Finding your voice as a creative is as much about developing a style as it is about finding yourself. Tiffany Meriwether from The Loved Co. shares how she managed to express her creativity throughout all the seasons of her life.
Words and Photography by Meiwen See
When Tiffany Meriwether started a career as a florist, she had no formal training but plenty of creativity. Since founding The Loved Co., Tiffany has turned an interest in flowers into a full-fledged art, using mesmerising arrangements to tell stories of human connection, love, beauty and hope. Four years later, the self-taught creator has learned a thing or two about how to find your voice and sustain it.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do, and what is The Loved Co about?
I’m Tiffany Michelle Meriwether, a second-generation Chinese American floral designer and creative based in Gardena, CA. I’m a self-taught florist, and my journey began out of a desire to create something with my hands and now I can’t imagine my life without flowers. Four years ago, I took the leap of faith to create The Loved Co. with the heart to love and serve others through flowers, and through it have had the opportunity to create for and with so many incredible people, many of whom have become friends.
We specialize in creating art-inspired, textural arrangements with breath, movement and emotion and our designs aim to honour and reflect the stories of those we are creating for and are inspired by the beauty we see in nature. I am grateful to be able to pursue my creative passion with the love and support of my husband, who has been there every step of the way.
“Who we are is deeply connected to the work we create and much of finding your own voice is about finding yourself.”
How did you find your voice when you were first starting out? How do you sustain it now?
In the beginning, I definitely started by pulling inspiration from other florists that I admired, observing the shape of their arrangements and the ingredients they used, but as I grew and sought to find my own expression through flowers, I realized that the only way I was going to find it was by looking inward. Early on, I made a practice of creating for myself, picking out whatever flowers drew my attention at the market, challenging myself to explore new colour combinations and ingredients and designing without expectation or an end goal or shape in mind. This gave me the freedom to simply create from my heart, and through that process, my own creative voice was able to emerge.
Who we are is deeply connected to the work we create and much of finding your own voice is about finding yourself. Letting go of what we think our work should be and creating instead from a place of loving yourself and confidence in who you are. It is from that space that I think we can express ourselves in a more authentic, and genuine way. But we are ever-changing and evolving, so as I have changed, so has my art and it continues to evolve as I get to know myself better, as well as become more intentional about the emotions and stories I want to tell. The practice of creating for myself without expectation (or Outcome Neutral Design as defined by Studio Mondine) is something that I come back to often to both sustain and refine my voice and express my creativity in different seasons of my life.
Finding my own voice has been such an integral part of my floral journey and is always something I encourage newer florists to invest time in when starting out. I believe that we each have a valuable and unique voice to share and find so much joy in seeing other creatives discover their own. But it takes time, patience and lots of grace. I definitely went through seasons of feeling lost and discouraged as I struggled to find my place in the flower industry, wrestling with feelings of comparison and inadequacy. If you’re feeling that now, you’re not alone. Yet there were and are people and other florists in the industry who affirmed me, encouraged me, and trusted me to create for them and it is those moments of affirmation that gave me the courage and confidence to share my voice.
I wrote the below poem during a time when I was feeling unsure of my voice and it continues to be an encouragement to me when I feel lost. I hope it can be to you as well.
find what emerges / in the quiet / in the stillness
in the place where the voices of doubt start to fade /
where comparison and worry lose its power / where all that remains is you
and your art / and the joy of creating
create with freedom knowing / you are just where you need to be /
you are still growing, learning, evolving / you are enough
not because of what other people say / but because only you can be you /
and what you create is valuable / and who you are is loved
“The need to find and create beauty, to tell stories of beauty in and amidst it all, became increasingly more important to me.”
Where do you go for design inspiration, and what do you do when you’re in a creative block?
As a florist, nature is always the first place I go to, but I also find a lot of inspiration from fashion and interior design, or any other art form, really! Especially now with so much time spent at home, I have found that a simple walk outside can be a good way to find inspiration and take a break from staring at a screen! My husband and I love visiting botanical gardens for colour and texture inspiration (our favourite is LA Arboretum for their impeccable bench placement), and it’s always great to be inspired by the way plants and florals look and move in their natural form.
When I’m in a creative block, oftentimes what keeps me there is myself. I spend way too much time thinking about what I could make (hello, indecision) or looking at what others are creating (hello, comparison) that I end up feeling overwhelmed or just discouraged. So what has helped me most is doing creative playdates and connecting with other like-minded creatives who share the same heart and speak the same language as me when it comes to being an artist. What that has looked like is a 2-hour phone call sharing what we’re wrestling with or dreaming up a collaborative project just for fun. It is in those moments of vulnerability that I have been encouraged to move forward with an idea or found comfort in just knowing I am not alone.
“Part of my creative voice includes the unique story I have as a Chinese American woman married to an African American man.”
Florists have a unique way of seeing not only colour and texture, but shape and movement as well in a 3D environment. How has being a florist shaped your perception of your everyday surroundings?
I’ve never really reflected on this, but the first thing that came to mind was an experience I had while visiting South Africa with my husband many years ago. We were passing by an entire field of dry brush and I remember thinking how beautiful the grasses looked, taking note of the various shades of tan and yellow and the subtle hints of green found in each blade of grass, how the colours interacted to create so much texture, depth and movement. A scene so simple and common for an African landscape, yet I found so much beauty in it. I can’t say I always engage my surroundings this way, but I do find I pay more attention to the varying textures and interactions of colours in the things around me, or the way that nature interacts with the structures around it. Being a florist has definitely enhanced my experience and appreciation of nature, and shown me that there truly is so much beauty all around us, even in the most mundane and seemingly insignificant moments.
It’s been a crazy year – how has 2020 influenced your perspective on being an artist and a creator?
I have always felt that as creatives and artists we have an important role to play in both telling stories and creating more beauty in this world. Set against the backdrop of what has been a year of loss, grief, racial injustice, uncertainty, the list goes on, the need to find and create beauty, to tell stories of beauty in and amidst it all, became increasingly more important to me. This year in particular brought to the forefront the realities of racial injustice in this country and the ways that certain narratives and stories have been silenced. It also revealed the ways I have silenced my own story, or have stayed silent, just to be accepted.
I have been in a season of more fully embracing my identity as a Chinese American, and reflecting on the influence that my Asian American identity has on my art. 2020 has helped me recognize the value and importance of my own story and that part of my creative voice includes the unique story I have as a Chinese American woman married to an African American man, both the one we are creating together and the stories we carry on our own. It has given me the courage to speak up in times where I might have stayed silent, and has reminded me of the influence and power that we as artists have as storytellers when we speak up together. Now more than ever, I want to make sure I am doing what I can to tell my own story and advocate for the stories that have been silenced for too long. If we are not telling our own stories in the work we create, who else is going to?
What’s next? What’s a project you would love to work on, or a new role you want to try out?
I have always wanted The Loved Co. to serve and love people beyond the wedding industry and more than anything this year has inspired me to use my art to tell stories, including my own, and more specifically to elevate and highlight those of the Asian American experience. I’m still in the process of figuring out what that looks like, but continuing to collaborate with other Asian American artists is definitely helping me discover more of what I hope to create.