Rachel Rafalko, designer and founder of Boheme Gardens—an online seller of handmade jewelry, teas, plants and more—weaves many creative hobbies into her life. She also owns Gemini Natural Images, through which she works as a natural light photographer. A graduate of Mid Valley Secondary Center, she studied art at a vocational-technical school. She and her fiance, Billy, live in Throop with their 2-year-old son.
Meet Rachel Rafalko…
How did you first get into photography?
I had been hanging out with the guys in the hardcore bands for years, then I started photographing
them at shows. I also got into the festival scene. The people from the festivals, they’d see me taking pictures, and I’d meet them through that. Photography turned from taking pictures of them into being friends with them, because you get to know them over the years. It has helped me be more social, because I’ve always been sort of an introverted person, and photography is almost a gateway to help me meet people.
What is your favorite thing about photography?
I really need to get out more and do more landscape photography, because that’s where my passion is. You don’t have to chase (landscapes). You don’t have to tell them what to do. Most times, I don’t go looking to take pictures. I just happen to have a camera on me at the time, and I walk around and see what I can find. It’s more like a treasure hunt.
Do you have a favorite original photograph?
I was working at Ritter’s Farm Market and was cleaning the flowers. I just happened to notice that one grew as a double daisy and it looked like a heart. A corner of it was even used for my first business card.
Where does your business name “Gemini Natural Images” come from?
I’m a Gemini, and I’ve always prided myself on that. I think it suits me perfectly. I see things from so many different aspects that I think it suits me to be the twins. “Natural” comes from the fact that I don’t really like to Photoshop or over-edit my photos. I want people to see things the way they really are. I thought “images” sounded better than “photography.” It’s an image in your mind that you remember, not the photograph.
How does gardening fit into your life?
I love plants. I actually had a brown thumb until I was about 30, and then all of a sudden I was able to grow things, and it was amazing. I always wanted to have a garden but ended up killing my plants. I think it’s fantastic to be able to eat your own plants; everything tastes better, (and) you know the source of where it came from. The condition of the world right now and the condition of our food, I think there’s a lot of waste going on. When you’re gardening, you get to preserve things.
How about the teas you produce?
The ones that I do grow, I dry in big baskets and mix them up every day. As far as flavors, I use a lot of what I think tastes good. I try to study as much as I can with what’s going to do what for a person and what could have an adverse reaction.
You also make and sell jewelry. Can you describe your design style?
A lot of what I learned at vo-tech and the composition part of the courses helped me with the way I build jewelry. I can see what balances each other out, what colors will look good. A lot of people would think that these look kind of fancy, but I try to make them so that you can wear them with jeans and a T-shirt and they won’t look out of place. I’m not a person who wears much jewelry, but I do wear a lot of these because I think they can go with just about any outfit.
Do you feel each of your hobbies is complemented by the others?
Oh yes, all day long. Some of the greatest pictures I take are of my garden and things I’m growing. The photography ties in with the jewelry, I know how to display it; I know how take photos of it to make it look more attractive. You see so many people trying to sell something, and they just don’t display it right. It can be the most beautiful thing in the world, but maybe they have it hanging on their dirty hand. If I get a day where I can sit and create the whole day, I’ll spend 10 minutes in the garden, two hours editing. I can’t focus on one thing. I think that’s why I do so many things.
Have you had to overcome any major challenges in your life?
My mom passed away last summer. That was really hard. It put me into some deep feelings. She was hurting for a long time, and it was the right thing that happened for her. I think that was the biggest hurdle I’ve faced in my entire life. My dad has been through a lot losing my mom and still helped us through getting our lives together. Everything I do, I hope that she’s proud of me, and I still keep her in my mind just like I did when she was alive. I want her to see me and say, “Wow, you’re doing great,” so she knows she did things right with me. The way I’m raising my son is the way she raised me.
What is your favorite thing about being a mom?
The amazement of how fast he grows and learns things. Sometimes he learns things that we didn’t even teach him. It’s just nature that he does these things at a certain time in his life, and it’s absolutely amazing. Have you had a time or experience in your life that helped shape you into who you are today?
I was always very introverted, and it was April 1999 that I had a really big change in my life. I met a lot of people who welcomed me into their group, and it was an extremely large group of friends. It really showed me how to open up to people. With these people, we did everything together all the time, and it really helped me open up as a person.
What do you enjoy doing aside from the business and business-related hobbies?
Cooking. My fiance is a cook at the University of Scranton. When we met, that was one of the things that bonded us. We both considered starting a catering business someday too. We actually catered my own baby shower. Leading up to it, I cooked for two weeks rolling around in an office chair because
I was so pregnant.
I’m obsessed with the Muppets and “The Simpsons.” I have every episode of the Muppets show, including the ones from the ’90s.