Sarah Hausdoerffer’s creative journey from faux finishing to living art
by Erica Andrews
A creative path – that’s the road that Sarah Hausdoerffer has always taken. The local artist began her career as a muralist and faux finish painter, but after a decade and a half of painting, Sarah has found a new artistic expression, with flowers.
Hausdoerffer has adorned many unique canvasses throughout her career as a muralist and faux finish painter. Her portfolio includes metallic silver snakeskin cabinets in a swanky penthouse in Manhattan, the restoration of an 18th century bank safe, a three-wall mural at the Crested Butte Community School library, and other large-scale painting projects in a smattering of public and private installations throughout the West.
“Our mom always encouraged us to be creative,” Hausdoerffer says of her upbringing in New Jersey with four siblings. “I remember painting our walls and furniture, she let us change the colors whenever we wanted to.” Her mother even let her brothers spray paint graffiti in the garage “to prevent them from getting arrested,” she says. It comes as no surprise that her favorite medium became, and always has been, paint, “because you can always change it if you don’t like it.”
As a youngster and throughout her years at Western Colorado University, Hausdoerffer never envisioned that she would be an artist. “I kept changing my mind,” she says about what her future self should do for a career. Once she started on the path of an art degree, “I realized I didn’t like people telling me the rules of art,” she says, bluntly. “I left school and started my own thing, and it worked out.”
She went to a trade school to learn faux finishing, and traveled to work on commissioned pieces. “As soon as I started getting paid for my work, I realized I was an artist!” Hausdoerffer says she dug in with gusto, traveling all over and doing mostly high-end paint finishes. “The projects were always challenging,” she says, some taking weeks of her time. “But each one I would not finish until I was happy, even if it meant losing money.”
After 15 years, breathing in toxic fumes from her chosen medium and the construction industry she often worked in began to take its toll on her physical and emotional health. Once her two children came into the picture, juggling a career centered on lengthy stints away from home no longer held the same appeal. Hausdoerffer knew it was time to transition her work in to a new medium with an emphasis on being rooted at home in Crested Butte. She set her sights on floral design in 2019 and began a focused and hasty transition. “I figured that being surrounded by plants and flowers would be a healthier choice,” she says, though completely changing course has admittedly been challenging. “I went from being highly experienced in faux finishing to going to school [for floral design] when I had never really even touched a flower before!”
Within a month of graduating from the Floral Design Institute in Portland, Oregon, she bought a flower shop in Crested Butte in November 2019. With seemingly perfect timing, she hit the ground running into a frenzied holiday season. And while the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic and subsequent shutdown that immediately followed were not ideal for any new business owner, Hausdoerffer weathered the lull by rebuilding and rebranding the business and truly making it her own. In May 2020, Hausdoerffer opened the retail and creative workspace for “Bramble & Bloom” in the industrial district of Crested Butte.
With the logistical nightmares of 2020 in hindsight, “I wouldn’t take it back because I was ready to challenge myself but still be creating art,” Hausdoerffer says. “Hitting this pace now in the beginning wouldn’t have likely been sustainable.”
The shop has become a nucleus of activity and a hub for sharing her art in a completely different format than before. Hausdoerffer and her sidekick/assistant/twin sister Stephanie Hausdoerffer-Fischer often work at a feverish pace to fulfill the seemingly never-ending stream of orders.
Watching them assemble bouquets and wreaths at the center of the shop’s creative space is an impressive dance of synchronicity. Sprigs of Eucalyptus, tufts of technicolor grasses, funky feathers and other odds and ends adorn a collection of jars that spill from the walls. While visually impressive, the set-up makes for a convenient grab-and-go strategy to work swiftly and efficiently in crafting dozens of floral arrangements on a daily basis.
“Every day is like this,” says Hausdoerffer, flashing a smile at her sister over a mountain of roses, ranunculus and other delightful blooms. Both are clearly enjoying this new venue and opportunity to create together.
Hausdoerffer is currently working on a collection of very special pieces for locals. One is for a couple that recently got engaged. The bride-to-be wanted to preserve the bouquet her fiancé presented to her. Hausdoerffer is encasing it in a large glass jar, along with other special mementos from their engagement day. Another local woman brought in the deer skull and antlers from her husband’s first hunt with their son. Hausdoerffer has integrated a wreath of brightly dried flowers into the antlers. “Now the wife is happy to hang it in the house because it vibes with her décor,” she says.
The home improvement trends that followed the COVID-19 shutdown have been a boon to both of Hausdoerffer’s businesses. “I think the colors have helped a lot of people get through it,” she says of the surprising surge in floral decor after the shutdown.
And art, while it’s something she does for a living, is certainly something she feels deeply too. A local business with a mural of Hausdoerffer’s is in the process of relocating. Knowing that the new tenant could just as easily paint over the mural rather than preserve it has an emotional effect on her as the artist. “There’s an attachment to each piece, whether it’s a mural that took weeks to complete, versus a bouquet that takes 15 minutes,” she says, glancing wistfully at a bouquet in her hand. It’s almost an acknowledgement that her time with this piece is very limited before it goes to its new home. “I still have the attachment.”