From Puerto Rico to Oregon and New Orleans to Highlands, NC, and back to her hometown of Birmingham, AL, Holly Carlisle of Rosegolden is repeatedly called upon to create beauty. Brides across the country seek her out, wanting to take their vows underneath her structures and archways of petals and twisting vines, to have her garlands and centerpieces of subdued yet untamed beauty adorn their reception tables and to hold her romantic, natural bouquets as they walk down the aisle.
Holly’s fine arts education in fibers and mixed media is apparent in her floral design. Each arrangement, like a work of art, beautifully displays elements of texture, color, negative space and light in a delicate dance that seems to evoke the work of masters like John Singer Sargent or Johannes Vermeer. Just as the “Girl with a Pearl Earring”’s story is told through oils, Holly’s art lies in her passion to discover and tell her clients’ stories through flowers.
And Holly, like her floral design approach, is disarming in her honesty and lack of pretense. An utterly charming artist and entrepreneur, she is the forward-thinking woman’s woman. “There are few things I love more than watching strong and soulful women about their business,” she writes in her blog, a genuine and humorous account of her jealousy-inducing travels and adventures. Holly rubs elbows with the world’s floral geniuses in workshops across the country, has had her work featured in numerous publications, including Martha Stewart Weddings, and will be profiled in a Rizzoli coffee table book on the new school of American floral designers. One peek at her portfolio or Instagram feed, and you’ll have a floral designer crush on her too. We are delighted to welcome today’s FACE of Birmingham, Holly Carlisle.
Tell us a little bit about your professional journey to becoming a floral designer. When did you realize you had a career in flowers?
I got into flowers by way of doing flowers for my postelopement party. Before that, I did makeup and hair for years. As soon as I started working with flowers, I knew I had found my thing.
What made you decide to start your own business?
My husband encouraged me a lot to take that step, and that really helped give me the confidence to start something new.
Was it scary?
It was a little scary, because at first I basically had no idea what I was doing. I was learning as I went, and that’s a little nerve-wracking.
What inspires you artistically?
I love artistic work that has a subtle narrative, no matter what medium it is. I am always curious about the backstory.
How do you approach each new project?
I do a lot of wedding work, and in that case, I begin by trying to gain a very solid grasp on who my client is so that I can try to best express them with flowers.
What is most challenging about your job?
The downtime after an exhaustive project can be tough.
What is most rewarding?
Knowing that my client is pleased and felt well treated and well represented
You arrange flowers for many weddings. Do you have any advice for brides as they choose flowers for their weddings?
Pick a florist who does the kind of work you want. Do not expect a florist to do a particular style with which they are unfamiliar.
What advice would you give someone looking to get creative with floral arrangements on their own?
I would suggest foraging around the neighborhood for mixed greenery so that you can build an interesting nest, then add your bunch or two of flowers to that. And if you’re really interested in learning more about flowers, take a one-on-one lesson with a florist you admire. Workshops are fun, too, but people learn so much more in a one-on-one setting.
Are there any floral trends you’re loving at the moment, and, alternately, any timeless aspects of floral design that you cling to?
I love yellow, so I keep telling everyone it’s trending hoping to start a trend. As far as timeless aspects of floral design that I think are always important, I would just say that I try to avoid arranging in foam whenever possible. I much prefer to work with flowers using a frog or chicken wire or a taped-off vessel, and that makes the flowers happier, too.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I like to hang out with my husband and two dogs. I’m kind of a homebody.
If you could go back 10 years, what advice would you give yourself?
I would tell myself to stop giving so much emotional power to other people.
What do you love most about Birmingham?
I like how mellow Birmingham is.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
I’m not sure yet.
What would be people be surprised to know about you?
I’m secretly pretty damn girly.
Any guilty pleasures?
What is your best piece of advice?
Always be yourself.
With the exception of faith, family and friends, what are three things that you cannot live without?
Good Lord, I want to say something profound here, but I just keep thinking of my iPhone. Other than that, I’d say a sense of humor.
Thank you, Holly! Learn more about Holly’s floral design services at Rosegolden.
And thank you to Eric and Jamie Gay of Eric & Jamie Photography for the gorgeous photos of Holly in her Avondale studio.