Discovering a new creative outlet
LAURA CHURCHILL DUKE FOR SALTWIRE NETWORK
Ashley Foster’s goal was always to have a flexible work arrangement with the opportunity to create on her own terms. A graphic designer by trade, Foster worked as a selfemployed stationery designer for eight years, through a business she started while on maternity leave with her oldest son. “I wanted the flexibility to work when I wanted and be there for my kids while they were young,” says the Kentville woman. After years of creating wedding invitations for others, Foster realized she wanted to create for herself and on her own terms. That’s when she took a year off from her business and discovered a new creative outlet: a love for flower pressing and creating botanical art. “I found some old, pressed flowers from when my mom and I used to press years ago and loved how they felt like paper,” says Foster. “I took them and started playing with them digitally and that’s when it all started.” Now, Foster focuses on creating products using pressed and preserved flowers and foliage foraged from the wild or from flower farms in the Annapolis Valley. She says she does grow a few flowers in her own garden to use but likes to leave the growing part to the professionals. Foster uses a number of techniques to press the flowers, but mostly uses traditional wood presses. They sit in the presses for three to four weeks, but she checks them once a week to ensure they are pressing nicely and not holding moisture that creates mould. The drying stage can be the most difficult part of the business, says Foster. It’s challenging when the flowers don’t dry as she hoped, and they hold moisture and get mouldy or turn brown and she can’t use them. Once they are dry, they come out. That’s when the magic happens, she says. From there, Foster makes arrangements with the pressed flowers. Her artwork is professionally photographed to create stationery designs and replications that look like the real thing. “Seek & Bloom focuses on the slow art of flower pressing while incorporating the modern approach of graphic arts to create designs that feel organic and elegant,” says Foster. Foster is completely selftaught. There was a lot of trial and error in the first year, and says she is still learning what works and what doesn’t for different flower types. It helps, however, that Foster has an extensive background in the floral industry. She worked in marketing in floral wholesale for five years and, as part of that, spent a lot of time getting to know different flower types and how to do basic floral design. “I never thought I would end up in the floral industry but here I am, and I love that I’m creating with flowers,” says Foster. One popular part of Foster’s business is working with bridal bouquets. Following a wedding, she takes the bouquets, disassembles them and presses the flowers into a piece of artwork. This way, the bride can keep her wedding bouquet as a forever piece of artwork for the couple’s home, explains Foster. For custom bouquet work, Foster says the service must be booked in advance as she has limited available space to take on projects during the busy season. Of all the things she creates, Foster says these wedding bouquets are the most popular. She does, however, have a full line of stationery and gifts with her floral artwork that she sells on Etsy and to retail shops. There is a list of shops that carry her art on her website: seekandbloom.ca. Foster’s original artwork can be seen for sale on Instagram. Prints of her art are sold through her Etsy shop. When not busy pressing flowers or creating art, Foster is busy filling wholesale requests, printing and packaging cards for local retailers to sell. But when she’s not working on her Seek & Bloom business, Foster sells activewear and teaches spin classes at the local gym. “I love working out,” she says. “It helps me clear my head and is my self-care time.” Otherwise, she is spending time at the lake with her boys. She can often be found fishing, a newfound hobby, she says they recently discovered together as a family.