On her 30th anniversary, Alina found herself disappointed with the way life had unfolded for her. Fighting anxiety and self doubt while feeling pressure on pleasing others, she felt she forgot to live for herself.

“When I turned 30 I realised how much I’ve lost telling no to myself just to please others, to make the people around me happy. I ended up doing so little from what I wanted, so I said enough”.

She now runs her business NO NO NO and makes a living as a floral designer, a profession she loves, which brings her joy, calm and satisfaction.

But to get here wasn’t easy. She learned things the hard way and it took a lot of hard work and failures to finally find her way.

She discovered she liked working with flowers at one of her first jobs. She worked at a hotel in Bucharest and she enjoyed getting involved in creative tasks, even if they weren’t her responsibility. One day, she was asked if she could make some flower arrangements last longer until they were delivered.

“I felt so much delight and happiness while working. I felt very calm, that was the feeling. To me flowers were like a new medium which allowed me to paint. They had everything: structure, texture, colour, shape”, Alina says remembering the moment.

© Alina Popa

THE FIRST TRY

At 26, she launched her own flower shop.

And how did it go? I asked.

“I failed miserably”, she said laughing.

It took her one month to open the business and a little more to realise it wasn’t what she really wanted. Two years later she was moving back to her parents’ farm, where she worked for four years and fought her inner battles.

During this time she kept doing flower arrangements for friends and acquaintances but she didn’t see it as a business, it was only passion, she thought. She also did a lot of thinking on what and how to do what she wanted and at the end of 2014, she decided to returned to Bucharest.

© Vlad Bîrdu
© Vlad Bîrdu

“Finding the courage to do it was the biggest obstacle I had to pass. It’s a big risk you’re taking. What are people going to think, what if I fail, what if things don’t go the way I want to? But as you take that step you realise your fear is unreasonably high.“

THE DISCOVERY

© Vlad Bîrdu

The second try took a more strategic shape. From 2015 she focused most of her resources and energy on studying flower design, experimenting with different work fields and learning. She tried corporate and personal events, decorated show-windows, prepared stands for fairs, worked in fashion doing design props and editorials and a couple of home decor collections. Yet nothing stuck, none of these options stood out.

Finally, in the spring of 2017, she had a revelation.

It was one of those miserable and dreadful days when you feel low and nothing works. She was attending one of her last floral design classes and she had to create a bridal bouquet. As she worked on it she found herself smiling.

© Alina Popa
© Alina Popa

“Working on that bouquet made me feel so much better. I realised that from all the things I did, working with flowers was the only thing that delighted me during the process. Most things give me satisfaction at the end, when I see the result, while the process itself gives me a lot of anxiety. Yet working with flowers comes to me easily and makes me feel at peace, no matter how bad my day is”.

Apart from her discovery, Alina also found the permission and confirmation we sometimes unconsciously need to hear. Those words that boost our confidence and make us feel the work we’re doing is good and appreciated.

That comfort came from Gregor Lersch, one of the biggest florists in the world, who praised her and conveyed she has a light touch when she works. He helped her realise she works in an uncluttered, balanced and somewhat soft way and this was quite important in her evolution as an artist.

And as a flower, she too bloomed.

HER WORK 

Alina’s love for flowers reflects both in her way of speaking as much as it does in her work. When she talks about flowers she captivates you and makes you ask what happens next? She radiates the beauty and energy people who are profoundly passionate about something always have and inflict that feeling into you.

Alina designs flower bouquets that are eerie and unusual. Some make you think of a fairytale while others create a feeling of serenity and comfort.

But the work is not easy. Besides the eye for it, it requires strength and endurance and very good stamina. “And not as much patience as discipline to make the difference”, Alina adds.

© Vlad Bîrdu

THE PROCESS 

Alina works mostly in her studio.

“Everything starts with a sketch, I do nothing without previously sketching something. Usually, when I begin a sketch I come up with a lot of ideas and find myself filling five pages. Then I choose the idea I like most, I think on the materials I could use to do it and if I have them. The bouquets I do for myself are generally created depending on the materials I already have and I chose my colour palette according to them.

When it comes to colours I work a lot with transitions. Basically, a shade or a certain colour needs to go from material to material as well as from flower to flower.

Then the general aspect counts too. I pick the flowers depending on the style I want to create,  for example a minimalist or a delicate one.

© Vlad Bîrdu

As I work I experiment and it often happens that what I’ve sketched on paper turns out differently. When I work for a client what I’ve sketched is what I deliver, but when I do it for myself I like playing with my materials.”

When asked about the flowers she prefers working with, the the orchids come as favourite, the Phalaenopsis in particular because of their shape, texture and the large palette of colours they come into. The flowers are usually intertwined with natural elements like branches, tree trunks, moss and lichens or roots, but she also uses any other materials she finds interesting like wires, copper pipes, paints, white cement and disposable tablespoons to name a few.

THE LESSONS 

Throughout all the fear and anxiety and her years of practice and hard work Alina learned a lot.

She understood that dealing with failure and obstacles is inevitable. And that a good plan is not necessarily something that foresees everything but something flexible enough to allow changes and adjustments in the moment you’re facing those obstacles.

She discovered and rediscovered herself and most importantly she got to admire the person she turned out to be.

And being proud of herself felt extremely rewarding.

“ Finding the courage to do what defines you and pay attention to your own needs and desires is so important; you feel much better and fulfilled.”

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