JOHNSTOWN – If Studio Herbage has one signature product it would be the polygonum bud vase.
Made from the Polygonum cuspidatum plant, which is a kind of weed that creates a textured segmented material some might mistake for bamboo.
James Dempsey, owner of Studio Herbage, uses the material in some of his unique flower arrangements, putting flowers into the biodegradable plants, using their hollow segments as ideally-sized bud vases.
James’ mother Doris Dempsey, who helps him run Studio Herbage and teaches classes in knitting there Wednesday nights, recalls when they first decided to use the plant.
“We were going to the dump and Jimmy spotted it and he said ‘pull over mom,'” she said. “It spoke to him, like an artist finding his muse.”
James Dempsey said he knew he wanted to create a unique and recognizable item for his new business to take to weekend flower festivals and garden parties to create some buzz.
“You won’t see any other local flourist except us using it, unless they’ve been exposed to that level of floral design,” James Dempsey said.
The concepts of floral design and an emphasis on unique and custom designed elements are the main focus of Studio Herbage. James Dempsey, who grew up in Canajoharie, said he decided to create the business after working for more than 20 years in various aspects of the floral industry. He said his first job while he was still in high school was working for Johnstone Florist in Palatine Bridge. James went on to earn a Bachelors of Technology in Horticulture from SUNY Cobleskill as well as earn several certifications from the American Institute of Floral Designers. According to the aifd.org website, Dempsey is one of 20 florists in New York state and one of seven in the Capital Region to attain his level of certification in floral design.
He said he combined his academic training with years of experience in the wholesale flower industry, which enabled him to take trips to Europe and Asia, to form his business model for Studio Herbage.
“My vision is that we our known our uniqueness, not only in our everyday items that we offer, but also our everyday events,” he said.
James Dempsey said his knowledge of floral design enables him to reference the works of world famous floral designers such as Gregor Lersch or Hitomi Gilliam. He said one of the simple elements of floral design is that a flower should not be more than 2/3 the size of the vase it is put into.
“Otherwise it’s visually too tall. It needs to be very linear. That’s the beauty of a bud vase,” he said.
James Dempsey said he fulfills the studio part of Studio Herbage by teaching a class on floral design every Thursday night. He said the price for the class ranges from $45 to $65 per seat, with a limit on the number of students usually set at about 10 people. He said he’d like to expand that part of his business into doing more classes for the elderly and the mentally disabled. He said learning about horticultural and floral design can be therapeutic for the mind.
Besides the polygonum bud vases, Studio Herbage has other fairly unique items, including some scented geraniums, some varieties of phalaenopsis orchids and some herbs, fulfilling the Herbage part of the businesses name.
Other products at the business include Austrian made wool from a company called Lehner Wolle, which is sold directly and also incorporated into some of Studio Herbage’s decorative wreaths, which are made from wood, foam or straw.
James said he designs his wreaths with both natural and artificial design elements. He said the natural decorations in the wreaths will eventually perish, but they can be replaced.
“We have clients who will buy wreaths and return seasonally to have their decorations switched out,” he said.
One area the business would like to expand into is the designing of corsages for prom season. James Dempsey said as of now, the supermarket and traditional flower shops have a lock on the corsage business locally. He said he’d like to change that.
“We can design a corsage for someone that is very unique to that individual and that takes into account fashion and style trends,” James said.
Studio Herbage’s devotion to style extends even to its business cards which feature the Pantone color of the year, marsala. James said he plans to change the cards each year to reflect the current in fashion color of the year.