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texts & textiles

12 Questions with Fersk Floral Artistry

Mikelle Larson of Fersk Floral Artistry was the first person I met in Eau Claire, so it makes sense that she’s the first person to be featured on my site. When I came out from Portland, OR for the Eaux Claires festival in 2016, Mikelle hosted me in her amazing apartment, and was gracious enough to share all her favorite local spots in the city. If anyone deserves credit for getting me to move here, it’s Mikelle and her husband Gabe.

When Mikelle started Fersk Floral Artistry a year ago, it made me want to host a big bash just so I’d have an excuse to order her floral arrangements. It’s been awe-inspiring to watch her build a business from scratch, and she leads with such kindness, grace, and positivity. Her commitment to continued learning and growth—personally and professionally—makes her a great person to have around, and I walk away from our conversations feeling uplifted and motivated. Plus, her home studio always smells amaaaazing.

'Fersk' is the Norwegian word for 'fresh,' pulling on Mikelle's Scandinavian heritage. It also influences her design, as she's inspired by "clean, natural, and simple style" that's associated with Nordic countries. "It's hard to beat fresh," she writes. "There is nothing like getting a fresh start, thinking up a fresh new idea, taking in a breath of fresh air, or receiving a bouquet of fresh flowers."

All year, but especially in the dead of winter, I find myself gravitating toward her Instagram (@ferskfloralartistry), with its pictures of fresh cut flowers.

Mikelle is wearing a custom Emery Tee in cotton ikat—a decorative technique where the threads are dyed before weaving, so the pattern takes on a one-of-a-kind, pixelated look.

Photographs by the talented Jessica Brooke Photography.

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What role does clothing play in your life? When it comes to clothes, I am all about finding the blend between comfy and cute. As a practical person I love finding clothes that are easy to style and care for. But as a creative person, I love finding clothes that are also expressive and unique.

Favorite piece of clothing you own / owned? There's nothing like a good pair of jeans.

Style icon or inspiration for you (a person, a time period, etc.)? I can't think of a specific person or time period. I like having pieces for each season that simple and timeless, mixed with a few pieces that are more fun and quirky.

One thing you almost always wear or carry with you? Melaleuca Mountain Mint Chapstick

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If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time? I would spend time experimenting with other mediums of art again - drawing, sculpture, ceramics, photography, textiles.

One thing you really want (practical or impractical) but can’t afford? A studio space for my floral business with lots of space, natural light, and Eau Claire charm. Maybe someday! ;)

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A teacher, dentist, or hairstylist.

Best part about starting and owning your own business? I have loved the ways owning a business has helped me grow on a personal level - I have experienced more purpose, passion and confidence since starting Fersk last fall.

Biggest learning lesson or obstacle that came with starting your own business? Right now the biggest lesson I'm learning is that I'm not for everyone, and don't want to be. The more my business grows, the more I learn what my yeses and nos are.

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Words of advice to someone starting a business? Just start. I think we can get stuck in the planning, dreaming, strategizing, wondering, researching - but we really don't know what we're doing until we start doing it. Take it one step at a time, ask for help along the way, and be willing to make changes as needed, but you gotta start!

Favorite quote or words to live by? "There's power in looking silly and not caring that you do." -Amy Poehler

Question you wish people would ask you? What are you thankful for? I have so many things to be thankful for, but they aren't always at the front of my mind. I love people who help me remember those things.

Find Mikelle and Fersk Floral Artistry online at http://ferskfloralartistry.com/.

Founder & Maker Elizabeth de Cleyre: The Non-Resume Version

I learned how to sew from my mother, who learned to sew from her mother. A nurse by training, my mother switched careers to quilt, work in a fabric shop, and teach sewing. When I was ten, she often brought me to the fabric store, and while she worked, I pored over pattern books and contemplated which elaborate buttons I’d like to buy. Sometimes she let me cut fabric, reshelve and straighten bolts, or run the register. She also encouraged me to roam around downtown Portsmouth by myself, so I popped into local shops and returned to the store to interrupt her classes and ask for money. We laugh about it now—about the audacity of a ten-year-old child working in a fabric store, roaming around unaccompanied, and spending beyond her means—but the experience instilled a certain work ethic, an understanding of fabric and garment construction, and a sense of freedom that remain with me today (that, and my expensive taste).

At home, my mother and I constructed quilts together, and I loved pinning together bits of printed cottons and pressing the finished seams with an iron. Apparently I insisted on only wearing dresses as a child, some of which my mother made for me, and when I graduated into pants, she sewed one-of-a-kind, elastic-waist ones in wild prints. I wore a school uniform for nine years, which consisted of white button downs with Peter Pan collars, and plaid skirts or jumpers. “Gym day” consisted of a white polo tee and maroon sweatpants. This gave me insight into the upsides and downsides of uniforms; how they allow you to focus on something other than what you're wearing, but can also severely limit your sense of expression. The goal of the uniform was to make it seem as though we were all equal, but there were subtle and insidious ways people asserted their wealth (or lack of it) and reinforced gender stereotypes. Like how girls were given the opportunity to wear pants, but the ones who chose to do so were seen as “weird.” From an early age, I was hyper-attuned to the ways clothing could shape or subvert identities.

When I was twelve, my parents divorced, and splitting my time between two houses and two closets lead me to cultivate a wardrobe that easily traveled. In my early twenties, I lived in California, Virginia, Maine and New Hampshire, and taught English and traveled extensively in India, Thailand, and Tibet. In each place, I took into account both practical matters (like social customs, jobs, and the weather) and personal preferences to craft wardrobes that best reflected my life at the time. Moving and traveling allowed me to create “capsule wardrobes” well before the term became popular on style blogs.

In high school, I took formal lessons in garment construction and quilting, and often went vintage shopping and altered items to fit me. After graduating with an MFA in creative writing in 2015, I returned to sewing as an alternative creative output to writing. Now, making my own clothes has taught me the importance of supporting small designers who practice ethical manufacturing techniques. When it takes you hours to make a pair of pants that don't fit, you come to appreciate the care and skill that goes into a pair of American-made jeans with denim from a now-defunct American mill.

That said, I recognize that the world of slow fashion can seem daunting to those who are new to it; there's so much information out there, and some of it can be unnecessarily self-righteous, dogmatic, or preachy. I aim to empower clients to learn more about garment construction and manufacturing so that we can all make informed decisions on how to integrate well-made items into our wardrobes, and make the most of what we already own.