The work-space formally known as a garage, is a mix of motorcycles and flowers. One side of the dimly lit space is filled with tools and motorcycle parts while the other half has tables filled with freshly cut flowers. The two sides couldn’t be more different. They’re polar opposites.
Vanessa Diaz, a twenty four-year-old alumni of San Francisco State University stands near her work table in her corner of the garage in her Sunset District home. Diaz and boyfriend Jeff Tong, share the garage. Tong uses the space to repair old Harleys while Diaz uses it to create flower arrangements. She cuts and trims light pink roses and carefully places them amongst different shades of green leaves. Diaz, a graduate of the Zoology Department at SF State decided to take a non traditional route after graduating in May of 2017.
“As graduation approached, I was nervous as hell,” said Diaz with a smile.
Diaz grew up in Southern California in a town where everyone knew everything about everyone else. Everyone went to the same elementary school, the same middle school, and then graduated high school together. Diaz recalls getting into SF State and thinking, “Yep. This is it. I’m going.” And she did. Diaz moved to San Francisco in August of 2012, ready and excited to pursue Zoology.
“I kind of knew all along that I whatever I wanted to do was gonna involve either animals or some sort of nature in science. I grew up always having a passion for animals,” said Diaz while strategically placing the pink roses in certain areas of the ceramic vase.
But after graduating and interning for The California Academy Sciences, Diaz decided that she wanted to take a different route, a route that had little to do with her studies. With her students loan payments right around the corner, Diaz knew she had to come up with something quick. While working at a restaurant in the SOMA district, Diaz got inspired.
“After graduation, I started picking up more shifts at the restaurant. In July (2017) my manager approached me and asked if I had any interest in doing flower arrangements for the restaurant,” said Diaz.
Diaz hardly had any experience with flowers. While growing up, she remembers her mom in the yard gardening. Diaz’s green thumb definitely steams from her mother’s passion of planting and growing her own flowers (no pun intended).
“If it wasn’t my mom and I in the garden, it was me and my dad playing softball,” said Diaz while giggling at the thought of herself playing softball.
“I always kind of had an interest in flowers. Whether that be gardening or flower arranging. I surprised myself once I’d said yes to my manager. After my first few arrangements, I was like, ‘Holy shit I think I can kind of do this.’”
After working on flower arrangements at the restaurant for a couple months, Diaz decided to take the next step. Open her own business.
“Why don’t I just see where this goes and work under my own name and get a business title?” said Diaz while discussing her thoughts before taking this leap. “I woke up the next day and I was like ‘what the hell am i doing? I just graduated this year and I’m not doing anything related to what I studied.”
Diaz then went on to tell a story about a close friend who had also recently graduated. Her friend had every intention of going to medical school. Once he graduated, he realized that medical school wasn’t the end all be all. Because he spent so much time preparing for medical school, he began to lose himself in the process. He became fixated on the idea of becoming a doctor when in reality it wasn’t something he’d be happy doing. Many college graduates experience this type of pressure and end up unhappy with their jobs.
Diaz didn’t want to experience those post-grad blues. She didn’t want to sit behind a desk or continue to host at a restaurant, she wanted to do something that would make her happy. So, she opened Unwritten Floral Work and Design.
“My business is called Unwritten Floral Work and Design,” said Diaz with a smile.
“The reason why I named it all that was to summarize everything I’ve been doing. I haven’t had any floral experience, I don’t have a certification ‘quote on quote’, and I started off in my garage. Everything I’ve done has been, figuratively speaking, unwritten. Nothing’s been planned out, I’ve just been going with my instinct. So, that in itself, is unwritten.”
Diaz has spent the past few months learning about all things flowers. She’s attended seminars, workshops, and classes in order to improve her skills. Her goal is to become more educated on the design aspect of floral work.
“Just because you’re done with school doesn’t mean you have to stop taking a class here and there. Read a book about how to build this or how to build that. Read a book about psychology. Whatever you want!” said Diaz passionately.
“For me, I’m educating myself on floral design.”
When it comes to following your gut and choosing your own path, Diaz is the poster child. She’s confident that in the future she’ll return to working in the zoology field but for now, she’s content with the decision she’s made. When asked to give advice to others approaching graduation, she responded with the following:
“Advice? Oh God…Take it slow, there is no rush.”
“Trust yourself. It’s so hard to trust yourself, especially in a time where we’re constantly being influenced by others. Take a step back and think about what you want to do.”
“Lastly, just go with your gut. If I didn’t go with mine, I would not be here right now,” concluded Diaz as a smile slowly emerged on her face.
Photos by: Nicole Green