Flower to the People

In the mid-20th century, British florist, author and educator Constance Spry taught generations of homemakers how to decorate their homes in ways that were unconventional, yet highly accessible.

Jun 16, 2015 at 3:01 pm
click to enlarge Patricia Duque Campos of Una Floral
Patricia Duque Campos of Una Floral

In the mid-20th century, British florist, author and educator Constance Spry taught generations of homemakers how to decorate their homes in ways that were unconventional, yet highly accessible. Spry encouraged them to arrange flowers, greenery and even — gasp — weeds from their yards in unconventional containers they had around the house, such as baking trays and tureen lids. She published more than a dozen books, taught classes and, as local florist Patricia Duque Campos says, really brought flower design to the people.

That is part of what Campos hopes to do with her own recent floral venture, Una Floral, a business only on the cusp of its one-year anniversary but witnessing an overwhelming interest from local brides, attracted to Campos’ looser, more informal arrangements, and creative-types interested in learning how to do the craft themselves.

Campos graduated with a B.A./B.F.A. in comparative literature and graphic design from the University of Michigan. She also dabbled in photography and painting, so she has always been involved in creative endeavors, but she didn’t take her first floral arranging class until a few years ago. Though her aunt is a well-known wedding florist in Colombia, until recently, Campos says that composing floral designs never really spoke to her.   

Campos worked in Boston for seven years doing graphic and Web design after college, ending up in book design at Beacon Press before she moved to Cincinnati with her husband Isaac for his first post-doctoral job as Assistant Professor of Latin American History at the University of Cincinnati in 2006.

Since then, Campos had been doing mostly freelance design work — she had two kids in the intervening years and the family travels a lot, staying in other cities for three- to four-month stretches while Isaac serves fellowships and academic residencies for his requisite scholarly research and publications.

It was on one such extended stay in Mexico City that Campos, surrounded by fresh flower vendors on every corner, decided to see just what she could do with floral arranging.

She’d been following the work of certain florists via blogs and Instagram, but talked herself out of exploring arranging for a few months. “I just thought that wasn’t what I do,” Campos says.

But she enrolled in an online course and really surprised herself at how much she liked it, and how much her design background helped in the creative process.

“I wasn’t expecting it, but it is just composing and color,” she says. “But it surprised me.”

“So I was like, ‘OK, I wanna try to do something with this.’ I didn’t know what,” she adds. “I think it sort of runs in the family.”   

While they were still in Mexico, Campos read an online article about local entrepreneur Megan Strasser’s plant shop, Fern Studio in North College Hill, and felt an immediate connection to the business owner’s minimalist and textural West Coast-style aesthetic. “I just saw it and really liked her style,” Campos says. So she reached out to Strasser with an informal email, and Strasser suggested Campos sell her flowers as a complement to what she was already doing on the plant end of her business.

The two had never met before, but Campos credits Strasser with motivating her and bolstering her confidence enough to take a chance at floral arranging professionally.

Once the family returned to the U.S. last spring, Campos began doing pop-up shops with Strasser at events like The City Flea, with Fern handling the greenery side of things and Campos working as Una Floral doing flowers.

Campos’ arrangements of flowers she buys from local farmers are composed in looser, less-formal displays, often playing off of textures and muted colors, in a more progressive style that only a few other florists in town (Nikki Shenk from Linger Flowers is one such example) are really doing these days. She’ll blend local nigella, passion vine and silvery, lace-like dusty miller with delicate local sweet peas, bright ranunculus and bupleurum; the more variety, the better, she says.

Perhaps the biggest reason why Campos’ work has been received so well is because she actively engages in social media, and makes the work look so effortless — she presents her arrangements in ways that seem thoughtful but casual, even in photographing them.

Employing unusual plants, small containers and natural fibers to play up texture and color, Campos, like Spry, makes floral arranging  — something she calls a “little frivolous” — into a truly inspiring creative endeavor.

For more info on UNA FLORAL, visit unafloral.com.