By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
As the days grow longer and warmer, trees sprout their annual blossoms and vibrant flowers emerge as a reminder of spring in Etowah County. From residents longing to bring a piece of outdoors in, couples creating personalized bouquets or someone simply sending a cheerful message to a loved one, Katie Ellison’s Bloom & Brush provides locals with the perfect arrangement for any occasion.
Born and raised in Tuscaloosa, Ellison crossed the state line following her high school graduation to further her education at Mississippi State University. While at MSU, Ellison enrolled in floral design classes for fun, drawing from her childhood enriched with an admiration for nature and the beauty that coincides with each unique season.
“I’ve always appreciated nature,” said Ellison. “I remember from an early age picking flowers in my grandmother’s backyard and making little bouquets. That was always something that was fun for me. I loved the different seasons that would come and go and the flowers that would bloom. When I think back on my childhood, it’s always marked by those different seasons – when her dogwood tree would bloom, when the daffodils would bloom.”
Although Ellison did not initially consider floral design as a profession, a nudge from her advisor (and her continual participation in classes related to the field) inspired her to major in horticulture with a concentration in retail floristry management. With a lifelong curiosity to learn about the earth, a deep-rooted interest in science and botany, and her love of God’s creation, Ellison pursued a profession that emerges as the perfect blend of herself.
While Ellison enjoys understanding scientific methods and how systems operate, her innate creativity lends to a natural artistry and a talented eye for design. Her courses taught her business skills and shop management, which ultimately manifested in an internship with Attalla Florist’s Benny Campbell.
Under Campbell’s nurturing wing, Ellison flourished – working with him for eight years after college as a designer, where she honed her skill and fell more in love with floral design. Although Ellison received firsthand business experience with Campbell, she also learned an aspect of the industry she considers of the utmost importance.
“Benny is so talented,” said Ellison. “Not only is he a gifted designer, but one of the most important things that I’ve learned from him is just the relationship with the customers. I feel like that was always paramount to him, and he passed that on to me. My greatest joy is to get to know my customers and clients. They become my friends, and through that fostering of a relationship, you get to know what they want before they even have to ask for it. I think that’s a really important relationship.”
Marriage and children wrote a new chapter in Ellison’s career, with her retiring from the industry for a few years to focus on her sons. Three years ago, she felt an inclination to pursue her passion once more, starting with freelance work for friends and customers she maintained throughout the years. In February of 2018, she introduced a business entirely her own: Bloom & Brush.
Ellison’s personal business allows her the flexibility of working from her Gadsden home while preserving the time with her children she treasures. The ‘Bloom’ half of her business coincides with her floral design and the ‘Brush’ half references painting, another passion Ellison holds dear to her heart.
Though the floral side of Bloom & Brush experienced a surge of success, leaving Ellison with little time to spend in her art studio, she tries to paint whenever the opportunity arises and provides clients with commissioned artwork via request.
“I’ve always had a passion for design,” said Ellison. “My poor mom…there’s no telling how many craft projects she saw to completion! I would always want to paint my bedroom and redesign everything. I’ve always appreciated beauty, whether that’s something on a canvas or an interior design space.”
Bloom & Brush offers a collection of services crafted to each customer’s personal wishes. Ellison specializes in floral arrangements for all occasions, brightening birthdays and anniversaries with beautiful creations and decorating a plethora of parties and events, from bridal showers and baby showers to engagement parties and weddings. While she also offers arrangements and blankets for funerals, Ellison assists with growing home gardens. If an individual wants to repurpose a planter or reconfigure a certain area in his or her yard, Ellison is qualified to layout containers with plants, even possessing experience in landscape design. She decorates homes during Christmastime with fresh greenery, spreading holiday cheer from outside mailboxes to evergreens indoors.
Although Ellison savors all aspects of her business, weddings are her favorite. She loves starting at the beginning, growing to know brides and pairing their personalities with the perfect arrangements to match their styles. Ellison noted that once the wedding day arrives, the moment feels personal to her as well, due to the friendships she forms with brides throughout the process.
“I like to kind of look at brides (not in a judgmental way) and get a feel for how they dress themselves,” said Ellison. “[I look for] what style they bring, what flair they have in-and-of themselves, because that’s innate. Some girls, you can tell they walk gracefully and carry themselves differently and I’ll think, ‘Oh, they need a bouquet that moves with them.’ I would think to incorporate certain flowers that have natural movement, so that when they’re walking down the aisle the flowers are going to bounce and move with them. I think it’s a sweet way to complement their personalities by taking all [aspects] into account.”
Ellison’s creative process for weddings includes fashioning a mood board, complete with color swatches and inspiration photos. The mood board emerges as a visual representation of what is to come, something Ellison and the bride can collaborate on together, developing a solid foundation for the end result and ensuring that the bride’s vision manifests magnificently.
Ellison shared a particular wedding that stood out in her mind, one that was cancelled last April due to the pandemic. Though the initial disappointment of cancelling the wedding was a gut-wrenching decision, the couple rescheduled for September, an event that proved worth the wait.
“It was so special because we had come full circle from this joy of planning, devastation of having to cancel, then finally getting to see the wedding take place,” said Ellison. “By all accounts, it was absolutely magical. [The bride] had the best ideas and exquisite taste, and it all came together on this really special, perfect day. When I think back, I think that was amazing to watch it all come together. It felt like a fairytale for her and I was so tickled to be a part of it.”
Ellison noted that the main difference between owning her own business versus her previous positions resides in maintaining a balance. While her strengths dwell in the creative aspects of the business, when it comes to numbers, email etiquette and contracts, she turns to a prominent person in her life for support: her husband, Shane.
Working behind the scenes, Etowah County Chief Administrative Officer Shane partners with Ellison to encourage her business to succeed. Ellison shared that sometimes individuals might envision floral design as a relaxed profession, but her work is frequently physically demanding. When Shane is not crunching numbers, he is often found lugging ladders, carrying buckets or climbing to wire flowers onto arches.
“It’s so wonderful, because he has to love me regardless – whether I’m a good boss or a bad boss,” joked Ellison. “He’s so wonderful and he loves it also. We really enjoy working together, especially when it comes to anything to do with plants. Getting out in the yard and doing things like that together has always been fun for us. Taking him along on this journey has been equally enjoyable. He’s just the best helper.”
With a minor in horticulture, Shane unites with Ellison in their love of plants and cultivation. While Ellison confesses she herself does not have a green thumb, she shared that Shane often rescues her discarded plants and nourishes them back to life.
Of all the intricacies that morph to create Bloom & Brush, the value Ellison placed upon forming relationships with clients in her earliest years at Attalla Florist translates seamlessly into her own business. She expressed her sincere gratitude for her friends, who ceaselessly supported and promoted her, developing a network of relationships Ellison treasures. As a self-proclaimed adopted Gadsden resident, she voiced her appreciation for the outpouring of graciousness she received from the city.
A little part of Ellison wonders if a storefront might appear in Bloom & Brush’s future. Whether or not that day arrives, her acute attention to detail and her selection of vivid and rich colors produce endless floral combinations that transform her clients’ hopes into reality, right from her workspace at home. With a dedication to her clients, a listening ear and a creative eye, Ellison strives to nurture joy wherever her creations spring forth, fostering memories as beautiful as each bouquet.
“[Bloom & Brush’s mission is] to cultivate beauty,” said Ellison. “Whether you pick up a bunch of tulips from Publix or you order them from me, I love that you have something blooming in your home. I think God gave us the most amazing gift when you look outside and see things blooming. I love to design and arrange, but I want you to enjoy that also. I just want everybody to appreciate the beauty, and if I can be a part of that I’m excited.”