Karen Rowe based out of Rome, New York is the creator behind Etsy shop It Tops the Cake. Karen has been designing silk flower wedding arrangements for 3 years.
Describe your workspace and/or tools or machinery you use.
My workspace is essentially a bedroom, and a small one at that! I have two 4′ x 8′ tables on either side of the room, one for working and one for photography. With the exception of a desk that we picked up at a garage sale, every other inch of the room is used for storage – flowers, boxes, Styrofoam, ribbon, pins, etc. The closet door can barely open! This large amount of inventory provides me with the opportunity to be creative on the spot, as well as have supplies on hand for a custom order. It does make for a rather tight space, but I am hoping to expand once we move into a new house. I use basic tools – a glue gun and hand held fence cutters. Yes, fence cutters! It’s pretty incredible how thick some flower stems are, so I found that regular wire cutters just weren’t, well, cutting it!
I also have tubs of cut flowers that I keep on hand. Since cake topper don’t require stems, I often have left over pieces that need to be stored. I keep them in tubs by color so I can quickly access what I need without searching through tons of small pieces.
What inspires you or compels you to stay creative?
I often go online and do a lot of research. Being surrounded by hundred of silk flowers is great for my personal, on the spot kind of creativity, but that isn’t often realistic for actual customers. Each bride usually already has an idea in mind of what she wants for her flowers – colors, flower types, style. Since I wasn’t born with ESP, I can’t predict what my customers will want unless they ask for something custom made. So to give myself a little bit of help, I go online and look for trends and color schemes that I know are going to be “popular” for a particular part of the season. It was just my luck that Emerald and Mint were this year’s colors, because those aren’t really flower colors! But there are always classic styles and colors that brides are drawn to, so I always have those on hand.
Tell us about your most recent project
While I am waiting for wedding season to gear up, I am taking all new pictures of my current inventory. This meant getting my dummy cakes covered in fondant to make them look more realistic! This will hopefully be eye catching and draw people in. So far the pictures have been turning out great, and when I need a break from being a photographer, I get back into the trenches and start creating toppers.
What is your typical day like from the time you wake up until you go to bed?
My typical day is often very busy, but I rarely work on my business until 9:00pm. I have a 14 month old daughter who is very active and curious. Ever since she was a little thing, 2 or 3 months old, she refused to be in one spot for more than a few minutes. Before she was born, I thought “I’ll just put her in the bouncer or the pack and play and I will get work done.” Nope! She refuses to let me do creative work while she is awake, and unfortunately my office is so small that if I attempt to let her roam free, she creates a huge mess! Sigh.. alas!
I wake up between 7:00 and 8:00 to get Keira out of her crib and we eat, play and read until nap #1. I use this time to get dressed, do an assortment of chores like laundry or dishes and have a snack. By the time she gets up she’s ready to get dressed and have lunch. The afternoon is usually reserved for running errands and doing my other job for the YMCA, which involves handling their scheduling and payroll. This can be hard because it means a lot of time on the phone, which can be hard for a baby who always wants to know what’s going on and be in the thick of things. Nap #2 is often reserved for any extra chores and then perhaps some time on the computer to resize some photos, post on FB or the Ning or just surf. Once my husband gets home around 5:45, I either get right to work making dinner or head to the gym for an hour of Zumba!
Bed time for the baby is 8:00 or so, and then we clean up toys and sit down to a couple of smores before getting to work. Around 8:30 or 9:00 I head up to the office and take stock of what needs to get done. Usually this involves taking pictures, bookkeeping, creating new cake toppers or packaging up recent items. Around 11:30 I decide whether or not I have another 30 minutes in me to keep going or if I should call it an early night! The best part of all is going to sleep knowing that I will get to stay in bed asleep the whole night through, which only started about 6 weeks ago.
The weekend looks VERY different from this because my husband is home to share some of the responsibility of watching Keira and my YMCA job doesn’t go on weekends. I can spend much more time in my office working, creating and hopefully growing It Tops the Cake.
To learn more about Karen from It Tops the Cake: