01 Feb Designer Spotlight: Damselfly’s Ashley Drago
1. First and foremost, how long have you been in the industry? Close to 20 years unofficially, nine years professionally.
2. What would you say is your favorite style? Everything whimsical, wild and fun.
3. Is there a design/style you’re personally known for? Within Damselfly I’m known to air toward the “Constance Spry” look – asymmetric, uncontrived and slightly unexpected.
4. How did you get into the industry? I started at 16 years old at the flower shop in my town’s grocery store as a means for gas and mall money. I never imagined it would end up being my passion – and career – or that floral design was even a career path at all. But after getting my degree in Graphic Design and working at a children’s book publisher in New York City for the first few years after college, my early 20’s was all about following a dream. I had lost my younger sister very suddenly and tragically when I was 21 years old and so I endured a huge life shift fairly early on – I became very aware of how short and precious life is. If there is something that you want – you reach out and grab it. I realized that the happiest I ever was, up to that point, was when I was surrounded by fresh flowers. I decided to start taking classes, and soon after, had confidence to blindly apply for floral design jobs in the city. I must have gone on a dozen interviews. I definitely didn’t lie, but I certainly embraced the “fake it until you make it” mentality, and eventually landed my job as a floral designer. Nine years and ten different jobs later, I found Damselfly by way of kismet and I’ve never felt so fulfilled.
5. What’s your favorite part about floral design? I absolutely love opening up each and every box of fresh flowers and seeing all the beautiful product that’s just arrived. It’s exactly like opening up a bunch of birthday presents and loving every single gift!
6. What is one item you simply cannot live without (doesn’t need to be floral/event related)? My dishwasher.
7. What advice do you have for couples looking to hire a wedding florist/event company? There is no shortage of talent out there! Scour Instagram and find designers who share a style that you love. Even if that designer or company isn’t feasible to book (because of geographical location for instance) go equipped with these pictures and imagery when you meet with your floral vendors. It will help hone in on your vision.
8. Do you have a favorite flower? I love the colors, varieties and versatility of roses, but early spring flowers – like spirea, foxglove, and Icelandic poppies – are always exciting to use.
9. What is your favorite wedding trend? Least favorite? I am loving false arches (as I call them!) also referred to as a floating arch or illusion arch.
10. What wedding or floral trends do you want to make a comeback? (and which one do you want to disappear?) I’d love to see pageant or presentation – style bouquets come back – something that is held across your body resting in the crook of the bride’s arm and draping over her arm rather than held out in front.
11. Where do you draw your inspiration from? I draw most color inspiration from the seasons and Mother Nature herself. I draw inspiration stylistically from other designers – and honestly, a lot of inspiration is drawn from Instagram!
12. What do you wish couples knew before the first consultation? To keep an open mind.
13. When it comes to Pinterest and wedding design: blessing or curse? Both: Blessing in that pictures are a way for me to get a glimpse into a client’s head, pictures are always worth a thousand words. Curse in that Pinterest tends to circulate the same trends over and over, with a very limited scope which can hinder creativity.
14. What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about the industry? As is true in all facets of life, everyone I’ve encountered in the industry has taught me something. Whether it is seemingly small and technical, or bigger picture, every person I have worked with has shown me something new. What is surprising is that more recently, industry professionals are willing to share their knowledge openly in an effort to build up the industry as a whole. There are far less “secrets” and much more comradery now than there was in the past. It’s refreshing!
15. How many weddings do you typically handle each weekend? What’s the most you’ve ever done in one weekend? An average weekend during the busy season (May-November) will have two weddings for me. I’ve handled as many as four in one weekend.
16. Any tips, tricks or behind the scenes/insider info you want to share? Like anything else, lead with confidence. As a designer you have the ability to bring any vision to life and confidence in your creative process is key.
17. Any advice for people looking to get into the industry? Take classes! Apply for an internship! Immerse yourself as much as possible because there is so much to learn!
18. If your personality could be described as a flower, which one would it be? I think I embody a lot of qualities not typically associated with flowers. Flowers are often said to be delicate, but I see them as tough – resilient – and always growing.
19. Coffee or tea? Always coffee
20. What has been a challenge you overcame in the industry? Because there is so much talent out there and also competition, especially being so close to New York City, I have experienced at other floral companies the feeling of not being valued. In the past, I have had to overcome being treated as disposable and easily replaced as a designer. But this has also taught me to know my own value. (This, however, this is the exact opposite of how I feel at Damselfly, which is just one of the many things I love about my job)
21. Do you have any funny event stories you’re able to share? I’ll have to get back to you on that one!
22. What questions do you wish couples would ask more? I wish couples asked more frequently for something they haven’t seen on Pinterest, which I know is hard to do because how do you ask for something you’ve never seen? I love when couples ask for advice as to how to make their flowers and décor uniquely theirs, and how to design something that sets their wedding apart. Whether that is a very personalized place card table design for instance, or a statement piece very particular for their venue. Keep an open mind, trust, and ask for advice.
23. Favorite place you’ve traveled? Where do you want to go next? Not sure I can pick a favorite destination – each trip is so uniquely memorable – but a few of my favorite places include Santorini, Greece, Chamonix, France, and Turks and Caicos. I’d love to travel to Iceland, and to the Maldives.
24. Best celebrity couple? Best celebrity wedding? Not too into the celebrity scene, but I do love Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard.
25. And finally: if you weren’t a floral designer, what would be your dream job? A National Park Ranger, at any of the U.S. National Parks. That, or I’d love to be a flower farmer. This industry has so many facets to it, I’d love to dabble in them all!