Meet Leah Gibson - Founder of Homebody Floral
Leah Gibson is an Ottawa based florist and founder of Homebody Floral. Leah prioritizes locally grown and sustainable materials in the unique florals she brings into homes, events, and gatherings each year. A strong connection to nature and enthusiasm for landscapes translates into Leah’s stunning, ethereal arrangements. After learning about Homebody, we were fascinated to discover the parallels between our two crafts. Inspiration from nature, working seasonally, prioritizing sustainability, and using texture, tones, and composition to translate into tangible products. Excited to learn more, we caught up with Leah to talk about her journey with Homebody, day-to-day lifestyle, the sustainable floral business and how her draw to fashion is an extension of her creative process.
You mentioned “stumbling into floral design”. Can you tell us more about how it all stated?
Absolutely! My journey in floral design began in 2015 – I was fresh out of my Philosophy undergrad and wanted to take some time to work and save up money to attend teacher’s college. I found a job serving coffee at a local flower shop, and very quickly stumbled over to the design side of things. I was very lucky to be the only full-time employee, so the owner was able to dedicate a lot of time to teaching me the ropes – within a few short months she was off to Germany while I was left to hold down the fort - coffee, weddings, funerals, and all. This was also a very transitional time for me and my anxiety was at its peak - working with fresh flowers helped calm and ground me. Needless to say I never ended up going to teacher’s college as I accidentally found my passion instead… I still get to live out my teaching dreams through holding floral workshops though!
How did sustainability become such a big part of Homebody’s business model; did you have an “aha moment” that led you down the path to starting a sustainable floral business?
Sustainability has always been important to me but it really became pertinent during the pandemic. While I always placed an emphasis on locally grown products, I was still working through the winter and importing a lot of flowers. Cue the pandemic, where I think a lot of folks were forced to take a look at their philosophy and fine-tune things both personally and business wise. A lot of pivoting was made, and I realized that by working with flowers year-round I was forcing something quite unnatural. Where I am in Canada, our growing season runs May-October - so I now surrender to the seasons and use entirely Ottawa-area farmed blooms or stems from my own garden.
Why is it so important to work with florals that are available in season?
So many reasons.
Quality: working with florals that are in season is like eating a freshly picked tomato at the height of summer - sure, you can get tomatoes year-round - but nothing beats the juicy freshness of in-season produce. Flowers are the same, and when they haven't already made the tireless flight across the globe, they hold much more longevity and beauty.
Community: the sense of community fostered by supporting local agriculture and making friends who grow flowers is priceless. Along with the significantly smaller environmental footprint, the lack of chemicals/pesticides, the fair treatment of employees - it’s a no-brainer.
Seasonality: taking cues from the natural world and working with what is growing when it’s available, and resting when it takes its deep winter sleep.
For those of us wanting to make more informed decisions when purchasing florals, what are some key points that should be considered?
Ask. Ask the same questions you would when investing in clothing, groceries, coffee, and flowers. Create the demand and the supply will reflect accordingly. For me I want to invest in clothing that was made sustainably, I want to know when I buy coffee beans that there was fair treatment of the harvesters - you name it - if it interests you and you’re passionate about it, just ask!
Flowers have been used to express emotion, connect people, and bring beauty into people’s lives. What message or feeling do you hope to through your arrangements?
I hope to evoke an effortless feeling of connection to nature. I don’t want it to look forced, stagnant, or inorganic – I want it to feel easy, intuitive, wild. I want the textures and colours I choose to feel soft and comforting.
You mention wanting to feel at ease through your clothing choices. We can relate! How does the way you dress reflect your lifestyle and creative process.
The way I dress can totally set up the feeling for the rest of my day. Working from home and largely by myself - it’s easy to just want to work in my pajamas - but when I consciously choose an outfit to make me feel a certain way, my creativity can breathe. I like to arrange outfits the same way I like to arrange flowers: by choosing materials and tones that make me feel confident and comfortable. When I feel like myself I can surrender to the creative process.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
It really differs! Most days lately I help on the flower farm in the mornings (weeding, harvesting, planting cover crops, pulling spent beds), and then head home to chip away at office work such as emails, consultations, and quotes. If I have a wedding to work on I’ll prepare two days before by setting up all of my vessels, writing my recipes, and harvesting the flowers so they can hydrate before I work with them. Then, the day before the wedding I’ll create all of my arrangements and wrap them up for delivery so I can wake up the day-of to deliver! I’m a one person show!
What inspires the creative process?
Getting outside. Walking in the woods, spending time in the garden, laying in the sun, swimming in the lake. I need space and rest to feel inspired to create. On the other side - I also have a hard time creating if I have a lengthy to-do list, so I like to get all of my ‘ducks in a row’ organizationally so that I can feel free to make.
What is the best advice you’ve been given and can pass along?
“Eat the ugly frog first” – I know it sounds silly but I find myself returning to this daily. What do I need to get done in order to make the space I need to slow down and feel creative? Another one I can’t recall where I heard it but replays in my mind is: “leave the party you’re not having fun at” - which has been my motto for this year specifically to get where I want to be.
And finally-what’s next for Homebody?
Oooh good question! Up next is to buy property, create a bigger cutting garden to shift into growing the bulk of my own flowers and substitute from other growers to fill the gaps, and the most exciting: build myself a studio. Homebody Floral started from my bachelor apartment where I hauled in an old gas station gatorade fridge as my flower cooler and (minus the fridge), has moved apartments with me ever since. It’s been a dream of mine to have a separate work space from my living space (I’m sure we all can agree on this) - so being able to design and execute my own space where I can work and create and then leave and close the door when I need to is going to be key. Very much looking forward to what this coming year has in store!