Women Who Work: Erin Benzakein

When did you know that flowers and gardening were your jam?

I found flowers through landscape design and my love was deepened through farming. As my understanding of flowers grew my desire to arrange them did too. I began with what I could grow in my garden, including many grown items that are not typically thought of when one creates arrangements. Herbs, vegetables, fruits, if I could grow it I was using it. I began to see the beauty in what each season could produce making each bouquet moments of captured time. I practiced and practiced and was constantly met with love,  support and positive feedback which kept me going on my journey and has helped me arrive where I am today.

Why is it important to you to create?

Creating is part of something much bigger than beautiful arrangements or design. Creating helps myself and others think ahead and pioneer new ideas. Creating is a chance to mark life’s greatest milestones and everyday events in a simple yet meaningful ways.

What’s your advice to women wanting to pursue the same thing?

It is all in the practice of your medium and finding what works best for you. I’ve found that everyone struggles more or less with the same things: how to approach color, basic mechanics, proper ingredient selection, and most importantly, confidence. Be gentle with yourself as you work through these things and thing the meaning in the work you are creating.

How to get started


You can find Erin here:

Floret Flowers site
You can find her latest book, A Year in Flowers here
Her first book, Cut Flower Garden here
2020 Floret Farms planner here
Her Garden Journal here

Gardening Art Print

You can find all of the Women Who Work here!

If you are passionate about gardening be sure to check out Floret Farm’s A Year In Flowers and be sure to hang up the Gardening Print in your home to remind you of just how incredible you are at your work!

In my next life: paper cutter

paper cutting and mid century home
paper cutting

photography by Trisha Zemp 

In My Next Life is a regular column featuring people whose work I admire. Check out previous posts here

I’ve known about Cindy Bean‘s paper cutting work for some time as we’ve shared mutual friends over the years. From the moment I saw it, I’ve been in awe of the intricacies of the medium and how she adeptly maneuvers her knife to create delicate designs. Trisha and I were lucky to visit her one afternoon and watch the master in action. AND, we were pleasantly surprised to find that she lives in the coolest home with a strong mid-century vibe that she shares with her husband, son, and dog. Isn’t her home lovely?! The home is sprinkled with her work, cool products her husband picked up when he lived in NYC and artwork from friends (like Jared Clark‘s piece above her in the top photo). I asked her a few questions about her work and she was kind enough to share some thoughts with us today.

Check out her blog Scherenschnitter here, which has lots of free templates, and her shop here

Describe what you do.

I am a creative. I need to make lists to get things done or I sit and think about all the things I need to do until I haven’t done anything at all. One of the things that I like to put on that list is papercutting. Papercutting, or Scherenschnitte is the art of cutting silhouettes out of paper. It is found in many cultures, from China to Sweden. It is a cost effective form of art that almost anyone can do if they have a spare hour or so. I also love to do graphic design and have recently picked up quilting. My latest project is to merge the art of the silhouette with quilting. Look for new posts based on this sometime in the near future.

How did you get into paper cutting?

In May of 2006, my best friend and I went gadding about Europe. We stopped in Salzburg and visited the birthplace of Mozart. At the gift shop there, I purchased two small paper cuts and thought, I can do this, this looks super fun and easy. Then, later on in our trip, we stopped at my grandparent’s farm in Hermuthausen, Germany. In the sitting room I found a few Scherenschnitte on the wall (see picture below) and my idea of it being easy turned more into thinking that this would take some practice. So I came home and started practicing. At the time, I couldn’t find very many books on the subject, so mostly I learned by trial and error. I now enjoy teaching others how to avoid some of the errors.
paper cutting silhouettes
paper cut heart

What is your favorite part about paper cutting?
I enjoy the calm it brings to me. When I am doing a paper cut, I can listen to podcasts or books and am able to completely zone out so that there is nothing but the papercut I am creating and the thing I am listening to. I also enjoy looking at them months after I have completed them. When I first finish, I am much too critical and see all my mistakes. When I step back and take a look at it a little later, I generally always think, “Hey, I did that? That’s pretty good!”

Who inspires you?

Oh, I love so many. Elsa Mora has some wacky stuff coming out of her brain. She’s also very prolific. I love that. I also enjoy Béatrice Coron. She makes such large pieces and I also love that she uses different medium. I’m jealous that she makes fences with her silhouettes. Sometimes I’ll go into museums and see art of people long forgotten and the intricacy and time that went into those pieces is rarely matched in our modern world. There are so many others. I love Helen Musselwhite, Sarah Trumbauer, Yusuke Oono, Su Blackwell, Emily Hogarth, Rob Ryan – so many out there that inspire me to create better and more beautiful things.

What are your favorite tools to work with? 

I’m a blade kind of girl. I recently discovered that I’m an Olfa blade kind of girl, too. Those blades cut like butter. I bought a whole package of Olfa #11s and I haven’t looked back. I like to use the Xacto knife handle and mat the best though. Is it okay to merge those two? I think so.

What are your favorite mediums to work with? 
I think for those starting out, to try something on a sheet of origami paper might be the best. It holds together really well, is thin and also generally has a white backside that you can draw your artwork on. I’ve recently become a fan of silhouette paper and frequently use plain old scrapbooking paper, but not anything too thick. I also enjoy using printmaking paper because it is thicker, yet really easy to cut through.
gold frames against green wall
steps to paper cutting with Cindy Bean
paper cutting portfolio
What’s a memorable moment from your career?

I’d have to say the month I was locked up in the Tower, literally! I was able to spend a month working in the Tower of London creating eight large paper cuts for their teaching room. I was able to sit in a room and look out the window and see the ravens and the Beefeaters, the buildings where kings and queens had ruled, the spot where Anne Boleyn was beheaded and I was able to talk with various people who knew a rich history of the location at anytime I pleased. My favorite thing to learn about was the Menagerie. They used to have strange practices regarding animals including such things as feeding nails to ostriches and ale to elephants. http://papercutting.blogspot.com/2008/03/tower-of-london-education-center.html
You have a full-time job, a side job, a husband, a step soon, how do you juggle all of your roles?
I used to be able to juggle them really well. I was recently married a year and a half ago and along with the husband came a small young boy. Husbands and children take up a lot of time! I like to hang out with them! They like to be fed! The husband and son are no competition for the evil beast of social media. There is so much fun stuff to look at on Pinterest and Facebook. Sometimes I get too sucked in though and need to tell myself that creating things is much more fulfilling than staring at things that others have done. So I unplug. Then there’s that other full-time job thing that gets in the way sometimes too.

Do you have a mantra you live by?
Clean your room? Oh, wait, that’s what my dad has told me my whole life. I’m bad at keeping things tidy. I get it from him. My mom’s German, so that’s definitely not her trait. I think a mantra of mine might be “Endure to the End.” It kind of sounds depressing but it’s not. I think so much of talent is practice and sometimes we see other people with their abilities and their gifts and we get jealous. But if you watch closely, you’ll see that they are enduring. They keep on working at the thing they enjoy and it becomes second nature to them. A lot of hard work goes into creating things that last and are beautiful.
Joseph Smith paper cut in glass cloche

Cindy Bean's mid century home

Tell us about your house and your decorating process.

I think I could best sum up our house with a quote by William Morris, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” That is a work in progress though. Sometimes I collect too many things that I believe to be beautiful and have to let some things go. I like that Tom, my husband, likes similar things. His taste is more streamlined than mine. He’s not as big a fan of squirrels.

Any advice you would give to people who are wanting to start paper cutting? 

Don’t be afraid to use glue! If you are cutting something and are almost done and cut off an arm or something, just glue that sucker right back together on the very edge. If you butt it up from edge to edge and don’t overlap the paper, it will barely be noticeable. There are some people that are perfectionists who can’t do this, and that’s fine, they can start all over. As you get better, you will learn the signs of when you are about to make a mistake and will stop. Usually it’s when I’m tired. So stop, put it away and come back to it. Then you won’t have to use the glue.

Charlie Sheen quote
paper cutting
Jared Lindsay Clark piece
Work of paper cutter

In my next life: teacher

This is the second post in a new monthly series called, “In my next life” where I basically pay homage to people whom I admire or whose jobs I’ve dreamt of. See more posts here.

This month’s In My Next Life is one near and dear to my heart. You see, my friend Sheryl Garner is a dynamite. We met when I lived in Washington, DC and have been friends ever since. Sheryl is one of the funniest persons I know. She’s also one of the most passionate, caring, and friendliest persons I know. To know Sheryl is to love Sheryl. She teaches at an elementary school in the DC school district, one of the most challenging school districts in the country due to a number of well-known set-backs like funding, low test scores, and administration problems. Sheryl WANTS so much for these kids to succeed. She eats and breathes it. Her Facebook statuses usually always have something to do with her kids. 
Like many girls growing up, I went through an “I want to be an elementary school teacher” phase. Though I still think there would be fun and rewarding elements to it, my hat is off to every single teacher out there. That’s got to be tough! And probably thankless, for this, I thank you!
Did you always want to be a teacher? Absolutely not! Being the daughter of an immigrant, I felt like I needed to strive for a prestigious profession. My mom worked really hard to give my brother and me the best life possible. Could I really just become a teacher? On top of that make no money. 

How did you get into teaching? After returning from a full-time LDS mission in South Africa and Namibia, I realized my happiest times in my life was when I was teaching people. I then realized if I’m going to give teaching a real shot, I wanted to teach where no one else wanted to teach, more challenging schools. I applied to the Teach For America program, thinking I would definitely fulfill my 2 year responsibility. Five years later, I’m still teaching in a high needs, low performing school in one of the toughest areas of Washington, DC. 

Were there people along the way in your field who you admired or helped you shaped the decision to be a teacher? Well any good decision I’ve ever made, I can see my mom’s help. She encouraged me to keep going even in my most difficult years of teaching which included being stabbed with a pencil and a pen, slapped, punched and kicked by my students. Even this year, teaching a class of 33 students has been such a challenge, especially since there are so many individual needs from my students, but she always reminds me that she is praying for me and that I can do it. There have been some influential co-workers who equally haven’t given up, that keep me going. 

Do you have a mantra or something you live by? There is a Spanish word that I have taped on a window in my classroom, “Ganas”, which means determined. That keeps me from quitting or walking away especially after tough days. 

What’s your favorite part about your job? Spending one-on-one time with my students. I’ve hung out with many of them outside of school to build stronger relationships or to reward them for their academic achievements. “My kids” are special little people. 

How do you juggle the balance of life/work? I’m fortunate to have amazing friends. I don’t have to come up with activities. They usually plan events. I just show up.

What’s one of the most memorable moments of your career so far? I received a card a couple of Valentine’s Days ago.. The card said, “Dear Ms. Garner. Thank you for getting me smart because I want to go to college. Love, Amariah”.  I received nothing else that day except for that homemade card. I wouldn’t have wanted any other way. 

If you weren’t teaching, what would you be doing? Helping those in third world countries develop business. But then again, that is teaching, isn’t it? 

This is an awesome video that was made about her and it gives a pretty accurate sense of her passion and dedication to her work (also the importance of her religion to her, which comes closer to the end of the video. Just letting you know in case you would prefer to skip out on that part. But the video is awesome. Promise). Our claim to fame is that our wedding invitation is taped to the wall in the kitchen scene. We’re big time.

What would you do if you could do anything? 

photography by Melissa Smith

In my next life: painter

This is the second post in a new monthly series called, “In my next life” where I basically gawk at people whose jobs I’d love. See last month’s with professional ballerina at the Royal Danish Ballet, Christina Michanek
photography by Luisa Brimble courtesy of Arent & Pyke’s blog In/Out

A few weeks ago, Luisa Brimble, a fantastic photographer based in Australia, showed a picture on Instagram of artist Laura Jones’ studio. I was instantly (no pun intended) hooked. Laura paints florals in beautiful, bright colors and thus, her studio is a floral haven. I think I would be pleased as punch if this was my house. 
I grew up in a pretty artistic household and at one point I had decided to be a painter when I grew up. I don’t know when that decision was disrupted–perhaps school, sports, music? But never could I have imagined something like this. Laura’s work takes the cake, right? I’m rarely tempted to actually buy a piece of art–I’m usually quite content to just post it on my Pinterest board–but I’m so absolutely drawn to her work. Check out the interview below.

Did you always want to be an artist? Why or why not?
I did, I have always made art and knew I would always want to make it. I didn’t know if I’d actually become an artist but as I got older I realised that I could make it happen. Being an artist is really important to me now. I work hard at it because I believe that it is what I should be doing and because the world needs artists! 

How did you get into painting? 
I have painted ever since I was little. It has always come naturally to me although that’s not to say it is easy. Painting is a very difficult thing to do because you are always trying to push yourself to make better work, and it is always hard to make space for it in your life around part time work.

As of late, you’ve been painting a lot of flowers. Why? What’s the attraction?  
I grew up in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia. There are a lot of beautiful gardens there and my mother always had flowers around the house. I have always loved them. When I was studying for a Masters in Art at the College of Fine Arts, I would bring big bunches of interesting leaves and flowers to the printmaking studio and make coloured etchings with them. I also started working in a flower shop part time to get me through uni. That was about 2005 and I have worked in flower shops ever since.

My most recent body of work is all about flowers because painting them just made a lot of sense all of a sudden. I had always done a little bit of flower painting here and there but I realised I should make a whole show about them. Flowers are very symbolic, reminding people about the transience of life, whilst also being very positive, happy things. They were good for the soul to paint and I hope that’s what people feel when they look at my flower paintings.

Were there people along the way in your field who you admired or helped you shaped the decision to be an artist?
I have so many. The most influential time was when I was at art school. Because I majored in printmaking, we often had a lot of artists come to the studios to do print projects. The students would assist the Master Printer (and our teacher), Michael Kempson, who would work alongside artists to help them make etchings and works on paper. I met so many painters during this time, and I would ask them about what they did and how they did it. It worked out that the first thing I needed to do was to get a studio. As soon as I graduated I found a studio and I have been a practising artist ever since.

Do you have a mantra or something you live by?
I can’t remember where I read this one but it helped me a lot when I was starting out and feeling slightly overwhelmed by all the potential in painting and where to begin! It was in my first studio, which was above an old pub in Western Sydney, and I remember reading it somewhere and then writing it on the wall, “There is only what you do and what you don’t do.”

My interpretation was to do the work, one painting at a time. Each painting will be better than the last and you will learn something from everything you do.

What’s your favorite part about your job?

The actual process of making things. I am so interested and engaged in what I do, from preparing a surface to paint on, to applying the paint, to painting over something that doesn’t work, to making decisions about what to do next, or even just rearranging my studio. I love looking at something and then trying to describe it with my hands. I really enjoy everything about making work in my studio.

How do you juggle the balance of life/work?
I work all the time, and just get things done. I could probably cook and exercise more but I just love working whether it be at the studio or the flower shop. I socialise a lot and go to lots of art openings. I think I manage to squeeze everything in by working long hours and not watching tv. Life is a constant struggle for balance I suppose.

Is there anything you could do without? I could live without living in the city I think. One day, maybe soon, I’d like to go where there’s more green.

What’s one of the most memorable moments of your career so far?

My recent show is probably top of the list. I really felt so happy with my paintings, and the opening was a huge success.

Being selected as a Finalist for the Doug Moran Prizefor Portraiture– it’s Australia’s richest portrait prize and to be showing with so many other great artists including some of my good friends was wonderful.

Working with Grantpirrie Gallery as their Master Printmaker was amazing too. Also going to the New York Studio School to do a drawing course. There’s too many, and I can’t wait to keep working on more.

If you weren’t painting, what would you be doing?
I would probably be travelling right now. Like a gypsy! 

Thank you, Laura, for participating in In My Next Life. Don’t you just love her? I love the part about hoping her paintings speak to your soul. The answer is yes. YES! Flowers do so much for the soul and I’d love to be surrounded by them like that. If you happen to be in Australia, she has a show right now until the 15th at the Maunsell Wickes Gallery in Paddington. More info here.

And are you looking at the floral print on the chair? It’s from Edit. Isn’t the matching chair/skirt lovely?

Did you ever want to be a painter? What would you do if you could do anything in the world? Speak up! 

In my next life: Ballerina

photography by Amanda Thomsen
I’m super pleased to introduce a new monthly column to Lars and it’s been a long time in coming. Let me explain. Growing up I felt like I was meant to be a ballet dancer. My mom was a dancer, my aunt was a dancer, and clearly I was also supposed to be one as well. The problem is that my ballet teacher didn’t agree. I was “too chubby” to audition for the Nutcracker at the age of 8. Now, it may seem harsh, but in all honesty, I was tubby and most likely awkward because I was definitely shy and turned bright red when anyone spoke to me. Not a great combo for a graceful dancer. My mom instantly took me out of ballet and enrolled me in tennis and cello and I continue to play to this day. Ultimately, she didn’t want me to grow up in a world where weight and appearance was a factor that dictated her life and I’m very glad she directed me in another direction. I’m also very happy with how my childhood and adolescence played out so though I still would have loved to have been a dancer (and with the right body type), I’m satisfied with the talents and skills I’ve been able to develop. No harm done!

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some jobs that I wouldn’t like to try in my next life. Enter new column. This whole internet thing has exposed me to jobs that I never knew existed. Paper floral designer? Color expert? Cupcake maker? Come on, these are dream jobs! In fact, I was going to label this column “Dream Jobs”, but thought that they’re someone’s reality so “In my next life” it is. Every month I’ll feature a different person who inspires me in their chosen profession. First up? Christina Michanek.
Christina Michanek is a soloist at the Royal Danish Ballet. She’s also a good friend of mine and my former landlord. Ha! Paul and I lived on the top floor of her house that she and her husband were renovating. You would think that friendship + landlord could be a recipe for disaster, but these two are the best. I’m their biggest fan. You won’t find two more kind and hardworking people. Part of the reason I was so sad to leave Denmark was because we wouldn’t be by them (and their adorable 2 year old).
Christina generously invited my mom and me to attend a dress rehearsal of a brand new show at the Ballet in September at the Opera House, The Golden Cockerel (or Den Gyldne Hane), an opera by Rimsky-Korsakov that was turned into a ballet with original choreography by Alexei Ratmansky. She said that the sets and costumes reminded her of me and my jaw just about dropped when I saw them. They’re bright and bold and colorful (see below). They’re the original designs from Ballet Russes. I invited Amanda Thomsen, the awesome photographer with whom I shared a studio in Copenhagen, to come along and document the day. She takes us through from the practice, getting ready and finally the dress rehearsal with her beautiful photos.
Mom and I had a ball watching The Golden Cockerel. Though the story is over-the-top (like all operas), I loved the dancing and original choreography. There was an exotic spin on traditional ballet. I also loved the costumes. It was definitely a feast for the eyes. I tend to like dress rehearsals better than the real thing because you get to hear the banter between the director, maestro, and dancers. It’s a bit more entertaining when you add in the real life drama.
With that in mind, Christina was kind enough to answer a few questions.
Did you always want to be a dancer? 
Before I knew ballet and ballet dancers even existed I wanted to be a librarian. The library was such a magical place for me. It was like a church for stories. And I dreamed of being this superlibrarian who could tell people as soon as I saw them what they should get! 
How did you get into dancing? 
An American missionary who was dancing at Ballet West in Utah, Candice Taylor, made a little dance for all the young girls in my church congregation for a Christmas activity. Ever since she danced for us I was hooked!




Were there people along the way in your field who you admired or helped you shape the decision to be a dancer?
In the school it was my friend Ulrik Birkjær (now principal the company) who was my ‘source’ or his ambition and ballet interest just made him the one I could ask ballet questions and he inspired me to aspire higher. Still does. Apprentice years and early dancer years it was Adam Lüders, Caroline Cavallo, Sorella Englund and Nikolaj Hübbe.
What’s your favorite part about your job?
The feeling of moving in space led by my own musicality. The drama we get to enjoy! I’m a drama junkie! I’ll do a death scene any day any time. The theater magic of costumes, stage light and a live orchestra.
Is there anything you could do without?
I could do without the judging, elbowing, never good enough chase for perfection. And that it takes forever to get in shape and four days to get out of it…that’s almost evil.


How do you juggle being a wife/mother with your job?
I make sure to leave work at work and don’t bring it home. And if I need to take a nap before a show I do it in the living room preferably in the beanbag on the floor so it’s easy for my son to play on and around me. FaceTime helps a lot too then we can blow kisses to each other and sing songs and play games. It was a great help when I went on tour recently.
What’s one of the most memorable moments of your career?
Some of my favorite moments… Watching a colleague on their 40th jubilee and seeing old pictures and video and sensing their love for their work and how much they are loved for sharing their talent.
First Sylph rehearsal is a special memory too. As soon as Nikolaj [Hübbe, the director of the ballet] had left the studio I let out a little scream and involuntary leap of joy and then I got a little embarrassed cause he could probably hear me.
Romeo and Juliet balcony pas de deux with Ulrik in Japan. I stole a moment to just soak in the stage, the music, the moment and save it in my heart and mind and it made me shiver with delight.
Watching Nikolaj dance Apollo in a small proconsul theater, sitting in the wing so fascinated that I almost was on stage! I’m pretty sure he didn’t mind at all.
I have a lot of favorite moments.


I loved watching Christina dance. She is pure passion and love for the art. I’m also very lucky to call her my friend. She is beauty, kindness, and integrity. Thank you, Christina, for being letting us follow you around.
Stay tuned for next month’s In My Next Life.
Do you have a dream job? What is it?
Thank you to Det Kongelige Teater for allowing us to take up some space in the practice room and letting us wander around backstage.
Photography by Amanda Thomsen