The evening is humid and sunny. We can hear the cicadas just beginning to make noise in the trees. There is a slight breeze in the air. We're early. As we walk into the backyard of a cute little yellow house, Eden and Ruth are hustling around preparing for guests. Feeding off that energy of anticipation, we can't help but pitch in with setting the table.
This is our first Photanical event. We've watched as their eight workshops have come and gone since January, both too shy to commit to a date. We finally got brave enough to reach out, sign up, and show up. We along with nearly 20 others, filling the yard with hungry bellies and a bit of bravery—Let's show up and have supper with strangers. Maybe they'll turn out to be kindred spirits.
As people settle into their spots at the table, Eden introduces herself and Ruth. We watch as she tells them how the evening will unfold, and then dinner begins—vegan, four-course, consumable art from Bird Food. Ruth and Eden slip away from the meal, long enough to share the story behind nights like this.
Ruth Yaroslaski is the photographer behind Yaro Photo, and Eden Hakimzadeh is a stylist with a passion for botanical art and floral arranging. The two unlikely friends hosted their first event in January 2016 for a friend who requested that Eden teach a flower crown workshop and have Ruth photograph it. The collaboration grew from there as the two discovered a common passion for holding space for people.
Now, the two host one or two workshops a month, where anyone is welcome to come try their hand at botanical art—anything from floral crowns to terrariums, and hanging baskets to potted dinner favors. During each event, Ruth documents the organic interaction as strangers become friends—bonded by shared interest, a pinch of courage, and the desire to connect. Photanical also collaborates with venues, caterers, and galleries to bring these workshops to life. Their partners are local businesses with a common purpose.
Coming from similar backgrounds, living in big cities with exclusive art scenes, they ended up in Fort Wayne desiring something similar. Something better. Creative community. Who knew they would create it together? They now host events they love to attend themselves (honoring their aesthetic and values) that anyone can attend and feel welcome. The idea is show up, learn, connect, and do a little self-care, while being seen and appreciated.
WHAT DOES COMMUNITY MEAN TO YOU?
//ruth// A safe place to be yourself. A place where you are supporting others and they are supporting you. A place of openness and trust. Community helps you feel supported. Therefore, you are able to accomplish what you set out to accomplish.
//eden// Community in Photanical comes from eating together, and creating something. Stepping outside of your box and work, relying on and admiring each other. We want everyone to know that support is there for them.
HOW HAS PHOTANICAL BEEN RECEIVED?
//eden// I think we were surprised at how many people showed up that we didn't know. A few of our events have sold out so quickly we didn't even have a chance to tell our friends.
ARE YOU ATTRACTING THE DIVERSE GUESTS YOU INTENDED?
//eden// While we are looking around I am the only brown person here. We have people that think, Oh I have to look a certain way or be this size or shape. We want to open it up more.
//ruth// We try to talk about it in a way that is open: Come out of your comfort zone and be a part.
HOW DO YOU HONOR YOUR BRAND WITHOUT BEING EXCLUSIVE?
//ruth// We try to not talk about it like its the coolest thing to do. We're open to everyone, from those who have never done anything creative to those putting their art into galleries. We also feature everyone who uses our #photanical hashtag on Instagram, even if it isn't a photo we would take. There isn't a certain aesthetic that needs to be captured.
//eden// It's a little bit of trial and error. We've reached out to people to personally invite them. We also choose events and vendor collaboration requests based on whether our intentions all align. We find people reach out and meet each other as long as it's their goal. I'm working on leading the conversation at events if it's not happening.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
//eden// I want to connect to other communities and let them know that this is a possibility. It's possible to have a community outside your family.
both// We're open to change that allows Photanical to develop and grow, and also be passed down. We're both training people who can replace us if necessary—as photographer or host. This will open up more opportunities.
We had been dying to talk with Ruth and Eden for months, attend an event, and experience what Photanical had to offer. After speaking with them, and seeing their intentions in action, here is what we learned: If you want to connect with new people while doing a little self-care (creatively, physically, emotionally), and you're willing to step outside of your comfort zone, Ruth and Eden have created the space. You just have to show up and fill it with what you want out of it! All the pieces are there.
We want to thank Ruth and Eden for a beautiful evening, for sharing their story, and ultimately bringing something beautiful to the city where they were newcomers not long ago. We're proud to support these gals' beautiful intentions, crazy talent, and brave mashup to bring people together and give them a place to belong. Cheers! Bravo! And Congratulations ladies!
Supper and Succulent Event Gallery
All images taken by Ruth Yaro | Supper and Succulents 7.19.16