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Knotty Totty’s Designs

Her work has accompanied brides down the aisle, welcomed new babies, celebrated milestones and started love stories, but Kelly Totman says it’s not just in the moment that her floral designs bring joy to her customers − it’s all the moments after.

“Anything you do with real flowers I can do and more − because they last,” she said. “The sky is the limit.”

Totman, a Quincy native, owns a floral studio in Middleboro called Knotty Totty’s Designs, but, unlike the average florist, her work lasts a lifetime. Instead of fresh blooms, Totman uses flowers made from a thin wood and either hand paints or airbrushes them to look just like the real thing. The difference is unnoticeable in photos and nearly imperceptible in person, and Totman said the alternative to fresh flowers is gaining in popularity.

“People can’t believe how real they look,” she said. “People will call me from the photos on my website and be shocked that the photos they saw were of wood flowers. Nine times out of 10 they call me back. People love that they’ll last.”

In a barn behind her Middleboro home, the soon-to-be mom of three has thousands of wooden flowers sorted by color palette, type of bloom and season in wooden boxes along the wall. In the center, she keeps an eccentric collection of containers including mason jars, painted vases, watering cans, milk jugs and more. Then, she works where she can find free space to assemble floral arrangements just as a florist would, but hers sit in insulation foam instead of water. Around the wooden flowers, she uses artificial or pressed greenery.

Totman’s flower journey started after her own 2016 wedding, when she took a chance and ordered her bouquet from a national wooden floral company.

“At the time, I thought it was so beautiful and amazing, but I know now that they used the worst and cheapest flowers possible,” she said. “So I started experimenting on my own and making shower gifts and holiday gifts and laughed when friends and family told me I should sell them. And now, I do it full time.”

The career change was a big one. Totman was an abuse and neglect investigator for the state Department of Children and Families before going full time with her business.

“This was an outlet that brought me joy,” she said. “After seeing all the bad in the world, this was how I was creative and got into something beautiful.”

She’s done large floral installations and small bouquets for events, including re-creations of florals from special moments of yesteryear. Knotty Totty’s also sells everyday arrangements for gifts and display.

In addition to custom designs, she has a dozen pre-organized color palettes for customers to choose from, including “Carol’s Beach House,” “Fall in Love” and the most popular, “Farmhouse,” which is made of neutral flowers and varying shades of blue.

“I try to think of what look or vibe I’m going for and go from there. For ‘Farmhouse,’ I wanted it to feel like a real home on a farm,” Totman said while her family’s chickens clucked in the background. “The ‘Ever After’ palette inspiration came from a combination of several different weddings. Sometimes, I even have a name before I have an actual idea.”

The cost of arrangements is comparable to those of a traditional florist. Large arrangements are about $75, mediums $55 and small mason jar bouquets cost $38. Totman also hosts “create and take” events at breweries and other spaces, where she provides containers and flowers based on a customer’s pre-chosen color palette and then teaches attendees how to arrange them.

In the next year or so, Totman said she hopes to have a brick-and-mortar location for storing materials, arranging flowers and hosting consultations for potential customers. Knotty Totty’s Designs ships nationwide and has sold to customers in more than 20 states.

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