Erin Slayton is a little bit of everything.
She’s a plant preservationist, a jewelry-maker, a resin artist, a high school English teacher, a faithful friend and a devoted daughter.
But, most of all, she’s a passionate creator.
“I don’t try to limit myself to being one kind of artist,” Slayton said. “Wherever inspiration strikes, that’s where I go and what I do. … I try to never say ‘no’ to new things.”
For the last three years, Slayton has been using her Instagram and website, pocketofsunshine7.com, to find her creative groove. The “self-proclaimed fashionista” started by making colorful, expressive jewelry, which led her to experiment with flowers, resin and other materials.
In 2019, the death of a close friend opened the door to try floral preservation, an increasingly popular way for people to keep the fresh flowers from weddings, funerals and other important life events. It was – and still is – a trial-and-error process, she said, but her work has taken off online and she is now working with flowers sent from clients around the country.
“I’m very in tune and in touch with nature and I love flowers, so preserving and working with them, it just felt natural,” Slayton said. “And it has just grown organically.”
Slayton, who is a full-time teacher at Abington High School, exudes creative energy. Her smile is wide, her clothes are wild and it’s easy to fall into a relaxed conversation with her warm, welcoming attitude. She seems like someone who naturally goes with the flow, and she said a large part of her work is releasing control and embracing that she doesn’t know where the process will take her.
“I like eclectic styles,” she said. “When I’m working with natural materials, I like that they’re natural, so whatever it is I’m making I try to remind myself that I’m working with something that was really alive and I’m giving it new life without reinventing what it once was.”
From wedding bouquets to event centerpieces and funeral flowers, Slayton relishes in preserving not just flowers, but memories. Clients who send her their florals are eager to see them reused in a way that can be part of their everyday lives. Slayton said she’s been handed bouquets from a wedding 24 hours before, and flowers from funerals that happened decades ago.
“People tell me, ‘This is really special to me, so it means a lot you were able to do something with them,'” she said. “So many of these things are attached to a memory and people cherish that they have this special thing they couldn’t just buy in a store.”
Slayton first dries the petals using a “floral microwave” that preserves the color and shape of the original flower. She then sorts her materials by color and organizes them in such a way that she can see everything at once. From there, she creates collages in shadowboxes, as jewelry, coasters, wine toppers, home décor or however else clients envision it.
Collage work has always appealed to her, Slayton said, and she also creates dried-flower artwork from plants she finds in her parents’ garden, collects on walks or orders from other small businesses around the world.
Despite her full-time job as a teacher, Slayton said she’ll never be able to give up her creative work. It’s never going to make her rich, she said, but it will always bring her joy.
“I just do it on my own time. I don’t want it to feel like work. I keep my boundaries straightforward: This is creative time for me and I set the pace, the tone and the workload,” she said. “I try to honor that this is something I’m doing to fill me up, not to drain my cup.”
Photos in this post were taken by the wonderfully talented Greg Derr. They were originally published in The Patriot Ledger.