Dominika Dratva has an awesome story and, quite possibly, the coolest job ever. It was such a treat to sit down with Dominika in her pop-up shop in Winnipeg Exchange District to talk about what's changed since swapping painting for plants.
How did you dive into the plant world? Were you always a plant freak?
No, I wasn’t actually at all. I mean, I always loved nature, and I always loved greenery and plants, but I wasn’t really. I had some houseplants, but, really, I was a painter. That’s what I did for I don’t know how many years. I have a degree in fine arts and painting. The gist of the story is I was doing an artist residency in Berlin. I was working on this series and was chosen by Saatchi Online — and my work was taken to the Art Basel art fair. Only ten of us were chosen… and that’s when I quit! [laughs]
There was something about painting that just didn’t seem meaningful anymore — and I wanted more meaning in my life. I got into this about two years ago. And I made my first terrarium. I was pretty depressed (because it was February and it was that ultra cold winter!) and I just started making way too many — and became so fascinated with all these little plant worlds. I made a lot and I was told by the people in my house that I couldn’t make anymore — I had to get rid of them or sell them. So, I started to do that and made a website... and then we started doing workshops before we even had a space. And then we had this opportunity to be here [in the Crocus Building]. And now we’re looking for a permanent space. Huge surprise. I mean — never, ever would I have expected that I would be doing this. I have always loved design and that kind of thing, but, yeah — I am so happy working around plants. I am happy offering them to people, and teaching people about them, and learning more about them.
How has it affected your life?
I mean, so great. All of the paths have aligned with other things, I guess. I’ve been to the Amazon jungle twice. So many things... I’ve read that people that work with plants are more compassionate — I think it’s true. I feel — maybe it’s the time in my life, I’m not sure what it is exactly — I definitely feel more of a sense of calm and purpose in my life. And I feel more connected to nature. And I find that here in Winnipeg and in our climate — it can be difficult at times, especially living in the city. We get very disconnected and I think people feel very empty. And plants really just connect you back to the source of where we all come from — and go back to. You know, without sounding too philosophical!
Verde seems to have quickly become a community space. Did you ever expect to be a teacher?
I love facilitating creativity. I like that part of teaching — giving people a place to just let go of their day, connect with plants, connect with themselves, do something different, and do something for themselves. It’s fun. I find it fun. To have a space to allow that for people is so gratifying — I’m just so grateful for that. And that people are so supportive and interested in doing this. And I love community. I think businesses should be about community.
What plant are you most obsessed by right now?
Oh, I can’t say just one. I love the rabbit’s foot fern — just because it looks like it’s from a different time or dimension. I love all plants. Air plants are really cool because they’re so versatile and you can do so much with them... and they’re kind of like a pet. That’s nice for people. It’s even an okay starter plant. But, I love ferns because they are so old, and there are so many kinds. And they’re really good at cleaning the air. And succulents, of course, because they are like eye candy.
Why do you think plants are important?
Well, because we are very disconnected from nature, from the earth. Yet, we are very much apart of it. Plants are the only living things that can make their own food from the sunlight. And they’re the most important thing, in my opinion. Without them we would not be here. And I think that a space without a plant in it is pretty stark and depressing. The minute you put a plant in a space, it just completely changes the energy. And there is so much research coming out. And so many medicines come from plants, not just medicines, but food — we eat plants — they create oxygen. What doesn’t a plant do, you know?
Oh, we know. You can catch up with Dominika on Instagram. Better yet, go visit the Verde pop-up shop at 211 Bannatyne Ave. for some plant therapy.