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Q&A: Alice Lam

What was it like leaving your 9-5 in fashion? What advice do you have for anyone thinking of starting off a new venture?
It was a pretty scary move and one that was highly motivated by the desire to escape. I was SO burnt out from my 9-5, working 10+ hours daily since the start of the pandemic. In the last 3 months of my full-time job, I was making arrangements for individual orders here and there, which slowly gained bits of exposure and clientele. It gave me a sense of hope and early trajectory into this potentially becoming a thing I could fall on in the interim until I figured out what was next– and now here I am! My experience freelancing for years was also a huge advantage in preparing me–everything from handling taxes, health insurance, and the general hustle of working for yourself again. With that said, I think the key things to making that move is research (preparing for that new field), making sure you have some savings to cover the first few months while you figure out how to stand on your own two feet, staying positive and open-minded, and truthfully, just being completely obsessed with your new venture.

Is there a relationship between fashion and florals? Do you find any past experience in fashion to be transferable to this trade? 
Totally! I think all creative fields sort of swim back and forth in similar processes of designing and creating. Everything from the conceptual process to creating deck proposals to designing with color and layering. I still sketch very often as well, only now it's drawings of spatial renderings with floral installations, which has been a cool segway! 

What would you say is your signature when it comes to floral arrangements? How did you develop, nurture and polish your aesthetic?

I'm not sure I have a signature yet per se–I feel it's such a WIP and I am continuing to develop that, but many clients seem to be drawn to my ikebana-inspired work and my naturalistic style/movement–lots of thoughtful consideration put into every design decision! Always practicing, observing, paying attention to natural details and movements of each stem/branch, and learning to pull back when necessary; balance is key. Clients have also expressed that they appreciate my small (boutique) business philosophy of creating/designing for individuals, which is a tricky offer to uphold as it may not be the most lucrative (lol–hence, most larger florists either not offering custom designs or having to upcharge in order to make it possible), but it's been my design philosophy since inception. It forms a special connection between the gifter/customer, the flowers, the recipient, and myself/the process, and truthfully, the joy it brings to everyone involved is a huge reason why diving into A.L. BASA just felt right. 

Oh! I'm also starting to formally learn Ikebana, so that'll definitely start to play an even bigger role than it already has.

Is there a specific material or environment that is integral to your work? 

As silly as it may sound, rocks are such a fundamental material in my work. It's not in every piece of my work, but it's such a useful and important mechanic in my arrangements. I to add weight balance to a floral-heavy arrangement and often times, to hold kenzans (flower frogs) in place while hiding them to add to a more nature-scape piece. Rocks are a huge element in zen garden designs as well and something I incorporated heavily in my live plant installation at Stroll Garden this past Spring.

How does floral arrangement soothe you? How does candle making soothe you? Is one more soothing over the other?

I'd say they're both equally soothing. Both processes require patience as they take time to build, essentially by layering. They're both very detail-oriented processes that allow me to focus and in turn is meditative. 

As we know, bees are a very important part of our food supply and environment. Your process in sourcing the beeswax for your candles is so thoughtful. How important is this to your manufacturing process? How did you figure this out?

It's the most important part, since it's the whole ingredient of my candles! Beeswax is such an old, traditional raw material continually used for centuries for a reason, and with its natural health benefits, I figured why not put in the extra effort to source from a local bee farm. My beeswax is from a family-owned bee farm 45 minutes away in Rialto, and frankly, it was so easy to source locally (there are bee farms everywhere), and a no-brainer to support small and family-owned.

Any tips for creators starting off with a budget but want to be sustainable?

Do what you can yourself, invest into materials you can continually reuse, and always consider shopping second-hand/vintage!

You've made a couple of tablescapes for brand dinner events. Any tips on how to set a dinner table and make it beautiful?

I always consider the brand/the people first--who are they, what's their vibe? What type of menu is it–family style, plated, buffet? That helps determine the fullness of the tablescape. I don't gravitate toward an overly full tablescape because as visually beautiful as an elaborate editorial-style table setting could be, the focus of these events to never forget is always dining and conversing. Tablescape is complementary to both and should add to the event, not takeover, in my most honest opinion! Build and layer, and when it starts to feel overcrowded, minimally pull back where need be. Set movement in the table through focal points, like color moments, focal flower moments, dramatic foliage moments, shapes and lines, whatever it may be to draw the eye up and down, while still being able to digest (quite literally) the whole setting. In many ways, I approach everything in design with an Ikebana way of thinking.

What's the best piece of advice you've been given? Continue to look forward and move forward with time. I look back to memories to learn from them, not to revive them-- I apply this to my work because nothing can truly be replicated and everything has potential for growth!

name something you love, and why. 
I love the natural smell behind my dog Murphy's ears :'))))) 

name something you don't love, and why.
large clusters of porous patterns like holes, dots, insects.... I have trypophobia :((((((

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