We sat down recently with Rachel Bowes, the founder of Finch and Thistle, a floral and event design company in Seattle. Rachel gave us the scoop on her career, her favorite pastimes, and her daily rituals.
How do you describe your work?
I am a floral and event designer based in Seattle; I work with high-end clients on weddings and nonprofit and social events in Washington and occasionally across the U.S.
What was your journey to get to this point in your career and life? Did you always want to do this, or did you follow a more meandering path?
I received my bachelor’s degree in French literature. After a stint working in online French education programs, I was working for an educational company training teachers in underprivileged schools to teach reading. I knew I wanted to do something creative in the design field. I didn’t want to go back to school to earn a second bachelor’s degree in graphic or interior design, so the event world seemed like a good compromise. I started out working for a wedding planner and then in-house at a convention center. From there, I worked in the nonprofit event world and started taking on all of the floral and event design myself in addition to the event management aspect of the job. I started my own floral and event design company, Finch and Thistle Event Design, in 2008 and went full-time in 2009.
How would you describe your work environment? Do you use your surroundings to stay inspired? If so, what have you done specifically to create the ideal work space?
I work from my home office and studio space. I redecorated my office last year in a beautiful elephant grey with mid-century furniture, a plush rug, and gold accents. My desk is situated in front of French doors so I can look out over my garden—it looks so peaceful and pretty. My studio is primarily functional, but the shelves are arranged to show off our collection of floral containers and props.
What is the most unexpected thing that happened to you in business?
The most unexpected thing has been making so many friends within the industry and finding great people to bounce ideas off of and work with—even though technically we may be each other’s direct competition. I have been so happy to find a collaborative community in the floral and event world in Seattle.
Walk us through your typical daily ritual.
I wake up around 7 a.m. and usually check my email in bed and catch up on social media while having a cup of tea. I can’t do much in the morning without a cup of tea first! I spend the rest of the morning responding to emails or working on my computer, and then I usually take a break in the middle of the day to run errands, go to a barre class, work in the garden, attend a lunch meeting, or visit with friends. I always have my phone on me but try not to respond to emails until I am back in my office mid-afternoon. When my husband comes home, we’ll take the dogs for a walk, and I’ll make us dinner. If I have a wedding or event that week, then on Wednesday I’ll go to the floral wholesale market first thing in the morning and load up my thirty-year-old Chevy Suburban with flowers. I’m not the best at getting to the market when it opens, so I always make sure to pre-order my product. I come home, unload, and get all the flowers unwrapped and into buckets to hydrate. Then I’ll design in the studio on Wednesday afternoon, Thursday, and Friday and do event setup on Saturdays.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work for fun or relaxation?
I am pretty social and have a group of close girlfriends that I try to see as much as possible for coffee, lunch, a walk, or some shopping or thrifting. My husband and I love to spend time in our garden—we’re constantly moving things around and redesigning it summer after summer. I go to a barre class once or twice a week and walk my dogs most days in the park or on the beach near my house. I make jewelry to keep and give as gifts. I love to read—I managed to read seven books in a week on our recent trip to Mexico! I also enjoy travelling and planning future trips. And we have ten-month-old niece and nephew (twins!) that we love hanging out with.
Tell us about your proudest moment.
I have two: starting and running a successful business and getting married to the love of my life.
What’s something you’d like to learn?
I’m always learning new ways to run my business, new techniques for floral work, and new systems and processes for running an event.
What are you looking forward to right now?
I’m looking forward to Seattle’s beautiful summer. Over the last few years, I’ve started taking on fewer high-budget events so that I can actually enjoy a few weekends off here and there. A summer in Seattle is like a summer nowhere else.
What advice would you give to your twenty-five-year-old self?
When I graduated high school, my parents gave me a card telling me to take the road less traveled and follow my heart. I’ve always made my own path and I’ve found that when you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, things run smoothly (more or less) and sort of fall into place. I would tell myself to trust my heart and make decisions based on what feels right for my family, even if those aren’t necessarily the easiest solutions or what other people might do.