By Sara Duchovnay
Mezzo-soprano Betany Coffland’s performances have been hailed by Opera News as “extremely fine” and “a joy to watch,” and her tone has been described by The San Francisco Classical Voice as "plush" and "Italianate". She is not only being praised for her voice, but her flowers too! Betany is the owner of Chloris Floral, a flower design studio in Sonoma County committed to using 100% local and seasonal blooms grown using organic practices.
How did you become interested in flower farming and floral design?
About two and a half years ago, I was overwhelmed with constantly trying to find “the next gig” and taking gigs that weren’t filling my artistic soul. It just became too much. My health was beginning to suffer due to the pressure. I was sinking into a depression, dark circles developed under my eyes, and I started having chest pains! So I made the decision to take some time off of singing and see what would happen. This was seriously the HARDEST DECISION OF MY LIFE. I still get emotional thinking about it! What in the world would I DO? I’d been studying singing since I was thirteen, attended seven years of conservatory, and my ambitions hadn’t allowed for any serious consideration of another career.
A Few months prior, I was out on an audition and read a great book called The Dirty Life about a young woman’s experience living and growing on an organic farm. I was inspired by that life, and I just so happened to have some new farmers friends in Sonoma County. I was looking to volunteer on an organic farm and a friend of mine said, “I know some flower farmers who could use some help” and the rest is history; two a half months later, I became a co-owner of that flower farm. That autumn I went back to singing, but on my own terms and delved head first into my new found passion; local flowers. About a year ago, I left the flower farm and started my own business called Chloris Floral.
In what way has your musical career influenced your floral design business and vice versa?
I instinctively knew that my musical career would influence my floral designs because I’m constantly hearing music in my head while harvesting flowers and designing them.
My floral design business has influenced my singing career by allowing me to take a step back and have a more balanced life. I’m not so desperate anymore and all my eggs aren’t in one basket. Yet, both of my passions strongly influence and compliment one another. We each have this idea in our head of what being a “successful” performer means. For me, now it translates to performing a handful of gigs a year with artists who inspire and challenge me, while growing my new floral design business and most importantly, maintaining a healthy and inspiring relationship with my husband.
How has being a small business owner and entrepreneur benefited you as a singer?
The biggest thing I’ve learned about being an entrepreneur is the exact same insecurities and weaknesses that I have as a singer, I also have in my new business. My biggest challenges are following through on networking opportunities and confidence. I always think, “oh, they don’t have time for me”! It was such a realization when those two things carried over into my new career!
I also learned that ALL businesses have amazing inspiration, inspiring and awful people, and loads of competition. You can choose who you surround yourself with and in this new career, I’ve made a conscious decision to align myself with nice, supportive, uplifting, and inspiring individuals. I don’t have time or the energy for gossips, time-suckers, and dishonesty. One of my biggest goals in this life is to be authentic and inspiring, and I look for people who cultivate that too.
How has being a singer benefitted you as a designer and entrepreneur?
Singers are taught to be prepared, on time, early in fact, and follow through. These are lessons that will help you win at life and translate into any business. It’s amazing how these simple things will get you pretty far and set you apart, but so few people actually do it.
Having to be the face for my singing business has helped me put myself out there as the face of my new business. Learning the skills to be my own marketer for Betany Coffland, mezzo-soprano has translated into my marketing Chloris Floral.
Tell us about your opera and music inspired bouquets. Describe the meaning and thought behind your favorite ones.
These are SO much fun and I have so many ideas that are just bursting inside. It’s especially fun to be inspired by music I am learning for my next performance. It’s interesting to realize where some of the inspirations come from, in addition to the music. For example, Mozart’s Don Giovanni bouquet was greatly inspired by a green corset, my Vivaldi’s Autumn bouquet was inspired by a 1890’s lace wedding gown and a golden colored ribbon, and Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos was inspired by Ariadne's wedding that doesn’t take place in the opera.
All of these bouquets then have hidden meanings and I use specific flowers. In Victorian times, there was a secret Language of Flowers where blooms were given to represent a message. For example, daffodils mean kindness; chrysanthemums are for fidelity, lilies for wealth and pride. Zerlina’s inspired wedding bouquet included a yellow rose for her cheating ways and Vivaldi’s Winter bouquet includes eucalyptus to represent a time for slowing down and healing.
My Carmen inspired bouquet was influenced by her flamenco dancing and I wanted to show that movement in the way the flower dances out of the bouquet. It’s truly so much fun and just to think, that the opportunity to work with flowers would have never come to me should I not made that decision to take a step back and look around myself.
For more information on Betany Coffland and Chloris Floral visit www.betanycoffland.com and www.chlorisfloral.com.
Photo Credit: photo by Jessica Layton. Flowers by Betany Coffland, Chloris Floral- Zerlina's bouquet, Mozart inspired