Thursday, April 29, 2010

Brian Coovert, floral designer, Extraordinaire

I am so excited to share with all of you my interview with, Brian Coovert, from Blooms Direct. His work has been seen in Architectural Digest, Martha Stewart Weddings, Traditional Home, and Southern Living.

He has truly given me inspiration and such joy from the beauty of his work. All of his flower arrangements have a personal touch and even an ordinary arrangement has a different twist to it. I always love to see what he creates. I usually just tell him the colors I want to use and let him go to work; we have to let the experts do their job and they will do it magnificently.

CB: How did you start as a floral designer?

BC: I have a visual merchandising background- worked in the south- worked for Belk Department stores as a visual merchandiser. I had 4 stores in Myrtle Beach. Then I moved to Charleston with Saks 5th Avenue. Saks used fresh flowers for everything-everything - and I became good friends with the florist, Zack Hughes. I ended up going to work part time with him on the weekends. I started off washing buckets, cutting flowers- that's what I could do. I wasn't allowed any type of arranging whatsoever. And then slowly, I become like his assistant. And then he let me do a $30 arrangement or two, and it just escalated from there.

CB: So this was your formal education?

BC: Yeah, because I had no formal education- I was fortunate to work with the world's most unbelievably talented people in the industry. Part of it is just my own imagination. I've always been a creative person to some degree, but I think if I was to credit my "talent" if you will, it would be my Mother, because she is a very talented person. And just my love of the product. I literally love what I work with. When I was growing up-single mother, 4 kids, we lived out in the middle of nowhere in Southern Ohio. We didn't go to the movies or eat out. The way I would entertain myself was going to the woods. I was terrible- I was always digging up something and bringing it back to see if I could get it to grow.

CB: And after Saks did you open your own shop in Charleston?

BC: I went into being an event florist and a concierge florist because people entertain differently down there. They have to have fresh flowers for everything, so I was very, very fortunate that I had clientele like that. I didn't have a storefront- I had a warehouse that I basically worked out of.

CB: I love that about Southerners. Their love for flowers and great hospitality. They take it over the top. I would love for us Northerners to be a little more like that. What brought you to Columbus from Charleston?

BC: I sold my share of the business to my business partner and went into the event/concierge business which was great for me. Then on a personal note, my mother who lived in Southern Ohio became ill, so I left Charleston to come back to Southern Ohio to take care of her. I had lived in Columbus probably 25 years ago. I felt that I needed to be in a big city but one that was close in case I had to go home quickly to her, so I came to Columbus. It was going to be a part time thing and thankfully she became much better. I loved Columbus, I was waiting tables at Barcelona Restaurant, and a friend told me about Blooms, so I applied to them and here I am.

CB: Did you start designing immediately?

BC: I started off as basically a designer- doing the daily work; hospitals, birthdays, anniversaries, whatever. And then with the economy being the way it is, we had to do some restructuring. At this point I moved into management. My really strong points are the events, the special customer- the special event. And that's what I wanted to play. In order to grow and get the business to where we needed to be, someone needed to grab those reins, and that person was me.

CB: What is your inspiration?

BC: My mother, and I get my inspiration from nature, like a branch or a blade of grass. When a brand new product comes in I like to see how it moves, how does it bend, how can I manipulate it. I love manipulation. My two strong points- things that I really love are color and texture. Texture can be foliage, greenery or a plant material, berries. I love strong, vibrant colors- nothing washed out.

CB: Other than your mother, is there a designer who inspires you?

BC: Mr. Joe Smith- that's a very common name. He was an older gentlemen who took me under his wing. In the floral industry there's an accreditation called AIFD American Institute of Floral Design- its huge. I met Joe at one of the exams. He is a true Southern gentleman from Tennessee, and he was just remarkable. I was living in Charleston at the time. On at least a half dozen occasions, Joe would fly me up to Tennessee to work with him on a project, a huge wedding or something like that and it really showed me what horticulture could be. It was on a much larger scale than I had ever seen -very high end- like a $150,000 budget for a wedding. So, I would credit him, and also going to the AIFD symposiums and seeing all of the incredible talents- true artistry- just like painting a picture or seeing a clay sculpture.

CB: What is your favorite flower?

BC: I love so many. Probably one of my very favorite is the Gloriosa Lily or Rothschild Lily. I used to grow it in my yard in Charleston. It doesn't grow well here. It's a vine, and a star shaped lily that is probably 4" in diameter- it's yellow on the inside and red on the tips and the petals fold completely back. I don't get to use it too often, because it's so expensive.

CB: Do you have any color combinations that you have been using together?

BC: Any color of pinks, like hot vibrant pinks and oranges, mango's, papaya colors; I love those together.

CB: If you could travel anywhere in the world to buy your flowers where would you go?

BC: Gosh, I would love to visit the farms in California- buy American and at least see what the American farms are doing, but the largest floral suppliers are in South America- like Columbia. And of course, there is the Holland Flower Market. But to go to see how the flowers exist, I would think maybe Africa, because I love greens and foliage, or a rain forest type like, Costa Rica, lush and green.

CB: I have noticed that flowers I get from Blooms Direct last so much longer than flowers I buy at Kroger or any large store, why is that?

BC: A lot of times when you buy from a larger place, like Kroger, or corporately, God only knows how old those flowers are. When we order flowers, they are ordered directly from the farm, and they have literally been cut for a day- two days tops and then they are shipped to us.

CB: What are your favorite projects to work on?

BC: Anything that the client gives me free rein on!! I love weddings, I really do, the whole planning part from the beginning of that little seed to watching it grow to a finished project.

CB: Three things in life you can't live without?

BC: My dog, my family, but I obviously know that you can't keep them with you forever, and my passion.

Thank you so much Brian, for the time you took to sit down with me and give us a glimpse into your work and creativity. Columbus, is very fortunate to have such talent here. All of you call Brian and his team for the next floral arrangement you need. Whether it is a gift, for an event or just for your sheer pleasure!!! I believe you can never have too many flowers around yourself!

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