Taking Cues from Nature: Sarah Winward

 

Sarah Winward paints an idyllic picture of her childhood home complete with a creek, expansive mountains and wildflowers peppering the hillside in her backyard. As an internationally-renowned wedding florist and floral teacher, Sarah credits her wild, organic designs to time spent outdoors foraging and exploring as a child. Although her work takes her around the globe, she continues to draw inspiration from her home in Salt Lake City, Utah where she lives, works, and explores with her husband and two children.

Sarah’s journey to wedding florist didn’t begin with the intention of working in the wedding or floral industry. During high school, she worked in a few flower shops providing customer service. The floral shops were enjoyable environments and provided a foundation for flower arranging.

All photographs by D'Arcy Benincosa

All photographs by D'Arcy Benincosa

 
 
Flowers have always been a part of my life. I grew up in Salt Lake City next to the mountains and spent a lot of time outside while growing up. I’ve always loved nature in general.
Sarah Winward for Cottage Hill

Sarah’s journey to wedding florist didn’t begin with the intention of working in the wedding or floral industry. During high school, she worked in a few flower shops providing customer service. The floral shops were enjoyable environments and provided a foundation for flower arranging.

When she entered college she studied the Middle East, but she found herself quickly drawn back into the world of flowers.

Buckets of flowers from Sarah Winward's studio, for Cottage Hill
A bucket of roses in Sarah Winward's studio, for Cottage Hill
Wedding floral designer Sarah Winward, for Cottage Hill

In her spare time, she helped friends create flower arrangements for their weddings merely as an opportunity to help friends with small wedding budgets. With her previous work in flower shops, her longstanding connection to nature, and the help of Google, she began designing floral arrangements. Even as she helped more and more friends, she still never considered wedding florist as a career choice—just a fun hobby to pass the time.

Flowers by Sarah Winward for Cottage Hill

As her work with flowers began to grow, she decided to create a website. She still had no intention of using the site to launch a career in floral arranging. It was a place to document the creative designs she was producing with flowers.

Flowers arrangement by Sarah Winward, featured in Cottage Hill

Sarah delved back into her coursework and traveled to the Middle East for a few months to complete her degree. She returned home at the start of wedding season with numerous requests to arrange flowers. The website she created as a gallery of her work was now generating a steady stream of clients.

It’s funny, I feel like if you would have asked me as a kid I would have told you that I loved flowers, but I didn’t really know what a florist was and arranged flowers weren’t really a part of my life growing up. I never really thought about it going into school or going into adulthood, but it just kind of found me.

After that, Sarah dove head first into floral design. With no direct training or education, Sarah taught herself every aspect of the job, from ordering flowers and creating bouquets to creating excel spreadsheets and working with ideal clients.

She worked locally for a few years then started taking clients for destination weddings. Sarah and her husband David loved traveling prior to her work in floral design, so weaving travel into her floral services was a natural fit. She now works almost exclusively designing for destination weddings.

Traveling for work also creates that extra challenge, the ability to push boundaries and draw inspiration from new landscapes which is representative in her work. Sarah’s designs are rich in movement, textures, and color transitions which are reflective of their natural environments.

“I really love working to that space and making sure my flowers compliment or feel like an extension of it,” Sarah said. “I think it feels appropriate to me more than anything,” Sarah said. “It’s so important to me…I don’t want to put really modern looking flowers on the table that’s on the mountainside. You want everything to feel natural so that’s obviously the best resource to tap into—what’s outside currently.”
 

Back in 2010 when Sarah began her work as a wedding florist, the trend for loose, nature-inspired arrangements hadn’t arrived. From the beginning, she created arrangements that preserved the natural movement of each stem. “My style has definitely evolved,” Sarah said. “Even though when I started, my work was a little more conservative shape-wise; I was always using lots of different textures or paying close attention to color transitions.”

Since then she has honed her craft and developed a signature style that’s reflective of her intuitive sense of self and the landscapes around her, not just a beautiful trend found in the realm of social media.

In an industry saturated with Pinterest-worthy images, the pressure to stay relevant and ahead of the competition can be daunting. But what drives Sarah’s work isn’t to stay current with the latest trends—it’s producing work that fulfills her personally. This simple declaration is reflected in the careful precision of each blossom and branch placed within a design resulting in her signature garden-like arrangements.

“I try to challenge myself to love everything that I do and make everything different and try new things,” Sarah said. “It’s so easy to produce the same thing over and over again or mimic, but that to me is boring. It’s fun for me to challenge myself.”

Sarah now shares her passion for flowers and design through teaching. She collaborated on an online course called If I Made, featuring an in-depth exploration of her floral philosophy, design, and execution. Packed with 400+ pages of visual content and text, more than 3 hours of video, 2 case studies, and a Q + A with Sarah, floral design students have the opportunity to explore their own passion for flowers.

Whether teaching, designing for a new client or exploring the mountains just outside her backyard, Sarah is always listening and immersing herself in her surroundings. It’s this intuition with Mother Nature that feeds her creativity and design work.

I’m really emotional and attached to my work so I challenge myself at the very beginning to make every wedding something different, something special. I really do start with a flower. I build one piece at a time, usually starting from something like a flower or something that’s in the environment that my flowers will end up in. That way it’s always going to be original.

Full Image Gallery

Full Story Credits: All photographs by D’Arcy Benincosa Featuring Floral Designs and Home of Sarah Winward Written by Ainsley Warczak as seen in The Grace Issue


 

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