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Designer brings nature-inspired ideas to life’s special moments

Sturgeon County's Cory Christopher always in design mode

By: By Lucy Haines

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 12, 2014 06:00 am

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  • DYNAMIC DESIGNER – Sturgeon County resident Cory Christopher has forged a reputation as a creator of chic designs that contain elements of nature.
    DYNAMIC DESIGNER – Sturgeon County resident Cory Christopher has forged a reputation as a creator of chic designs that contain elements of nature.
    CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette
  • COMMON OBJECTS – Rustic objects combined with branches, stems or leaves are an element that Cory Christopher likes to employ in many of his designs.
    COMMON OBJECTS – Rustic objects combined with branches, stems or leaves are an element that Cory Christopher likes to employ in many of his designs.

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Cory Christopher, Q&A

Tell us about your first kiss.
"It was during high school acting class – Romeo and Juliet. She wondered if we had to kiss and I said yes."

If you could go back and change one thing in your life, what would it be?
"I wouldn’t go back, actually. Everything in life led me here. It is what it is."

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

"I wanted to be a figure skater then a film director. I was going to get an Academy Award – I’m still not ruling that out."

How would you describe your fashion style?
"Still evolving. I’m still catching up to my understanding of myself. Some days I’m dapper, sometimes it’s grubby chic. It goes from one extreme to the other."

Why are you living in Sturgeon County?
"I grew up here. There’s something about rural roots. And St. Albert has a culture, vibrancy of theatre and an appreciation for the botanic arts that is amazing."

What words would you use to describe yourself?
"Passionate, energetic (people ask me if I’m human) and caring – to a fault.

What artist/song are you most embarrassed to have in your collection?
"Anything by Celine Dion."

What’s your pet peeve?
"If you have talent, you have no excuse not to share it with the world. It saddens me."

Away from work, what do you enjoy doing?
"My work isn’t work. It consumes my being, so it’s a great gift and a struggle too. But I love being outdoors, and engaging with people over coffee."

When Cory Christopher Cherdarchuk was growing up on the family farm near Morinville, he already had a thing for mud and branches.

“He’d be up to his knees in mud,” remembers his mom Debbie who, with husband Ron and some help from their sons Cory and Chris, farmed grain before starting First Choice Tree Nursery in Sturgeon County.

Fast forward about 15 years to a studio in downtown Edmonton, where Cory Christopher (he drops the Cherdarchuk name for his professional work) creates vignettes and design motifs for customers from brides to business. And guess what? There’s usually a whole lot of branches involved.

In fact, a walk through the rustic design space reveals natural influences throughout – a rough-hewn wood dining table topped with a mini-wheatfield centrepiece, a chandelier of moss-covered twigs and branches, and a fireplace mantle dripping with swags of greenery, twigs and even antlers. Everywhere you turn, the look is woodsy – an obvious homage to the influence of a rural Alberta upbringing on this dynamic designer.

Even when it’s a glitzy wedding tablescape with luxurious fabrics and textures, you can bet there’s a signature touch of this “nature boy,” as Christopher describes himself. It’s in everything he does.

“Through my design career, nature became my way of communicating,” said Christopher, who is parlaying his unique perspective into a successful business and as a go-to design expert in the public eye.

CTV Edmonton and Citytv’s Breakfast Television regularly come calling for his take on floral design, weddings and more. But his heart is in the studio, where his creativity and expression mean that a vintage milk can or piece of farm fencing can be focal points for design – from Christmas décor to unique wedding tables or spring floral bouquets.

“People come in and say ‘Oh my goodness, I’ve never seen something like this,’” Christopher said. “I love to inspire people, whether with Christmas cheer, or through workshops and seminars – I’m all about buying things you love, inspiring homey comfort and evoking those emotions – it only matters how you feel, not the price of something or whether it’s on trend.”

So what about those branches?

“We make our own busy-ness in life,” Christopher explained. “There needs to be moments of reflection, of just exhaling. With technology and busier lives, I think we seek solace in simple things – branches, trees, flowers – they soothe the soul and I just gravitate to those things.”

Christopher said his passion and perspective have made his signature events – workshops, pop-up shops at Christmas and Valentine’s Day – collaborative learning environments, where customers can spend time making centrepieces and asking questions in an informal setting.

“I learn as much as the customers do. We have Oprah a-ha moments together,” he laughed.

Christopher’s path to design came via a theatre degree from Queen’s University, where he explored art in many forms—on stage or off-stage through costume and set design.

“Its always been design of some sort for Cory,” added his mom, Debbie. “He’s always been creative, designing flowers or a pot for the nursery from a young age, so none of this is a surprise.”

Debbie said her son is certainly as much country boy as city slicker – he still lives in the county and grew up driving a tractor, loading trucks – “it’s what he’s known all his life – it’s just part of him,” she said.

Case in point: The rural dwelling urban designer is now crafting an event called Spring: It’s Here, March 22 and 23 at his studio.

While much of the exact plans remain in his creative head, Christopher said it will be a “creative and visual symphony celebrating the arrival of spring – imagine if Mother Nature was an opera singer. We’ll see her bedroom and dressing room designed for spring with an opera theme.”

Live opera, a floral boutique and a massive floral wall installation will invigorate the space – a marriage of Christopher’s love of the arts and design, and the public can be part of it all weekend long.

For a man of just 28 years, Christopher is a reflective soul.

“If you live an inspired life, it’s a fulfilled life – it’s not about stuff.”


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