In the window display of Vivian Truong’s studio there are rose petals as soft as a newborn’s hair, tulips as vibrantly colored as wild birds, and daffodils as bright as the early morning sun. It may appear that Truong has finally found the trick for keeping fresh-cut plants alive longer than a week. But a closer look reveals that these flowers are actually carefully handcrafted out of felt and fabric—Truong is a “fiber florist.”
Truong studied photography and textile art at the California College of the Arts, which has campuses in Oakland and San Francisco, and received her bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 2010. “The Oakland campus of CCA is a hub for arts and crafts, and during school I became very inspired by nature and working with textiles,” said Truong.
She began experimenting with making flowers, using felt for the petals and thin wire for the stems, and slowly began to sell individual works at galleries and small craft shows. “I want people to know that I do everything that a traditional florist does, but it’s not out of fresh-cut flowers,” said Truong. “It’s all handmade out of materials that are sustainable, hypoallergenic and everlasting.”
Truong fell in love with working with felt because of the material’s breakdown. When looked at under a microscope, the fibers of most fabrics are aligned on top of each other, while felt’s fibers are more like a grid system. This allows felt to be easily cut and sculpted without fraying.
“I source my fabrics from an American company in Massachusetts—National Non-Woven—where there is the variety to get felt that is 100 percent wool blended or made from bamboo or recycled material,” said Truong.
Most clients who buy from Truong’s collection of flowers are people who are looking for an alternative to the real thing. “I get a lot of parents who need something hypoallergenic because they have a newborn baby, or brides who want a way to save flowers from their wedding day as a keepsake item,” said Truong.
Since launching Fiber Florist as an official business in 2013, Truong has slowly but steadily built a client base using word of mouth at craft shows, and she feels her company is growing at just the right pace for her. “The reason I love being my own boss is I can expand in a way I am comfortable with,” said Truong. “I can spend a day hiking and count that as a ‘work day’ since I take the majority of my inspiration from nature and collecting flowers. I try to rarely use just photographs to recreate my art.”
Truong was born in Portland, Oregon, but spent the majority of her life living with her mother in Walnut Creek. Growing up in the Bay Area, Truong spent many days hiking in local parks and became enamored of the flora and fauna of the region.
Today, Truong works from her home studio on the border of Emeryville and North Oakland, not far from her old college campus. Her favorite flower is common yarrow, a delicate wildflower found in the hills of Oakland, that Truong says “embodies everything that I enjoy about flowers.” Her love of flowers comes from their colors, simple beauty, and the ability they have to brighten up a room.