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Life and Work with Jen Lagedrost Cavender

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jen Lagedrost Cavender.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Jen. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Nectar + Bloom officially started while I was in the middle of a semester teaching Literature + Composition at the University of San Diego—a poet-professor building a career in academia.

At the time, after completing my Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing, I had found a real love for teaching courses in creative writing, composition, and literature as a way of supporting myself as a poet and writer. I had also just gone through this season of credential-seeking, during which I became certified to teach yoga, became a wilderness first responder, and completed a permaculture design course in New Zealand. In the midst of all this, the artist inside me was calling out for a change. Though my love for teaching remained, I knew that I wanted to run my own business; I knew that I wanted to work in a creative and collaborative field; and I was discovering as I went — almost as though it were manifesting itself — that I wanted to do so by starting a boutique floral design studio for weddings and events.

A few years earlier, I had been selected to be the Assistant Director of the Writing Center at Cal Lutheran University, a full-time and benefited “real job” in academia that I thought would be the right path for me. Like so many things you learn only by doing, it was not. During that time, I lived in LA with my [now] husband, who works as an actor and producer, which exposed me to the film industry. This inspired me, in a time of feeling very alone and like a team of one in my art as a poet, to see a field that is by nature both creative and collaborative.

When we decided to get married and move back to glorious San Diego, the experience of planning our wedding opened my eyes further by revealing to me the wedding industry, another creative and collaborative field (one I had no previous clue existed) in which artists make a living designing for joyful ceremonies and celebrations. I created a lot of items for our wedding, including hand-painted calligraphy and some installation art, so I thought I’d start out by opening a design studio and just “make things, all things” for weddings.

At that point, I decided it was important to make time to take a few workshops and art classes that would fit into my existing work schedule, educate me in my new endeavor, and help me hone what I was trying to do. This led me to meet some incredible creatives (floral designers in particular, who blew my mind with their work as laborers of joyful events and curators of beauty), with whom I apprenticed to start out. I also attended a small business workshop that my mentor recommended to kick-start the logistics of how to actually legally and financially form a business entity. Soon, I gained enough experience to start freelancing. I was eager to learn everything. I went in headfirst, devoted myself to a regimen of hands-on experience in the truest fake-it-till-you-make-it sense, and I was amazed by the encouragement and generosity of the badass creative bosses I met along the way. Every experience was like research for me and I found myself applying an approach I used to teach my students for studying the craft of poetry: you can ascertain how any effect is generated by researching how it was constructed. Reverse-engineering can help you build a business. Experience, encouragement, and practice will help you hone your creativity.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
In truth, the element that was most meaningful and impressive to me about weddings were the florals, but I’d been in academia for so much of my life that I was sure I needed some kind of specific degree to be allowed to do something so special and impressive. That was my first hurdle: my own need for permission to do something I truly admired and truly wanted to do. Turns out, the only person who can give you this permission is yourself.

Secondly, I struggled with the challenge of discovering my next career-calling while still obligated to my former career-calling. It was bizarre experiencing the magic of what I used to love doing evaporate as the magic of what I knew I was now meant to do mounted, and suddenly teaching literature became very hard. At the same time, I felt frustrated and impatient, and still do at times, with the awkward growing pains of starting at the bottom of a new field when you are used to being confident and at a certain level in another field in which you’ve already worked to establish yourself.

Thirdly: perfectionism. Perfectionism is with me to the core. At its best, it makes certain I attend to every detail and strive always to do better, but at its worst, it can feel paralyzing. Deep breaths, celebrating the mess, making friends who live this line of work, and a lot of laughing do help.

By way of advice, which is one of my favorite things to give, I’ll say:

1. Make space to try things that intrigue you. Invest in your potential by taking a class or attending a workshop, especially those led by people whose work you admire. Get to know who is doing what you want to be doing, and find out how you can lend a hand. You have nothing to lose in asking.

2. Be courageous in uncertainty and humble and gracious no matter where you are in your process. Have grace with yourself, and be open to the transformation process as you start a new chapter of life. I love a life in many chapters.

3. Work with people who inspire you, and stay open to those who might be inspired by your journey to begin. I am immensely grateful to the many kind, supportive, and empowering creatives and business owners who have become my friends, teachers, and colleagues along the way. The amount of support and collaborative spirit everywhere I look astounds me, and the opportunity to shine that light back is remarkably rewarding.

4. Keep in mind that what you see of others’ work is a polished final product and does not show the inevitable mess and struggle behind getting there, so waste no time with comparisons. Let everything and everyone inspire you.

5. Have grit! What makes anything hard is part of what makes it remarkable to achieve and enriching to experience. It is a lot of work (intellectually, creatively, and logistically), not to mention manual labor to create for large-scale events, but it is also an immense joy and a gratifying experience to help make manifest. What’s better than styling the scenes for celebrations of love?

Please tell us about Nectar + Bloom.
NECTAR + BLOOM is a boutique floral design studio, specializing in lush arrangements, hand-tied bouquets, and floral installations inspired by the native artistry of the natural world. We compose with the intentionality of poetry, design as a method of storytelling, and offer the attentive heart of a studio that thrives creating for the joy of our clients.

NECTAR +BLOOM values authenticity and floral artistry in all of our designs, and we are committed to incorporating sustainability and environmentally responsible systems into our studio’s practices. Elements of poetic verse, a certain literary flavor, come through our work and stylistic range from our passion for any formal training in creative writing and poetry.

As a designer, I am infinitely intrigued by the overlap between poetry and floristry. I have always been a poet of place and landscape, so the shift to a tangible medium of the natural world for mood, emotion, and experience felt natural for me. I love how the palettes, textures, and tones of living flora can be intentionally assembled and arranged, just as with written language, to convey a story, invite experience, and evoke meaning.

Were there people and/or experiences you had in your childhood that you feel laid the foundation for your success?
As a bit of delightfully ironic back-story, I grew up on an organic vegetable farm in Ohio, where my older sister and I had our own small business growing flowers and arranging bouquets that we sold alongside our parents’ stall at the farmers’ markets. Once I moved out to San Diego for college to pursue a career as a writer, I never in a million years would have guessed my path would bend anywhere remotely near this ancient history, but I couldn’t be more delighted to have found my way “home” to a part of myself in this way through floral design.

Contact Info:

  • Website:
  • Phone: 619-889-9030
  • Email:
  • Instagram: @nectar_and_bloom
  • Facebook: @nectarandbloom

Image Credit:

Kellie Viagem Photography, Shauntelle Sposto Photography, Taylor & Porter Photographs, Elizabeth Kathleen Ward, Renata Stone, Michelle Lillywhite Photography, Oh My Goddard Photography, Paco and Betty

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