East Falls: Local Self-Taught Artists Run Own Businesses
Floral Designer Turns Childhood Memories Into Career
Growing up in Minneapolis, Minn., Necoh Brewington-Mitchell was always surrounded by flowers, so it came as no surprise that flowers would remain in her future as well.
“[My mom] always had flowers growing and knew all the Latin names and all that good stuff, so I just liked it, too,” Brewington-Mitchell said. “One of my first memories is of poppies that we had growing outside and I thought they were so cool.”
Despite her love of flowers, Brewington-Mitchell said she never thought of turning her childhood memories into a career.
“I always thought that working had to be some type of nine-to-five [job], although I never got into that,” Brewington-Mitchell said. “I’ve always been a creative person; I never thought flowers could be a job. I knew people did it, but I never thought it could be for me until I kind of stumbled into it.”
Brewington-Mitchell’s road to opening her own floral studio, Royal Design Flowers & Events, which is located at 3510 Scotts Lane in the Sherman Mills complex, started when the company her sister worked for needed a floral designer.
“I had some ideas and she thought, ‘Maybe you could do them,’” Brewington-Mitchell said. “I proposed [and] got the contract in 2008, and at that point I realized this is something I really loved and really can do so I just started and it’s gotten bigger from there.”
Brewington-Mitchell is a self-taught floral designer but said she sees her lack of formal education as an advantage.
“School, I think, is wonderful but I think sometimes [people] limit themselves because they only do what they were taught,” Brewington-Mitchell said. “Some of the things I do are a little different and could be a little better [because] I’m learning as I go rather than someone telling me what to do.”
One of the techniques Brewington-Mitchell uses that she said is different from other florists is in making corsages. A corsage is normally made by wiring and taping a flower stem to a holder. Brewington-Mitchell, however, said she uses floral glue to put a corsage together in order to save time.
The studio provides wedding flowers, event décor and planning to the Philadelphia area. It has been in business since 2008 but has been based in the community since 2010.
Brewington-Mitchell, who has been in the flower business for nine years, has more experience now than when she did her first wedding but said she sees every experience as a part of growing and learning.
“I feel bad because I’ve learned so much more since then but it still was beautiful,” Brewington-Mitchell said. “I think all people who are creative look at their first work and go, ‘Really?’ But for the time, it was great.”
Royal Design Flowers & Events can be reached at 267-879-1366.
Artist Leaves Teaching Job to Open Glass Sculpture Business
Working with glass wasn’t always on Jim Loewer’s radar. In fact, the artist, who has a degree in painting from the University of California and a degree in teaching from the University of South Carolina, had only been exposed to the world of glass through friends who were glassblowers.
“This was more a random set of occurrences. I kind of started out in college painting,” Loewer said, “then ended up teaching and then ended up doing this.”
Loewer’s line of work is called lampworking, a type of glasswork in which a torch or lamp is used to melt glass as opposed to glassblowing which uses a furnace and a glory hole.
After being exposed to glass, the self-taught artist started his own company called Jim Loewer Glass Co., which is located in Sherman Mills.
Loewer said he believes that being self-taught, as well as his background in painting, has given him knowledge that those who went through schools do not have.
“[If you go to school,] you might end up with a certain set of techniques that you imagine you should follow,” Loewer said. “Kind of like, ‘This is what other famous or fancy glassblowers have done and I aspire to do that.’ I didn’t go that route. I like painting [and was] more influenced by that than any kind of any education in glass or any other glassblowers that I had seen.”
Some of the techniques that Loewer said sets him apart from others include the coloring of the glass as well as making large pieces with the torch, which is typically used to make small and intricate items such as beads.
Since starting his own business seven years ago, Loewer has provided work for companies such as UncommonGoods and Anthropologie.
Loewer said working with big companies hasn’t compromised his artistry or controlled his career path. Instead, he said he believes that it has just made him grow as an artist.
“The UncommonGoods catalogue just ordered a couple of these heart-shaped bowls. I’m not sure if I would just make a heart-shaped bowl on my own,” Loewer said, “but I feel like I’ve grown with the places that buy from me. I kind of feel like I’ve made stuff that they like and it’s kind of engrained in me a little bit.”
As for the future, Loewer said he would like to expand his company and hire glassblowers to work on pieces so that Loewer can focus on combining glass with his background in art.
“I feel pretty lucky and happy to be making a decent living making the stuff I make,” Loewer said, “but I’m interested in kind of bringing in my initial interest in fine art from painting into glass and doing a little more installation, abstract or meaningful work.”
Loewer is working on reaching his goals by working with Temple University’s Small Business Development Center, which is an outreach center of the Fox School of Business and Management.
Jim Loewer Glass Co. can be reached at email@example.com.
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