Hive & Hollow
sustainable flowers, art and gifts

Of note

Interesting stories, tid-bits and blog posts related to Hive & Hollow.

Building the Hive

The name of our flower shop, Hive & Hollow, got its inspiration from a druid animal oracle card. The bee. The epitome of community and celebration. I knew I wanted the shop to be a focal point in our community, a buzzing hive where people could gather, do healthy and productive work,  celebrate our collective creativity, and give back and strengthen the community at the same time.  The hollow is the counterbalance.  While I knew I would thrive on the buzzing of a hive, I also knew I would need quiet and solitude. Our wooded spot has a little hollow where we grow some of the flowers for the shop and have some time for quiet rejuvenation. And so was born, Hive & Hollow.

This July, nine months after opening, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and the name came alive in a way I never could have predicted. I found myself at the center of a buzzing hive, but not at all in the way I had envisioned. I was completely floored by the flood of support from our community, embarrassed almost, at the magnitude of outpouring. Not just in a thoughts and prayers (which are also truly appreciated) kind of way, but meaningful, intentional support. People hauled my kids all over the place, even took them on trips, stocked our freezer with healthy, convenient soups and casseroles, and brought warm meals during the rough weeks. A volunteer coalition of customers (many I had only known since opening) staffed the shop, not just for a week, but for a solid month and a half, as complications and surgery after surgery kept me at home or hospitalized.  Former co-workers came from far and wide to help me fulfill weddings I had committed to before I knew I had cancer. Farmers donated flowers for us to sell. People brought goodies, fancy body care, scarves, teas, books, stones, crystals, cards, shawls, meaningful trinkets. Friends weeded our gardens, cleaned our house top to bottom. I did not have to ask for any of this, not once. This is real privilege. A strong community, incredible friends. 

How many are out there that do not have this? It keeps me up at night. I can’t imagine going through this alone. I can’t say thank you enough, I have infinite gratitude, and I don’t know where to place it. I can only hope that the opportunity will arise where I can show up for someone in the way that our community has shown up for me.

I now have a small way that I can help others going through this. My dear friend and neighbor, Margaret Paulson, is running the New York City marathon in November in my honor and is raising money for the American Cancer Society, an organization that helps insure people and families going through cancer get what they need. Please consider supporting her efforts.


Trust your intuition, handle yourself with care

I’ve been working in the floral industry since 1995. I started in a little, well respected shop called Crocus Hill Flower Market, known for its unusual selection of interesting flowers from all around the world. Here I learned about proteas, one of my favorites, for they are other-worldly, native to Australia and South Africa. Later I worked in landscaping, in the Twin Cities and on Martha’s Vineyard, which delighted me for the broad strokes you could paint, it was like installing massive living floral arrangements. Eventually, I opened Sassafras Floral & Garden Design, with two partners, and we pumped out garden installations, weddings, and large scale corporate designs. I relished the fast pace and hard work, the sheer hustle of it all.  I rarely thought about the flowers and where they were coming from, the hundreds of thousands of commercially grown roses I handled. If I did think about it, and the chemicals I was exposing myself to, it was brief, and overshadowed by my confidence that my hippie upbringing would allow me a long and healthy life. As a child of the 70’s, we lived for a period in a van, where my mom literally made tofu from scratch...she was an early proponent of organic and whole foods. Though I bitched endlessly about carob chips and fresh ground peanut butter, I secretly felt like I had a stronger set of armor than other kids that had twinkies and jif in their lunches. As a florist, the pace often necessitated eating as we worked, with our pesticide covered hands as we churned out arrangement after arrangement for increasingly ostentatious events. The global effects of the industry in terms of social justice started to gnaw at my conscience. Marginalized communities were losing their land to massive flower farms that were abusing water and land resources and polluting the environment just as pinterest was blowing up the wedding industry. Events got more and more elaborate, and frankly I was burned out.  I wanted to tell my clients to elope, invest in a house, prepare a pinterest board dedicated to working through marriage. After working that way for 17 years we decided to slow our pace of life and move to the country.

Fast forward to 2013...I got a job working in a traditional local flower shop here in Menomonie, WI as we were getting settled. This is where I really started to think about the carcinogens on the flowers and in the materials and chemicals I was working with. Floral foam is a magical invention, you can literally create anything with it. But it is loaded with known carcinogens. Florists shape it to all kinds of incredible shapes and specifications and breathe the dust all day long. You can read more about its toxins here:

https://www.riverwolfxo.com/blogs/going-zero-waste/the-dangers-of-floral-foam-oasis

I felt instinctively that I had to get out of this type of floristry.  I also hated the amount of plastic waste I was seeing come through and dumped right into the trash. I would work this way, in a facility without recycling, and come home and watch Our Blue Planet with my young kids and feel horribly hypocritical. In 2017 my husband encouraged me to open my own shop, and Hive & Hollow was born. We decided to really focus on sustainability, and began forging relationships with local farmers and artists, and opened on September 5, 2018. Nine months later I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 46. Of course I cannot definitively make the direct correlation between the floral industry and my cancer, but I can’t help but wonder, what if I had worn gloves, what if I had had a better hand washing regimen...? 

SO, I write this post for all my floral friends...please be careful. Wear gloves, wash your hands, do your self exams, and better yet, find farmers who are growing locally, and ask them about their growing practices, then support them, for they hold the key to the health of our industry and our planet. Take care of yourselves. ❤️

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5451977/

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09603123.2013.800958

A personal note from Sarah:

On the eve of my mastectomy and the first step in my treatment for breast cancer, I wanted to take a minute to thank you all, and say again, how very humbled, honored and moved by this community I am. We will be able to stay open due to an incredible team of individuals who are VOLUNTEERING their time to help run the shop, so we can keep the doors open during treatment, and keep growing this vision. Most of these people are new friends I have made since opening the shop nearly a year ago. Jessie Edminster Lawson of Flying Cat Arthouse will be one of our featured artists taking a turn running the shop, so pop in and meet her. She is amazing. We are lucky to have Maggie and Ben of Green Light Farm, who have agreed to keep our cooler stocked with their gorgeous flowers and lovely bouquets, and as always, new products will keep coming through the doors. So stay tuned, hours may be slightly shortened, but we will keep you posted, and as always, bouquets will be available next door at the Menomonie Market Food Co-op. Thank you all, again, for your understanding, patience and continued support.
I'll see you soon!!

-Sarah

Flower Arrangements Sprinkled with Magic

by Kelsey Yanna

Hive & Hollow is not your average flower shop and its floral arrangements are anything but average. When I walked into the local Menomonie business, I felt like I was entering another world – one that is whimsical, botanical, and sprinkled with magic. Hive & Hollow’s flower arrangements are truly what makes this magic come alive as they are adorned with natural materials, such as mushrooms, feathers, antler bones, dried flowers, and grasses. Sarah Freeman, the owner of Hive & Hollow, describes her floral arrangements as “organic in style” and “free-flowing” because they aren’t systematically placed and tend to feature negative space.

Another way that her floral arrangements stand out is that they are locally sourced. Freeman proudly informs me that all the flowers at Hive & Hollow are either grown near Menomonie or in the United States. This allows Freeman to not only support small businesses in the area and American growers, but also makes her locally sourced flowers stay fresh for a longer period of time. Because the further away the flowers are grown, the larger their carbon footprint and the more longevity chemicals they are sprayed with.

With these sustainable flowers, Freeman creates a wide variety of floral arrangements, including bouquets, corsages, boutonnieres, table centerpieces, baskets, and wreaths. She also takes custom orders for special occasions like weddings, business events, and her most common request: funerals. Hive & Hollow provides options for customers looking for a more casual arrangement as well. Each day, her cooler is stocked with mixed-flower bouquets, vase arrangements, and individual stemmed flowers.

Whether the floral arrangement is made specifically for an event or for an ordinary day, every arrangement is truly unique. Similar to how every person is different, every flower arrangement is different. Each arrangement evokes a different feeling to reflect the recipient’s individuality. “I’ve done a flower arrangement for a grandpa’s funeral who loved hunting, so I incorporated a lot of antlers into that arrangement,” said Freeman. She has also created boutonnieres for a wedding that featured the cap of the groom’s favorite beer.

Because of her floral arrangements are reflective of the person, Freeman doesn’t have a specific technique of how she arranges her flowers. Instead, she bases them on how she feels and lets the flowers decide their place rather than adhering to a certain method. “I take the cue from the flowers more than anything,” she explained. “If the head is pointing down, then it’s in the front.” Likewise, if there’s a tall flower pointing upwards, it’s placed in the back.

Often times, Freeman centers her arrangements around a focal flower. “It can be one focal flower with a big leaf that I’ve cut from a bundle of tropical leaves,” she said. Freeman also draws her inspiration from whichever flower is currently in season. “I’ve been making a lot of arrangements with hydrangea from Oregon lately,” she said. “In September, I used a lot of dahlias because they were in season.” Because of this seasonal time factor, Hive & Hollow doesn’t have a definite bestseller flower arrangement nor does Freeman have a clear-cut favorite.

Although Freeman couldn’t pick just one favorite floral arrangement that she’s created, she did have a most memorable one: a peacock ice sculpture decorated with flowers. “The shape of the peacock was in ice and I made the tail feathers out of flowers,” Freeman described. Upon knowing this, it’s safe to say that Hive & Hollow doesn’t sell traditional flower arrangements; a fact that Freeman prides herself in.

Whether you’re interested in creating traditional or extraordinary floral arrangements like Freeman, she encourages you to learn by experimenting. “Experiential learning is the best way,” she said. “It also helps to have a natural eye for design.” Soon, you too, will be able to transform your space into another world – one that is whimsical, botanical, and sprinkled with magic like Sarah Freeman’s Hive & Hollow flower shop.

What does it mean to be sustainable?

Hive & Hollow is joining a small number of concerned florists across the world in promoting the slow flower movement. Like the slow food movement (sourcing local, seasonal foods), floral professionals and consumers are looking at ways to reduce their carbon footprints. Green weddings and funerals are gaining in popularity as we reevaluate our values with a growing concern for the climate.

But why?

Our reason for this is simple, the flower industry could do a lot better. Much of the flowers grown in South America and Africa have contributed to devastating deforestation and water pollution, workers are often treated unfairly, and subjected to harmful pesticides. This intensive farming relies on excessive fertilizers, contributing to water pollution, and imported flowers often spend long hours in boxes and are then fumigated when coming into the country. We love working with flowers, but don’t want to do it that way any longer.

How do we change this?

We begin by sourcing flowers and plants from our own land and other local growers in the upper Midwest. During the winter season, when all that can be found in the cold North are evergreens, twigs and pods, we source from other parts of the United States or fair trade certified growers. There is so much beauty in our region, and we are all about celebrating that seasonal beauty in both its simplicity and its majesty. We have committed to sourcing from as close to our brick and mortar shop as is possible to reduces the amount of travel time and energy used to ship flowers.

When sourcing gifts and accessories for the shop we look first to our own community. Is someone making beeswax candles? Beauty products out of locally sourced, natural ingredients? Ceramic pots and vases? We have an amazing community of talented makers, and Hive & Hollow aims to celebrate them. This cuts out shipping costs, keeps money in our own community, and supports other artists.

We have a deep concern about single use plastics and avoid them whenever possible. We don't use plastic picks, just foraged twigs to hold your enclosure card, and no water tubes either. Your arrangement may be in a recycled glass vase, a vintage container, a mason jar or a recycled soup can. Your delivery box may be a repurposed box, and your plant liner may be a repurposed plastic salad clamshell. We rarely use floral foam, as it has been found to have carcinogenic properties and does not decompose. We believe taking these small steps can make a big difference, and we do it not because it is easy, but because we care. This is fairly revolutionary, as Hive & Hollow is the only flower shop in the region to commit to these practices. We hope you’ll join us.

Red Letter Grant Incubator

Last spring, I was encouraged to apply for a Red Letter Grant, a grant given to female entrepreneurs to help them get a head start. I presented before a group of successful female entrepreneurs, bankers, and artists. I was honored to be chosen. The grant is a $2000 award, plus credit to use at Volume One and Ambient Inks. Beyond that, I have been connected to an amazing group of women who are about empowering and teaching. This has been an incredible experience.

Recently the grant has expanded, and with that expansion a retail space was donated for grant winner use. The first use of this space will be as a holiday pop-up where you can get to know the grantees and their businesses. Hive & Hollow will be there with plants, gifts and holiday flower arrangements, along with Dotters Books, Giizhig Design Company, Moonrise Aeriels, and Odd Brand Strategy.

Swing by and see us there! Wednesdays through Sundays at 325 E. Madison in Eau Claire. Learn more at www.RedLetterGrant.org