Allison Song, The Pioneer Bearing Flowers; or How the Success of a Korean-American Woman Reveals Atlanta’s Thriving Creative Community

 

The alarm rings and Allison reaches over to turn it off. She coaxes herself out of bed, which her dogs, two rescued pit bull mixes, are happily excited about. She makes her way through the kitchen to the door to her backyard, her two brindle minions in tow. They wait impatiently for her at the door and bolt through it as soon as it opens. As they’re out sniffing, running, and playing, Allison starts the coffee maker, washes up, and takes a bite or two of pastry as she eagerly waits for the aromatic — yet painfully slow — drops to finish emptying into the coffee pot. The dogs come back in, and she pours them their food. Finally, a single but persistent beep informs her that the coffee is done. She pours it into a mug, mixes in her soy creamer, and takes her first good sip. She’s always appreciated good coffee, and now the first sips of her mornings recall her resolution to take on the day. She takes her mug with her pastry and heads to the office, her dogs seemingly permanent on her heel, but they stop uncertainly in the hallway. She herself stands at the threshold where her small hallway ends and her office begins and looks around.

It’s as if her house is overcome by nature’s retribution. Buckets of varieties of flowers line the far wall, giving off such differing fragrances that steep the air, and mixed with the steaming vapors from her coffee mug, the mornings for her couldn’t smell better. By the buckets of flowers, there are still more loaded with fresh greeneries that have been drinking thirstily all night from the water that fill them. All in all, the buckets fill almost half of the room, but there are still vases, glasses, tools, and boxes. There’s already a large pile of snipped stems and plucked petals from the day before when the plants were delivered and Allison had sorted through them all, individually touching each one at one point or another as she does. 

She makes her way to her desk, gingerly moving through her office like a meadow. She sets down her mug, then her breakfast, and looks around again, her hands on her hips. It always takes a few moments of calculation and the summoning of courage to do what she’s about to do. But then she remembers her reason for it all, so she pulls up her sleeves and gets to work.

How It Began

For Allison, it couldn’t have been anywhere else at any other time. She was born in Seacaucus, New Jersey, but Atlanta has been home to her since she was hardly a few months old. In her own words: “I definitely believe I couldn't have gotten my start anywhere else. Atlanta has an amazing creative community where artists encourage and help each other, rather than viewing each other purely as competition. I am so grateful for the artists who helped push me in the beginning.” Though some aspects of her pursuit may be monotonous or tedious, she believes that there is nothing else she’d rather be doing, and a stimulating and emboldening community has helped her take leaps and bounds to pursue her vision.

It’s hard to pinpoint, however, exactly what it is that Allison does. For now, we can just say she works with flowers. She found her niche while working a corporate job and stumbled upon a demand for fairly priced and quality made flower crowns. Since then, it was like she was infected with a constant drive to create; she gave her regular hours to her job, but every night after dinner until one or two in the morning, she sat at her desk and practiced her craft.

Soon enough, she saw the effect that her work had on people, especially women. When she adorned her crowns on others’ heads, she saw them transform before her very eyes, like she had blessed them with confidence and beauty. She watched the eyes of young girls gleam with joy under her flower crowns; she witnessed women brighten and smile to themselves, beginning to understand that they were beautiful. She received messages in her inbox of testaments of how her crowns helped women feel their inner worth, and one could imagine the sort of bewildered puzzlement and honor that she must’ve felt at hearing such testimonies.

She realized that her urge to create perhaps weaved — or maybe it uncovered from within her — a deeply engrained purpose, to share beauty with the world. She hopes her flower crowns can make women feel beautiful and, in turn, brave, while her clients and brides can see their inner beauty manifested with Allison as their intermediary, bringing their visions to life through her floral arrangements and wedding styling.

Like when form finds its function, Allison’s drive to create was sanctified with a commitment, and she has pursued her path ever since.

A Little Background

Allison is the second child and only daughter of two South Korean immigrants. Just as her parents immigrated to the United States, their daughter has pioneered in her own way into the Atlanta creative scene. Though other places like the west coast and the northeast can claim to have many Asian creatives, the Atlanta scene has surprisingly few, and the industry that Allison finds herself in is void of any Korean Americans as far as she knows. In the almost three years she’s been in the floral industry, she’s met a small handful of Asian Americans, and not a one was Korean.

So, after simply following her incessant drive to create, she suddenly found herself in the peculiar position as pioneer in the Atlanta creative scene as the sole Korean American in her particular circles. She befriended, attracted, and was attracted to other Korean American vendors, of course, but in her particular specialty, there was no cohort. She widened her eyes and shook her head at this notion initially, but the circumstances couldn’t lie: by being resolute in her passion and honest in her practicality, she was blazing a trail for the Korean community in a part of Atlanta we’d yet been.

It’s not as if the creative community isn’t welcoming or inviting, because it most certainly is. It’s just that no one from the Korean circles had known of its hospitality, and it’s no responsibility of any of its artists to be mindfully inclusive of the rising community of immigrants in the north of Atlanta.

Allison, however, took the time to reach out prolifically by email for opportunities to design, style, or observe. Out of dozens of emails that she sent, it only took one reply to fill a few weekends with tangible work that helped her accumulate experience. Following the trails of a handful of replies, she was well on her way to building her rapport and her network.

At Present

With a stature barely over five feet, an unassuming figure, and a soft voice, Allison is not the most conspicuous, especially in the middle of the adrenaline-filled rush prior to and during a wedding. But, somehow, these are her strengths. She quietly works behind the scenes, and none would be the wiser — weddings proceed as if organically, and her voice, though gentle, has a firmness to it that ironically carries an intonation of authority.

Indeed, the apparently organic disposition of her weddings is a part of her character, as she does her best to complement the natural style of each flower, committed to maintaining the style of how they grow. This is evident in the way that she plans with her clients as well; her preliminary interviews and meetings have more to do with getting to know her clients than planning a wedding because she firmly believes in reflecting the character of her brides and grooms in her styling to serve them best.

Her wedding services include both styling and coordinating, so she often finds herself directing the very weddings that she brought to life for her couples. Due to this, many vendors tend to treat her with a posture of trust and service, knowing that the wedding they’re working is designed, styled, and run by one and the same person. Her quiet disposition keeps her couples calm, as well as the vendors around her (though personal confessions revealed that quite a lot of stress runs through her mind).

Her styling capabilities have attracted many to her, including Sephora, Red Bull, and West Elm, and she was featured in Creative Loafing's Best Of 2015 spread for Best Floral Arrangements in Atlanta. She continues to make inventory for Flower Crown Society, and her floral services are continually called upon. Her busy seasons for wedding styling and coordinating — as with most other vendors — are in the spring and fall, and her weeks for the first season of the upcoming year is already full.

Her arrival was as quiet and as conspicuous as a rose slowly opening its petals alone on a scene of greenery. Like the first blossom of the season, however, her presence is only indicative of more to come, for no bush holds a single flower. But for now, Allison Song should be recognized for her pioneering character, and when we speak of Atlanta creatives, we can always refer to her given name, Rhee Jangmi, adorned by her mother, which can translate into:

“This Rose.”



All photos are the creative property of Tiny Atlas Photography.