Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephen Blewett.
Stephen, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I developed an appreciation for nature at a very young age. Growing up in Altadena, CA I was lucky enough to be in close proximity to the San Gabriel Mountains, often venturing into its canyons in search of frogs, salamanders, and lizards. Family vacations consisted of annual expeditions to Sequoia National Park and Sierra National Forest.
We learned to appreciate the awesomeness of mother nature while hiking through groves of trees that lived to be thousands of years old, witnessing the birth of endemic Sierra wildflowers in the spring, and fishing in ancient glacial lakes. In contrast, back home in Los Angeles, I noticed how quickly nature was being destroyed for the sake of development — mutilating rivers and eliminating species of fauna and flora. This has been the norm since the genesis of Los Angeles, but I had only noticed it in my late teens; it wasn’t until well after college I decided to do something about it.
When I decided it was time, I dropped my job as a graphic designer and quickly re-enrolled in community college, eventually ending up at the University of California, Davis Landscape Architecture program. It was a breath of fresh air, and it was there that I discovered my calling: site-specific design inspired by innate local influences – culture, history, and ecology.
Upon my entry into the field professionally, I discovered a ubiquitous and antiquated approach to landscape design: uninspired cookie-cutter projects, focused on profitability. Unique, well-thought-out designs take skill and patience, so to save time and money, designs are often recycled – an approach driven largely by large-scale development.
Often, these designs are remnant landscapes inspired by east-coast climates – expansive lawns, manicured shrubs; overly maintained and thirsty, not fitting of a climate averaging 13 inches of rainfall a year (if we’re lucky!). A far from the sustainable approach, I found the result to be static, vapid, wasteful, and void of anything natural — and often wondered when the paradigm would shift.
After several years without seeing much of a change, I decided to take initiative – I would be the shift I longed to see in the medium. I abandoned from my comfortable job, and (with zero business training) started off on my own. My mission was to create inspired landscapes, utilizing a sustainable approach, uniquely crafted site-specific landscapes intent on cultivating relationships with local ecology, where we as a human race can live harmoniously in nature… Thus marking the beginning of Craft and Cultivate.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The road has been anything but smooth. Perhaps I was naïve to think it would be easy. But I’m fortunate to have a great network of friends, family, and colleagues who have supported me the entire way. The biggest struggle has been time management. As a one-man operation, I find managing the business end of things (juggling finances, marketing, business development, etc.) alongside actual design time to be most challenging.
Additionally, I’ve found maintaining a consistent influx of new projects/recruiting to be tough, but the struggle is worth it. The payoff of making a living doing what I’m truly passionate is a blessing (albeit minimal and slightly frightening at times!).
We’d love to hear more about your business.
I run every little bit of the company, from marketing and business development to design and installation. Though I don’t claim to specialize in any one thing, my true wheel-house is site-specific and naturalistic landscape design, coupled with an extensive knowledge of local flora and fauna. Generally, I design for the residential market sector (both single-family and multi-family), but often consult on the planting design end of projects for larger landscape firms in the public realm. My approach to planting is very naturalistic – designs are inspired by nature and intent on mimicking it through the careful arrangement of plant species.
I’d say I’m most proud of my commitment to native plants that are often though of as weedy, brown, or unappealing — and I am most appreciative of those clients who allow me the freedom to express that. I’d like to think that what sets me apart from other designers is my ability to listen to the client, to synthesize their needs and weld them into a unique landscape experience ingrained in place, and rich in California flora and fauna.
As a very recent example of this, in Pasadena, I designed a naturalistic “parkway” (the space between the curb and the sidewalk — often turf grass) for a client looking to reduce turf. My husband and wife clients were both fascinated with geology, in fact, both geologists. Using soil maps of the Los Angeles region from the 1930’s, we developed an inspired concept unique to their site. The result was a landscape full of locally quarried boulders and native plants arranged in a tapestry of experiences influenced via these long-standing soil maps. It’s truly beautiful and has blossomed into a very dynamic landscape.
What were you like growing up?
I spent most of my childhood and adolescent years immersed in the outdoors. Aside from recess with friends, school wasn’t a priority. I think, growing up, if my friends had to describe me they would say I was very easy going, loyal, and very light on my feet.
I excelled in sports, playing soccer, baseball, and running track & field during much of high school. These days, I find that I enjoy trail runs and hiking more than ever — but for me, it’s less about the run and more about botanizing and observing the local chaparral flora.
- Consultations $75
- Total project fees generally range from as low as ($10,000-$300,000)
- Website: craftncultivate.com
- Phone: 626-673-4879
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: craftncultivate
- Facebook: craftncultivate