Artist of the Month: Hello Happy Plants

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For anyone who feels their relationship with that pesky 7am alarm clock has run its course, maybe take a page from Kelsey Ryder's book and ditch the day job for a happy home brewed business, (one where you get to hang out with your dog while you work, dreamy right?). Kelsey made the move and ever since has been creating lovable kitsch planters, bore from a sugary sweet assortment of gas station inspiration from Cheetos to Chick-fil-A. We got hold of Kelsey in between setting moulds to chat plant care, the daily hustle and following your dreams.

Interview by Rhiannon Thornton

Hey Hello Happy Plants! We want to know all about you, who is part of the team and how did you first start out?

Heyo! My name is Kelsey Ryder and I live in Orlando Florida. I work with cement and make plants their little dream homes from silicone moulds! While it's still mainly me doing most everything, I've hired a couple friends to help here and there over the last year or so. I'm a bit of a control freak (i really try to keep it in check!!) but I would be lying if I said I didn't like to have a hand on everything that comes in and out of my doors. I guess I started realising I couldn't keep up with the demand for my plant homes (what an amazing problem to have, right?) So recently one of my best friends, Cheyenne, has become more of a staple around HHP headquarters. She helps with wholesale and shipping, so I can focus on day to day and .... the future!!!!

It's a question as old as time, what came first the plant or the pot? Did you guys begin making planters to home your love for foliage or did you start acquiring plants to fit your pots?

It actually started when my old job was hosting a pop up-market outside of their shop. I was feeling super burnt out on "work life" and where I was "headed" and had recently received some good advice to "stop being a baby and make a move" (shout out to my tough luving boyfriend) so i felt like it was a perfect time to make a move. My friends and I would always thrift planters for our own homes and would have the best days finding plants, drinking beers in the yard while re-homing plants in those planters and people seemed to like them when they'd come over, so I thought- what the hell! Lets sell them.

My friends Maggie, Caroline and Jackie helped HHP take its first tiny (but to me, so insanely huge) baby step. That day was so much fun and went so well that I almost walked into my old job at the end of the day and put my two weeks in (I think I also might have been a little buzzed up) hahaha. So anyways, those girls already had their big girl jobs and part of me feels like they saw me come alive when I talked about my plant kids, so they let me take the reigns. I became the single mother of HHP real quick (with the help of really good friends!!)

There were a couple planters I had wished I could sell over and over again but knew It'd take forever to find. My friend Francesca (who makes amazing planters moulded from real fruits and vegetables!!!) had just started learning how to make moulds and agreed to teach me in exchange for my first planter. I'm not sure she will ever know how much she changed my whole damn life! (I love you, Francesca!!) I've been making moulds of whatever comes to mind since then!

Your 'Women are not here to serve you' pot is pretty punk, and it's defiantly unusual if not completely brilliant to see a little political agency in homeware, can you speak a little about this?

Thank you for asking me about this planter! Making the type of planters that I make, It's not often I feel I can relay a message through my work. I'm trying to find more ways to - (I'm a Leo, I'm a woman, Donald trump is our president... I got a lot to say!!!!) but delivering a message like that on a la Croix can planter has proven to be a bit difficult haha. I was asked to be in an all female art show a while back and it had a Greek theme so I thought it'd be a perfect fit. It got a good response so I decided to carry them in my shop! You can't see from the picture, but the back actually has a drawing of a Greek krater pouring a woman a beer!

I'm besotted with the kitsch style, does the weird and wonderful come naturally to you?

Thank you so much! Up until I started making my own planters, I'm honestly not sure if I'd even picked up a paint brush or clay to mold something since I was in elementary school art class, so even though I've been at this for a couple years now- I still feel like such a newbie to "art" sometimes. I really love logos and signage and I feel like a 5-minute walk through a gas station can provide more inspiration than any museum, for me! haha. I actually eat pretty healthily and I'm vegan so that limits a lot of junk food- I think slowly but surely I've started vicariously-fantasy-snacking through my chip bag, candy bar and Slurpee planters.

Have you ever custom-made planters for anyone? I can imagine you feel the pressure to come up with that perfect personal planter around birthdays.

Yeah for sure! I love it so much too. I'm actually working on Hawaiian license plates right now! I never get tired (or take for granted) the repetition of making the planters I make - but every now and then I jump for joy when I have someone ask for something custom. I have very little time to work on new stuff so it gives me a great opportunity to try new things and gather new inspiration all while challenging me to learn how to paint something completely new to me.

Your work has a total smile-inducing, boldly happy feel to it, on existential crisis days does your style waver or does it only enhance what you've got going on?

You are smile inducing!!!!! I guess on existential crisis days, I go out back to my cement shed and cast planters for hours and hours. (To preface- I mix cement, and cast in silicone moulds) the cement cures pretty quick so by the time I'm done casting them all, it's time to take them out and start again. Not only does mixing the cement & playing with power tools really calm me down and make me feel very in control, it also gives me a really great opportunity to see each planter as just a completely blank canvas. I know it may seem goofy because no matter what kind of day it is- they're all blank canvases once they're out of the mold, but it's just a different (sweaty, cement-y, messy, very peaceful) state of mind I find myself in that sets me straight, keeps me focused and gets me all giddy about the future.

I just killed a Hawaiian tree plant and feel pretty ashamed of myself. What are your top tips for young green thumbs just starting out?

Oh no! Plants are like people- some are needier than others! pro aerating tip: save some chopsticks the next time you find yourself eating foods that require them. Keep one next to each plant that gets watered and before watering, poke around 4 or 5 times (a few inches deep if you can). That'll keep their leaves and roots healthy and happy :) pay attention and listen to your plants too. Move them around, water less, water more, etc. They'll let you know (will be dramatic and try to die on ya) if they're not happy with how their lives going.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start their own budding business? (pun intended)

Hustle hustle hustle. Be kind, be focused, don't take yourself too serious (but also keep in mind that you're the shit for trying to do your own thing). make to do lists. Then hustle hustle hustle.

What have you got in the works next?

I'd like to make some new moulds! Maybe some bigger ones? More pop ups in new places? Collabs with new people? Who knows- I wanna do it all! But as for today's works- I need to go out back and play with my doggie, Goldie. She's been so over the top, literally throwing her toys at me this entire interview.

Keep up to date with what Hello Happy Plants comes up with next on Instagram, and get some perfect planters in your life over at Hello Happy Plants store!