by Maddy Zollo Rusbosin | September 10, 2018

Made in FLA: In Full Bloom

Through romantic floral designs, a Jacksonville photographer gives new meaning to the phrase “flower power”

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Into the Garden (Black) is inspired by Bailey’s first floral photograph, Dutch Love. Photography courtesy MET Restaurant, Venice.

It was an inundation of “Get Well Soon” floral arrangements that led Ashley Woodson Bailey to start photographing flowers. She was recovering in 2012 from a horrific car crash—one that not only resulted in a broken back but also forced her to give up her full-service floral and event design company in Austin, Texas. “To entertain my brain, I started photographing the flowers that people would bring me, because I was on a lot of painkillers and couldn’t retain anything,” she recalls of her seven-month recovery. “I knew if I took a picture, I could always go back to it.”

As her health improved, she began playing around with the idea of turning these floral pictures into artwork. Her main hang-up: She wasn’t sure people would buy them. Not to mention they were all shot and edited on her phone. Luckily, her images transitioned seamlessly from the screen into the art world. “It was so beautiful I cried,” she says of seeing her first print, which she dubbed Dutch Love. Its romantic combination of amaryllises, roses, carnations, peonies, daffodils and lisianthus has gone on to become one of her most popular images.

Florist-turned-floral-photographer Ashley Woodson Bailey; Photography by MK Sadler

After seeing how well Dutch Love turned out, Bailey realized that her vision of starting a floral printing business could become a reality. In early 2014, she officially launched her company with a collection of prints. “The photographs started out really dark and romantic and moody, and I think that probably had a lot to do with my mental state at the time,” she explains of her original designs. As soon as her business debuted, her floral art business took off, gaining the attention of design blogs and magazines.

Last year, Bailey relocated to Jacksonville after falling in love with it on a trip to visit family. While the overall aesthetic of her work continues to evoke an old-fashioned and romantic feeling, living in Florida’s sunshine has influenced her: “Now that I’m in Florida, everything is turning a little bit brighter, which is fun for me because I didn’t ever really do that before,” she says. “It feels very light and bright and happy here, so that has influenced my work a lot.”

Her art has also evolved and expanded beyond just prints, as her floral designs have been turned into dreamy wallpaper, upholstery fabric and even clothing, including pajama sets and robes. Bailey has collaborated with other designers like Savannah-based Brooke Atwood, and she took her four-year-old business international by working with Australian children’s brand Hubble + Duke. Despite her success, Bailey hasn’t stopped shooting most projects on her phone. “I still like the way they turn out,” she says.

“It’s been awesome, and it was very unexpected,” she says of her career as a florist-turned-floral-photographer. “That very sad thing happened, but it brought all of this amazing beauty into my life.” awblove.com