Maker Story: Ricci of Rust & Flourish
by Ari Takata-Vasquez
Ari interviewed Ricci, Founder and Creative Director of Rust & Flourish. You'll probably seen Ricci's beautiful dried flower bouquets and wreaths alongside her selection of plants and pots at the shop.
Tell us a little about yourself, what's your story?
I went to art school and studied for my BFA in photography, specializing in portraiture and conceptual photography. I am an artist, and am forever finding ways to execute the feelings, ideas, and the noise from within outward. Sometimes I am a photographer, sometimes I am a floral designer, or a business owner or a gardner, or a painter. But always an artist. Flowers were always prominent in my photographic practice, so flowers were somewhat of a natural transition.
What did you do before the small business hustle?
I moved to the Bay Area after college and was so broke. Like, brown rice and black beans, three retail jobs (two of which were $8 and $9 an hour) kind of broke. Through the years I moved through small business retail in management and sales (I feel lucky that I've worked with so many brick-and-mortar business, and I attribute many smart business moves I've made on my own to these experiences). I had a coworker that had started a floral design business that needed help on the weekends, and I happily obliged for the extra cash. I really fell in love with it. I saved whatever extra money I had to take classes to learn the basic elements of design, buying the cheapest flowers possible for the classes, taking flower buckets and supplies back and forth on the bus after work, to and from class. It was a real hustle that I look back on and feel so grateful for.
Afterward, I wanted to fully immerse myself into flowers, so I worked as the manager for the flower shop at the Fairmont Hotel, doing high-end floral design for Fairmont weddings, as well as managing the shop full time.
How did you start Rust & Flourish? Where did the idea come from?
After working for so many people and executing their work, I wanted to have creative freedom in my work, and starting my business was the way for me to achieve that. I believed in my product and in myself as an artist, and as a people person. So I had $600 to my name and ran with it. The first two years were fucking brutal, but I pushed and had tremendous mental and emotional support from my partner and peers to keep me going. I am entering my third year and feeling the best yet. I came up with the name in 2015; "Rust & Flourish" is inspired from the Warsan Shire poem "Residue".
Are you from the Bay Area? What about the places you've lived inspire you?
I am not, but I do love to call Oakland home. I don't think it's the places I've lived but the people I encounter that inspire me. I'm inspired by the hardworking people in the south, and every New Yorker that matches my warm directness.
What's your favorite product/design/item?
Anything I get to make with fresh soil, and my smudge sticks.
You can find goods from Ricci and Rust & Flourish at Viscera's flagship location in Downtown Oakland.