becoming self-employed has been strange. I don’t always work 40 hours a week (which made me feel guilty at first), I stopped needing to set an alarm most days, and I’ve had to learn to become an accountant/marketer/social media manager/photographer/florist. There have been plenty of growing pains, but overall, I feel incredibly lucky to be creating for a living. When I hire friends to come work with me, and we spend evenings drinking wine and listening to music while creating floral arrangements, it gives me pause, and I realize I’ve begun to create the kind of artistic life I wished for myself when I was younger. And I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
No road is completely smooth. Learning about all of the different taxes that a small business owner pays was/is a head-scratcher at times. I’ve had to become very diligent in saving for taxes out of each sale I make. Another struggle all florists face is working with perishable items. Your bride insists on daffodils, which only last about three days, and you need them to stay alive and perky until the day of her wedding? No pressure. Your cooler malfunctioned overnight and froze your bride’s wedding bouquet, and her wedding is in 5 hours? Get to Austin Flower Co IMMEDIATELY and remake it with lightning speed. Cry later, and show up as if the whole thing never happened.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
While I enjoy a lot of artistic hobbies, from painting to singing, floral design seems to be where the universe wants me to succeed. I specialize in weekly installations restaurants, as well as wedding/event work. I feel what sets my work apart from others is my background in theatre design and art. I feel it has given me a good eye for balance and color and it reminds me to take creative risks. I stray away from traditional floral design—the kind you see in the grocery store or in photos from your grandparents’ wedding—and try to keep things modern, funky, and different.

We’d love to hear about any fond memories you have from when you were growing up?
My favorite childhood memory is spending time at my grandparents’ house in my hometown of Tempe, Arizona. It’s still my favorite place to be. Going to grandma and grandpa’s as a kid meant waking up to a breakfast by grandpa, complete with a pound of bacon and apple juice, an afternoon of swimming under the hot Arizona sun, going shopping and getting your nails done with grandma, and finishing the day with a bowl (or two) of mint chocolate chip ice cream while watching old movies.

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