June 10, 2011

The first time we heard of Lynn from Pollen, one of our brides exclaimed, “You have to meet my florist, Lynn!” She went on to brag about how friendly she was, how amazing her business was, and how incredibly cool her eco-friendly practices were. It was no surprise to us that Lynn lived up to the hype the first time we worked with her. Countless Cage and Aquarium bride and grooms have used Pollen since then. Here are a few photos we’ve captured of her work from Christina & Thomas’ 2010 wedding and Andrew & Angela’s recent wedding along with a little history about Lynn and her business.

Tell us about your background in the floral business and how you got involved in the industry. I started working at a flower shop when I was studying horticulture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and fell in love with designing. After graduation, I stayed with the same shop and continued to learn about the art and the business of floristry.

Cut flowers fascinated me, but so did plants in their native environment. I was particularly interested in how humans could reverse decades of ecological devastation and bring harmony back to the environment. This lead me to study Restoration Ecology. I was lucky that during these studies, I was able to keep one hand in floristry by working as a teaching assistant for the university’s floral design classes.

I spent three years at a Pennsylvania non-profit working on habitat restoration, and then felt the call back to Chicago and to floral design. A high-end downtown flower shop hired me as first a designer, then as store manager.

As I worked at the store, I started nurturing a vision of the venture I would like to create – a wedding/custom floral business that enabled couples to have a beautiful ceremony while honoring their commitment to environmental sustainability. This became Pollen, launched in the summer of 2009.

What inspires your creations? For any given event, a constellation of factors inspire me. Talking with my clients, I gain a feel for their vision of their wedding. Not only chosen colors, but also the feel of the event, whether it be formal or relatively informal, understated or bold, earthy or sophisticated.

Sometimes clients have personal interests that I can incorporate into my designs. For example, I had a few weddings last year in which the couples shared a love of cooking, so I mixed herbs, fruit, and vegetables in with their wedding flowers. Some clients come and are not sure exactly what they want, and I work with them to help them create a vision of their wedding.

Over the years, I have developed a bit of an internal, mental encyclopedia of flower color, texture and seasonality. Sometimes I know just what will work. Other times, I will visit local flower growers to gain inspiration from the flowers I see.

I love the colors and textures offered by flowers. I especially love combining them in unexpected ways. Often, mixing flowers creates synergy. The boldness of texture in one might highlight the delicacy of another, creating an arrangement that is even more beautiful than the sum of its parts. Sometimes the arrangements are serendipity. More often I find that I can successfully mix two or three types of flowers that I imagined might be perfect together.

Lately, I am moving toward a more naturalistic style.  I am using flowers in a loose yet lush style, rather than a contrived, overly stylized look.  The gardeny look of locally grown flowers lends itself to this more organic style quite naturally.

In what ways do you give back to the community? Having worked for a non-profit organization where I relied on the involvement of volunteers to accomplish the goals of the organization, I know first-hand how valuable community engagement is.

When I first moved back to Chicago, I became a docent for the Chicago Architecture Foundation. After months of intensive training, I lead architectural walking tours through downtown Chicago. I loved introducing visitors – and some Chicago natives – to the beautiful built environment of our city. It was so gratifying to see people’s faces light up as they began to see something new in the world they had taken for granted. As you might imagine, since starting Pollen, my weekends are pretty full, and I haven’t been able to lead as many tours as I have in the past.

I am also a member of the Society for Urban Nature (SUN). SUN is the auxiliary board of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and we raise awareness and funds to help the Lincoln Park museum educate visitors about local wildlife, ecology and the importance of sustainability. This year, our fundraising efforts will support the museum’s TEENS program, which provides science-related experience and job skills to its high school age participants.

Professionally, I’m working through the Chicago Green Wedding Alliance to bring together the local community of green wedding vendors. As a co-founder of the Alliance, it’s been very exciting to see the group develop. We recently held our first workshop, where we educated wedding planners about ways to create greener weddings.

What makes Pollen a “green” company? Pollen’s core value is respect.  Respect for the people who make Pollen possible: our clients, our employees, our fellow vendors, and our suppliers. Respect for the business itself.  And respect for nature.

We work with locally-grown flowers as much as possible, which reduces the carbon footprint of the product while supporting area farmers. Of course, being in the Midwest, we need to look to warmer climates for flowers for much of the year. In that case, we look for flowers grown by third-party certified sustainable growers, who grow their product in a way that is both environmentally and socially responsible.

In addition to our process for sourcing sustainable product, we are very mindful of waste in our operations. We reuse paper and packaging materials, and find creative re-uses for other items that come into our floral studio. If we have to use new paper or packaging, we choose post-consumer recycled materials. Floral waste such as leaves and green stems goes into our composter. And we avoid floral foam, a material widely used in the industry that is pretty noxious – a non-biodegradable, petroleum product that contains formaldehyde.


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