Shayai Lucero temporarily closed her Earth & Sky Floral Designs during the global pandemic. Fortunately, her Pueblo-based business received some grant funding that has aided her ability to continue bringing her healer’s touch and cultural perspective to floral design — while also collaborating with local artists who could not secure monetary support.
“Through some of the grants I have received due to helping out with our temporary closure, I was also able to purchase art from local artists for future collaborations,” Lucero, from the Pueblos of Acoma and Laguna, posted on Instagram. “The grants not only helped me, but they also indirectly helped local artists who have had to deal with events, shows, and gallery closures. A lot of artists didn’t qualify for relief money, so I used some of what I received to help them out.”
That’s just how this entrepreneur, who purchased Earth & Sky Floral Designs in 2008, does business.
Everything from her floral art to her marketing and sales is done through the lens of healing and culture. Lucero prays and speaks to her flowers, and honors Indigenous cultures in her designs.
“I tell them, ‘Welcome to Laguna.’ If it’s a sympathy piece, I will talk to the spirit of the person, and ask, ‘How do you want me to create it, your tribute in flowers?’ I always feel that the spirit of the person is there to help.”
Lucero adheres to a culturally respectful and “quirky” floral style. For example, she honors the sacredness of even numbers among Pueblo cultures (contrary to the prevailing rule of thumb to create floral arrangements employing odd numbers). “The floral work that I do is also a form of art,” she told Native Business. “There’s also a lot of meaning behind what I do.”
And whereas evergreen is generally reserved for Christmastime in the industry, Lucero uses it frequently. “For Pueblo people, evergreens are very sacred plants, because they never go to sleep,” Lucero said. “They’re always awake.”
Today, Earth & Sky Floral Designs, which has transitioned locations over the years, is based on the Pueblo of Laguna in New Mexico.
Initial Capital Raise
Garnering capital to purchase her business more than 10 years ago was particularly daunting to Lucero.
“A lot of our possessions were here on the reservation. Traditional banks, traditional loan companies, all the different organizations that were around, had no idea how to help a reservation-based business. So it was very frustrating, and I spent the whole summer and into the fall of 2008 practically begging different companies, ‘Could you point me to a source? Could you point me to someone who might help?’”
Finally, the New Mexico Development Community Loan Fund “took a risk on me and gave me a loan,” Lucero shares. “And they allowed me to put as collateral vehicles, jewelry, heirloom jewelry and furniture.”
Her initial loan was for $125,000. And on December 3, 2008, Lucero paid her down payment for the business.
Solidarity Amid the Pandemic
For entrepreneurs everywhere, 2020 has been challenging to say the least.
Lucero has managed to see opportunity amid the chaos, and to flourish through connections with fellow artisans as well as Earth & Sky Floral’s social media following.
“The months of the pandemic have allowed us to connect with some of our social media fans in so many ways. We’ve guided people to create their own masks with various aromatic plants,” she posts on Instagram. “We’ve discussed plant properties and the importance of knowing scientific names. We also have connected with many over our BLM statement of solidarity.”
.She also created a mask of her own, Breath of Life, as part of a mask competition.
Her Breath of Life medical face mask is covered with dried juniper leaves and accented with genuine turquoise stones, and lily grass ties are accented with abalone shells.
In her Pueblos, juniper (Keres: k’aani) is an important medicinal plant and one of Lucero’s favorites.
“I have been studying medicinal plants since I was 13 years old. I wanted to create a piece that integrates my skills as a floral designer and medicinal plant healer,” she writes.
“The medicinal properties of juniper are identified as an antimicrobial and antiviral medicine for respiratory illnesses. The scent of the juniper leaves can be smelled through the mask like the cleansing smell of a smudge. Juniper is very special to the Pueblo people in that the tree is an evergreen and never goes to sleep in the winter. They are a plant medicine available year round.”
Follow @earthskyfloral on Instagram to stay up-to-date on Lucero and Earth & Sky Floral’s next projects.