When Kari von der Hoff and her family moved into their charming farmhouse in Rogers four years ago, she wanted to find a new and satisfying hobby. Her husband had built a tremendous vegetable garden that they tended to with their kiddos, and he encouraged her to learn a bit more about flowers and plant life so she could landscape their property.
“As I did, I became in love with the idea of growing a small and simple cut flower garden,” she said. “Within a year, it became a crazy big flower garden that was spread out over all of our property … I had way more flowers than I knew what to do with.”
Von der Hoff sold her bounties by the bouquet and bucket, but still couldn’t get rid of her flowers as quickly as she was growing them. She loved gardening and relishing in the gorgeous blooms, but here in Minnesota, that time is short and before long, fresh cut flowers wilt and mold.
“My little girls and I would walk the rows at golden hour each night, and we’d pick our favorite flowers, the ones that looked too perfect to just sit there and wilt away,” she said. “I wanted to keep them forever … preserved in that moment. So, with basket in hand, the girls and I would pick the loveliest ones and then press them.”
These pressed flowers then became earrings, rings, necklaces and oils through von der Hoff’s business, florel. She began experimenting with resin, and found such joy in creating gorgeous statement pieces for flower-lovers like herself.
“I wanted to turn these lovely summer memories into something that lasted, and here was the perfect solution,” she said. “Flowers from my garden made into romantic, one of a kind pieces of jewelry ... it’s the most satisfying job I’ve had yet.”
She added, “I’m able to use things I’ve grown from seed, and tended to all summer long, and turn them into pieces of wearable art.”
Von der Hoff loves making traditional, single-flower or single-petal pendants and earrings for a classic romantic look, but has recently been trying her hand at more creative and unique molds, too. The best part of her job is that nothing is static, and she can continually grow and create new pieces of jewelry.
“The most rewarding part is that I’m able to use gardening, one of my favorite things to do in life, to fuel and inspire me to do one of my other favorite things, create botanical jewelry,” she said. “I’ve been able to make it into a successful small business which allows me to be at home with my family, and I enjoy that so much.”
The three von der Hoff daughters (adorably) help their mother tend to the gardens, as nearly all of the flowers used in her jewelry are grown at home.
“It’s a long process — starting my flowers from seed in the basement, growing them in the gardens, pressing the blooms and finally creating a floral piece of jewelry — and is a true labor of love.”
So, how does it all work?
First, “I usually think ahead about what I’d like to make style-wise, and grab any of the flower bins I might need and get them set up on my work space at our kitchen table. Sitting down with my desk lamp overhead, my endlessly frazzled looking bins of pressed flowers overflowing on the table, my bezels, my molds, my resin colorants, my PPE. After it’s all laid out, I measure out my resin, and warm it up,” she said.
Second, while the resin sits for a bit, she starts choosing colors. “I carefully eye up the flowers I want for certain styles of pendants, and find other colors that will compliment the piece,” she said. “I lay them all out on my work surface and get ready to pour.”
Third, the flowers carefully go in, and she pours another layer. “I could sit there and create all day if circumstances allowed,” von der Hoff said.
Fourth, the resin takes a day or two to fully cure. “I let my pieces cure overnight and check them the next day to see if they need another layer or more,” she said. “Often times I will layer a piece 2-4 times in total, which helps a piece have a pretty magnifying dome.”
Finally, “once the jewelry looks finished, I chain it up or put hooks on the earrings and then set them aside until it’s time to photograph them and list them on my website,” she said.