Posts Tagged “flower house”
Guest Blogger: Andy Arthur (Mayesh Detroit)
On October 11, Michigan was home to the first ever “Detroit Flower Week”. This event was the brainchild of Lisa Waud of Pot & Box Florist in Hamtramck, MI. Lisa was the creative mind behind the concept of the “Detroit Flower House”, which took place exactly one year ago the same week. Since Flower House, Lisa was constantly asked what she had planned for this year. What originally started as a pizza party get together of everyone involved in Flower House, slowly began to morph in Detroit Flower Week. The Flower House had drawn creative designers from all over the country, but at the end of the event, they really didn’t have a lot of time to socialize with each other. Lisa decided for this year she would have another week long event, and invite many of the trending floral designers on social media, as well as some other equally talented individuals whose work compliments the floral industry.
She was able to reserve the historic, and very retro “Jam Handy” building in Detroit as the primary venue. This very eclectic space had seen many different uses in its lifetime – from a sound stage for General Motors, to a space for filming military films, to its current use as an event location. The building offered two separate, large rooms, along with a second floor loft. One room was set up with a stage, and seating for sixty or more people, the other room was set up for design workshops, and the loft was used for discussion groups. Lisa also parked her Flower Truck, “Scoops” in the space with the stage, and Monique Herzig from Alchemy Slow Living, had her event trailer set up in one corner, which gave the space a really fun kind of vibe.
Entrance to the Jam Handy
The event started on Tuesday, October 11 with a presentation by Maurice Harris of “Boom & Plume” events from Los Angeles, CA. Maurice spoke of his background, and what inspired him to become one of the leading event florists in California. He also spoke of his 2106 calendar, “Shades of Blackness”, which featured pictures of influential people in his life overlaid with pictures of floral arrangements. He was very entertaining, and engaging, and well received by the audience. Maurice is a frequent customer of Mayesh at the LA Market, and spoke highly of everyone there. Following Maurice, was the very talented Heather Saunders of Heather Saunders Photography in Detroit, MI. Heather met Lisa shortly before Flower House, and they quickly became fast friends. Heather was the official photographer of Flower House, and spoke about her self-published book on Flower House, which is currently offered for presale, and will be available in the next month or so. I have been fortunate enough to see some of the sample pages of the book, and it looks amazing! The book contains images that have not been published before, as well as Heather’s personal writings about Flower House.
The next three days all started at 7am with coffee by Red Hook Coffee of the West Village. If you ever have the chance, I HIGHLY recommend the “Lavender Latte” they serve – it is unbelievable! This was followed each day with Yoga from 8-8;30am, with the first presenters starting at 9am. The first presenter on Wednesday, was Holly Chapple of Holly Chapple Flowers, followed by Heidi Berkman of “The Bloom Project” in Portland, OR. This project provides flowers for Hospice patients on a weekly basis, and I was fortunate enough to spend some time talking with Heidi. Amy of our Portland location is a big supporter of this project, and next month is assisting them with a program that is going to provide flowers to the caregivers – which is new concept – but I personally think is a great idea. I can’t imagine doing what those people do every day, and a gift of flowers is just a small token of the thanks they deserve. The next presenter was Ashley Woodson Bailey, floral photographer. If you have not heard of Ashley, please take the time to look up her website – www.ashleywoodsonbailey.com . She is a VERY talented photographer, and her work is absolutely stunning. Following Ashley was Joe Masse, botanical artist, from England. Giving his presentation took Joe away from the impressive installation he was working on at the Historic Detroit Public Library, which was the showpiece of the dinner that ended the week’s activities on Saturday. I had personally had the opportunity to meet Joe earlier in the day when I delivered the flowers for the installation, which were all donated by Mayesh, with help from many of our American grown suppliers.
During the day Wednesday also saw the start of the workshops offered during the week. The first two workshops had Susan Mcleary from Passion Flowers in Ann Arbor, MI demonstrating how to make living jewelry in one room, and the other had local graffiti artist Ouizi demonstrating her style of painting flowers. Susan’s work has been featured in many publications, and numerous sites on line. Ouizi was responsible for the beautiful artwork on the back of the Flower House – pieces of which are now used on the Flower Truck. Both of these women has indescribable talent, and I truly wish I could have been present for their classes. The afternoon classes featured Jill Rizzio of Studio Choo, in San Francisco, CA demonstrating her style of dramatically arranged local flowers in one space, and discussion in the loft with Maurice Harris about diversity in the floral industry. This discussion was sparked after Lisa heard a complaint from someone that her event “lacked diversity”. This was not intentional – MANY people had been invited to be presenters, but when it was all done, unfortunately, the ones who accepted invitations, did not give the image of a lot of diversity. The evening ended at The Chartreuse Kitchen, a local eatery with botanical décor, and a menu that changes daily based upon the seasonality and availability of the freshest local ingredients and inspiration.
Thursday’s first presenter was Julia Bell, from Succulent Gardens in Castroville, CA. Lisa had assisted Julia earlier in the year to create a building covered in succulents in California. Julia is a very talented individual, who I was lucky enough to sit with at the dinner on Saturday night. She was followed by Ariella Chezar of Ariella Chezar Design in New York. If you have the chance to check out her website, http://ariellaflowers.com/ you will not be disappointed! The final presenter of the day was Emily Thompson, owner of Emily Thompson Flower in New York. Peter Sessler, myself, and my daughter, Chloe were able to see her presentation, in which she spoke of her love for using unusual objects when creating her floral designs. Peter was also able to spend some time with Maurice Harris, who he knew from his days on the LA Market.
Peter with Maurice Harris
The workshops offered Thursday started with Monique Herzig of Alchemy Slow Living demonstrating the art of scent and combining fragrance to make custom perfume. This is another workshop I wish I could have attended – I have always been fascinated by fragrance, and would have liked to experience this – I hope to attend another of Monique’s workshops in the future. The second workshop featured the world renowned Francoise Weeks, offering the first day of two workshops on European Floral Design. Mayesh was also able to provide flowers for workshops thru donations from our vendors. I was fortunate enough to spend quite a bit of time with Francoise throughout week, and am still in awe of her humbleness regarding her skills. The second workshop was Emily Katz of Modern Macrame in Portland, OR. Emily created a very impressive, LARGE macramé hanging attached to a piece of the wood siding from the Flower House that had some of Ouizi grafitti on it. The final piece was also featured at the dinner Saturday night, with a floral garland across the top that was created by Viviane Saunders, daughter of Heather Saunders. What made the floral so interesting was that it was the FIRST TIME, Viviane had every attempted floral design – and afterwards, she was heard commenting that she thinks she wants to be a floral designer. One final note on Modern Macrame – be sure to check out her Instagram page – she posts many amazing and inspiring photos! The final workshop featured Lewis Miller of Lewis Miller Design in New York. His demonstration featured product purchased from Mayesh, and showcased how to make large, lavish designs. He also has a really nice website that is worth checking out – http://lewismillerdesign.com/ . the evening ended at Katoi eatery in Detroit, which features a trendy, compact dining room with an open kitchen offering elevated Thai plates, plus cocktails.
Artwork From Alchemy Henna Trailer
The first presenter on Friday was Lisa Ziegler from the Gardens Workshop in Virginia. Lisa has numerous books and dvds on gardening, and is a pleasure to converse with. I had many opportunities over the course of the week to talk with her, and found her to be very informative. She was followed by Michael Genovese of Summer Dreams Dahlia Farm in Oxford, MI. I was very fortunate to meet Michael last year at Flower House, and this year we offered his amazing dahlias at our location, resulting in dahlia sales like we have never seen before! Michael is incredible passionate about his dahlias, and has incredibly high standards for quality, which is evident every time you see his flowers. This year he increased his production, and offered 90 different varieties of dahlias. He was featured earlier this year in an interview with Mayesh. The next presenters were Heidi Joynt & Molly Kobelt from Field & Florist in Chicago, IL. They are Chicago flower farmers and also floral designers who specialize in local and sustainably grown florals for weddings and events. From April-October they grow and harvest from their farm in Three Oaks, MI. In the winter months, flowers are sourced from certified sustainable sources within the United States. The final presenter of the day, and at this venue, was Debra Prinzing of Slow Flowers. Debra and Lisa became friends last year before Flower House, and Lisa gave her first interview on the subject with Debra. For those of you who don’t know, Slow Flowers is a movement to help find the best U.S floral designers who are committed to sourcing from American flower farms. Debra spoke of the importance of supporting American flower growers, and how there has been an increase the last few years in flower farmers in the U.S. I am fortunate enough to have gotten to know Debra over the last year, and always enjoy visiting with her. The evening ended with a discussion by Sarah Pappas of Fresh Cut Detroit at the Aloft at the David Whitney on the subject “From here to where? Mapping justice in our Flower System.” Sarah has flower farm in Detroit and provides our location with product during the Michigan growing season, and always provides me with stimulating conversation regarding our industry.
The workshops Friday started with a continuation of the Joe Masse installation at the library, where volunteers assisted Joe in suspending hundreds of stems of flowers upside down over the room on a steel structure specially designed for the occasion. There was also the second day of the Francoise Weeks workshop, images from which were featured on her Instagram page that week. Emily Katz also offered more macramé opportunities as she worked to finish her display piece for the dinner Saturday night.
Aftermath on Friday night as we cleaned out Jam Handy building
Saturday’s events took place at the library, and the first presenter was Diane Szukovathy from Jello Mold Farm in Seattle, Washington> Diane spoke not only of her farm, but also of the Seattle Wholesale Grower’s Market, an idea she had for a place where local flower farmers could meet to seel their products, rather than going door to door with florists. She spoke of their commitment quality at the market, the challenges they have faced since they started, and the success they have achieved in recent years. I found her talk to be very enlightening and thought provoking, and her stories about her husband antics kept everyone very entertained. She was followed by Debra Prinzing and Christina Stembel of Farm Girl Flowers in San Francisco, CA discussing Christina’s support for American grown product. Christina is known for her “Burlap Wrapped” bouquets and her efforts to minimize her impact on the environment.
The final presentation of Detroit Flower Week featured Lisa Waud speaking for the first time in Detroit about the Flower House project. Her presentation featured images that will be in the Flower House Book, as well as her inspiration for the installation, what it took to make it happen, and what she has experienced in the year since. A almost mind blowing fact that she offered about the Flower House was the analytics provided to her by the marketing people of Martha Stewart Magazine. They researched “Detroit Flower House” activity on the internet, and discovered that there had been over 280 MILLION media impressions on the subject – which meant people opened links or stories about it that many times!! One of the stories she shared was about her dealings with the city building inspector, and she made this project happen, and how he never seemed to understand her. As the Flower House was about to open, she was informed he was back at the house, and fearing the worst, she went to talk to him. When she approached him, he was taking a photo of a spider that had made a web in the florals, and as he turned to her, she noticed he emotionally moved. At that pint he told her “everyone needs to see this”. As she finished telling this story, she then invited him to come up to the podium from the audience – none of us knew he was there. He then read a poem he had written about the Flower House that is going to be included in the book. His delivery and tone were beyond compare, and left many in the audience teary eyed. I had a chance to speak with him briefly afterwards, but he was anxious to go see his second great grandchild who had been born earlier that day.
The week culminated with a dinner in the Adam Strohm hall of the library. This is a breath taking room without a massive floral installation! It features six murals that are over twenty feet high representing historical scenes from Detroit, and man’s mobility. The windows appear to be stained glass, but are hand painted to let in more light. The ceiling is a reproduction of ones found in European palaces, and was designed by the same artist who created the ceiling U.S. Supreme Court building. For the flower installation, Lisa commissioned a local metal fabricator, Garrett Hammerle, to design a grid structure that would support flowers hanging upside down over the room. This massive structure was then covered in Rose Hips, Safari Sunset Leucadendron, Pumpkin tree, Cotinus, Amaranthus, Safflower, Artichokes, Eucalyptus, Hydrangea, Millet, Coxcomb and various grasses. All throughout the day, the library had been giving its usual Saturday tours of the building, and every group that came thru the hall was left speechless. When it was time for the dinner, the lights were dimmed, and candles were lit on the tables casting shadow on the flowers above, giving the room a look of an upside down garden. The meal was provided by extremely talented local chefs and was beyond compare. Music was provided by Detroit-based “Double Winter”, led by Holly Johnson on bass guitar and lead vocals, who is also an employee of Pot & Box. Seeing her perform left me totally impressed – I felt like I was in the presence of a female Jack White. The evening came to a close around midnight, and everyone left feeling that week had been an overwhelming success.
Adam Strohm hall before Joe Masse installation
Saturday mid-morning Joe Masse installation
Saturday evening before dinner
Dinner Saturday evening
Holly Johnson of “Double Winter”, also an employee of Pot & Box
Yesterday, we spoke with Lisa Waud of Pot & Box, and Debra Prinzing of Slow Flowers about all of the greatness that is Detroit Flower Week or DFW.
You may recall hearing about an amazing project last year, The Flower House, which brought together over 3 dozen florists, 100 volunteers, 36,000 stems of American grown flowers & plants that were artfully designed in 17 rooms of an abandoned house in Detroit. Truly an awe inspiring moment in our flower history thanks to its creator, Lisa! Fast forward a year later to today, and Lisa is ready to leave her mark on history once again with help from some trail blazing flower friends like Debra. Debra is a champion of American grown flowers helping to promote awareness and consumption of the blooms grown in the U.S. Such a dynamic duo that we were lucky to have time to chat with!
Enjoy and share with your flower friends.
Detroit Flower Week is fast approaching (October 11-15 to be exact) and we’re so excited to be a part of it again this year! If you haven’t yet heard about it, check out our coverage on last year’s Flower House Detroit to see how it all started.
We’re excited to share that we’ll be doing our second LIVE VIDEO CHAT with Lisa Waud of Pot & Box, discussing all things Detroit Flower Week! If you want to learn more about this awesome event, or just check out his whole live video thing, be sure to register and tune in next Wednesday at 4pm EST.
The live video chat will take place on Huzza. All you need to do is just click, listen, chat, and ask questions! And if you feel like it, share a selfie with us. Click the link below to follow & subscribe and Huzza will send you a reminder 30 minutes prior to our live chat.
We’ll also be streaming this live on Facebook, so check us out there too!
This interview was a super fun one for me, as I recently got to meet Susan of Passionflower at the Floret workshop. She is an incredibly talented and special lady, and I was thrilled to learn that she would be willing to take over our feed and answer a few questions! I so enjoyed getting to know her, and experiencing a hands-on workshop designing flower halos and floral cuffs in person at Floret. Susan was also a part of FlowerHouse Detroit, so read below to find out more about herself as well as her experience with FlowerHouse!
Above photo: @amanda_dumouchelle
So to start out, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you found yourself in the flower business!
I like to say that I became a florist by accident! I’ve always been fascinated with nature, but never thought I’d become a florist. It happened about 13 years ago. At the time, I had a hobby making jewelry for friends. One such friend asked me to design her wedding flowers in addition to her wedding jewelry. Not knowing what this would entail, I said yes! When I had her flowers in my hands, I knew I’d found my passion. One friend’s wedding turned into many, and gave me my start.
After I practiced on my friends, I moved on to a busy floral studio where I worked for 2 years. I also free-lanced for many talented florists, read every design book I could get me hands on, and absorbed all the learning opportunities I could find. I knew that I had something unique to share, and over time, I started to feel creatively stifled. In 2010, two events gave me the push I needed to try this out on my own. My father suddenly became very ill- this really drove home the importance of seizing the day, and not taking passions for granted. It became clear that I’d need to be brave, and take a leap if I wanted to share myself with the world. The other event was a very fortunate one! My husband’s wine importing business had acquired more warehouse space, and there was a perfect little rectangular room that they didn’t have a need for. With lots of encouragement from friends and family Passionflower was born!
For the first 4 years, the studio focused on weddings- doing around 50 per season. This past year, I decided to pull back on weddings a bit, and focus more on my current passions- living jewelry, wearable floral art, and professional floral instruction. Future projects include a line of home decor for flower lovers, and eventually a book.
Living jewelry is so beautiful and intriguing, but not necessarily that common, besides flower crowns and some other forms of headpieces. How did you get into living jewelry?
I was inspired after a session with the wonderful Francoise Weeks at a workshop in California two years ago. I made a floral ring, and the photographers covering the conference liked it and asked me if I would make a collection of floral jewelry for an upcoming fashion shoot. Of course I said yes, but was heading back to Michigan in a few days, and they live in California. I told them I would make some pieces and ship them overnight. Well, when I got home, I had to figure out what to use that would survive the trip and still look great. Succulents, of course! They are perfect- sturdy, resilient, and they look beautiful for days-even weeks out of soil. The reaction I got to these pieces was so exciting- it prompted me to open an Etsy shop, and I’ve been shipping succulent jewelry throughout the US ever since!
Who or what (or both!) inspires you when you’re in the studio creating, whether it’s living jewelry or a wedding centerpiece?
I’m very inspired by the materials I use. The flowers and foliages must be interesting and beautiful on their own for me to feel charged while arranging them. If I’m excited by the collection of elements in front of me, the arranging doesn’t feel like work- it feels like a choreographed dance- each element taking it’s perfect place and supporting its partners.
What trends are you seeing in wedding flowers right now, and how do you incorporate them into wearable pieces for the bride?
I’m seeing loose, artful, gracefully arranged pieces that look a little wild…I love this! For me, a little on the weird side is a wonderful thing- arrangements should stir something inside you! I’m also seeing a lot of berried branches, vines, and interesting foliages- I definitely love to incorporate unexpected foliages and textural elements into my wearables.
Education is such an important part of our industry, and it seems like you are very involved, both on the learning and teaching ends. Tell us about your experiences with floral education, and how they have helped you evolve into the designer you are today?
When I first became interested in floral design, I found it very difficult to find learning opportunities. I devoured every design book at the library, watched every online tutorial I could find, and searched for an internship. I eventually found the Michigan Floral Association, and was thrilled to learn that they have a certification program. I went through this process, and got my certification in 2008. I met many inspiring florists, worked with them, and absorbed all the knowledge that they would give me. But I have to say that the real turning point for me- the point at which I began to really delve into my passion was when I connected with The Chapel Designers. This group of generous, talented, supportive, driven, flower-obsessed florists blew my mind wide open. I instantly felt at home within this group, and the knowledge I gained from spending time at these conferences, and working and getting to know these people has propelled me further than I thought possible. Another life changing experience was the workshop I took with Francoise Weeks two years ago. I actually won the workshop through a giveaway on the blog Botanical Brouhaha! I had spent years establishing my business and trying to please brides, and this workshop forced me to slow down and make beautiful, unusual floral art pieces just for me. It changed the way I approach design, and re-kindled my love for fashion and jewelry. It changed the way I looked at myself and my business! I’m so pleased to say that my journey has brought me full circle- I was once a young, hungry floral design student searching for knowledge and professional instruction, and now I’m teaching and sharing what I’ve learned over the years with others. I’ve created a one-on-one teaching program for professional florists, and have taught six students so far this year. I also assisted at two Floret workshops, and will teach at three of these next year. I’m thrilled to be teaching at the March Chapel Designer’s conference in New York City, and at Mood Flowers in Glasgow Scotland this spring.
Right alongside education is the importance of community and collaboration. You’re involved with Flower House, an incredible project in Detroit in which an old, abandoned house will be filled with local flowers and plants for a weekend installation, and then deconstructed and converted into a flower farm and design center. How did you get involved, and what is your role in it?
I became involved because the creator of FlowerHouse, Lisa Waud is a good friend. At first, we’d chat about this grand idea over coffee…but pretty soon, it became clear that Lisa was really going to make this happen! My role has been a supportive one- listening to Lisa’s amazing ideas, adding some of my own, and helping push the project forward. I’m incredibly impressed by what she and the FlowerHouse team have accomplished, and am thrilled share in this goodness.
What do you think this new flower farm and design center will bring to the community of Detroit?
It’s a very exciting time for Detroit. The city is experiencing a rebirth, and FlowerHouse is a physical representation of that. I love the idea of re-purposing the land in this way. There are many ways to bring vibrancy and value back to abandoned spaces, but an urban flower farm? It might just be the most inspiring, creative way!
You are sharing a room with Francoise Weeks which is exciting! How do you see the two of you collaborating together to create a beautiful, living space?
Francoise and I work very well together- we share a similar aesthetic, and both love creating surfaces that look like tapestries- alive with intricate texture. We shared ideas for our kitchen space early on- she conceived a free form dripping “chandelier” made with berried branch, vegetables, herbs, foliages and delicate flowers, and I a table and chairs encased in foliage that will look as if it’s growing out of the floor. We are lucky to have many talented hands at the ready- florist volunteers that will help us bring this dreamy surreal kitchen to life.
And to wrap things up, what is one piece of advice you’d like to go back and tell yourself during your first year of designing?
Be yourself! Think about what you have to offer- what excites you most, what makes you dance around, what you most enjoy doing. These are your passions. Follow them fiercely! Make sure to take the time to develop your own aesthetic- be more “you” than you think you should. It’s our individuality that makes us stand out- it should be celebrated.
And if you hadn’t already seen it and need more dreamy Passionflower inspo, drop everything immediately and rush over to our Instagram – her takeover was totally insane! And be sure to check out Sue’s Instagram as well!
This past weekend, the much awaited Flower House Detroit came to life. While I was unfortunately unable to go, long-time Mayesh client Anne Mansour was in attendance and happily agreed to be our guest blogger for the event! Below is her recount of what sounds like a once in a lifetime experience touring the Flower House. So sit back and let her vivid narration transport you to the Flower House, if only for a minute.
Guest Blogger: Anne Mansour
Lisa Waud, owner of Pot & Box, is the visionary and trendsetter behind the Flower House that has captivated the national attention of many flower lovers & garden enthusiasts alike. Friday evening was the last Field to Vase dinner of 2015. With an oversold event, the guests were treated to an amazing family style feast of seasonal farm to table delicacies, created by Eat chefs Blake & Helen. There was also local wine by Stargazer Barn and craft beer. The stacked cake was draped in dahlias and resembled overturned milk pales created by Sweet Heather Anne.
Touring the Flower House was like exploring a showcase house, but rather than furnishings, the house was filled with floral art installations designed by über talented florists and event designers. With the majority of the flowers donated by domestic growers, the abundance of blooms was tremendous. From the front yard and porch, entering the front rooms and parlor, flowers and foliage undulate from the walls, ceiling, windows, and floors. Every surface was addressed to create a set for visual floral displays. Fragrant floral scents intoxicate the air. Textures of dahlias in ombré tones from deep dark burgundy to shades of pink to cafe au lait, cabbage garden roses, variegated anthurium, amaranths, lacy fern, bittersweet fall toned maple branches, Olive tree roots, red California pepper-berries, white tulips, purple irises, and blue delphinium. Woven marigolds in the bathroom. Patterned mandalas in the closet ceiling and hall. The ferns and tress bursting into the rooms. One had an emotional reaction to the simple beauty of nature. In the dining room, the chandelier is a massive tree root dripping with water and Edison bulbs, the table below covered in greens becomes the catch for the water to flow down to the floor.
The kitchen designed by Passionflower abounds with the vegetables taking over every inch of the walls, ceiling, and countertops. Going upstairs, walls are covered with patterned flower buds and leaves, creating a graphic display. White tulips hang overhead with buds turned down. Upstairs, the viewer is greeted by another floor to ceiling installation, this time, a cyclone of flowers and foliage. The innovative design is a curvilinear fury of flowers. The upstairs front room features a floral graffiti design that displays the vibrancy of the Detroit neighborhood’s future. Layered with the flowers running ribbon-like around the room flowers, art, and sophisticated innovation create a symphony of layered flowers.
The event was a huge success for Lisa and her fellow designers. The collaborative efforts of everyone involved displayed how the community came together to create such an amazing event. An urban flower farm is planned on this site and will be home to peony and dahlias. Flowers are power!
For more awesome photos of the Flower House, head on over to our Facebook page and check out our Flower House album!
Photo by @hsaundersphoto
Assuming you have all heard of Flower House (if you haven’t, check it out here, here, or just keep reading), we are so excited to share with you a little bit more about the lady behind this wonderful project. Lisa Waud of Pot & Box in Detroit, MI is an inspiring designer who is in the middle of turning her dreams into a reality. Here, Lisa answers a few questions about how she got started in the flower biz, and what inspired this amazing project. And if you haven’t already, head on over to our Instagram to check out her takeover from the past few days! Oh, and one more thing, to keep up with all the Flower House happenings (which officially makes it’s debut October 16-18), follow along on Instagram with @potandbox and @flowerhousedetroit!
So first, let’s hear a little bit about you, and how you got started in the flower industry? When and how did Pot & Box first make it’s debut?
Let’s see here, the summer I graduated from high school, I wanted to work outside. I got a job at a place in my hometown, Petoskey, Michigan, the garden service was called Polly’s Planting and Plucking, and I worked there for six seasons, and loved it. When I went to school at Michigan State, I studied horticulture and landscape design, and really immersed myself in gardening and plants and horticulture and moved out west, to Portland, OR and worked at a fabulous nursery there called Portland Nursery. It’s a city block within a residential area, grandfathered in, so amazing, I learned so much and my mid-western mind was blown by the growing season. I remember gardening over the holidays in Portland and thinking, what? Why do people live in Michigan? I lived in Portland for three years, moved up to Olympia, WA, gardening the whole time, freelance gardening I guess you’d call it, and then actually moved to Hawaii for a year and boy oh boy, tropical gardening, it just never stops, you could pull the same weed the next day that you pulled out the day before. I decided it was time to move back to Michigan where I grew up and where I belonged, and I moved to Ann Arbor and waited tables for a few years because it’s the easiest way to make money and meet a lot of people, and then I got back into gardening when I launched Pot & Box and that is nearly nine years ago now. Almost three years ago I moved over to Detroit and expanded with a second studio. In between those years, I moved more into fresh floral design, doing friends’ weddings and that kind of thing. And eventually it was not sustainable for me to have the garden service if I wasn’t doing the work. So we are full time floral design. I still do green walls and that kind of thing, but mostly fresh flower design.
How would you describe your design style, and where or from whom do you draw inspiration?
I would say my design style is wild, organic in shape and texture, and I love foraging local foliage and flowers when I can, pulling from local farms, and anything variegated or textural or strange I love. I draw inspiration from architecture, other florists of course, I love the style of Emily Thompson and Saipua and Studio Choo, all of those ladies out there in the world. And of course from my local florist friends who are always pushing me and inspiring me… and snagging the good stuff from Mayesh if I don’t get there early enough!
What are your favorite flowers and/or foliage to work with?
Well funny enough, back when I worked at Polly’s Planting and Plucking, a right of passage when we worked there was “if you were a flower, what flower would you be” and getting appointed your flower. It was decided that I was a dahlia, and, I’m dating myself here, when email first came out, my very first email was email@example.com which I don’t think works anymore, but I’ve always been a dahlia and I will always love them and I’m looking forward to growing more of those in the Pot & Box garden very soon.
I LOVE your idea for a Flower Truck, especially one that started as an Ice Cream truck! Tell us a little bit about that, and why you decided to include a mobile aspect to the studio.
Well I feel like food trucks get to have all the fun! And that’s not fair, so I’ve always loved old cars and vintage things, and I snapped up an old ice cream truck at a screamin’ deal and got some Pot & Box logos put on there, and people love it! I’m working really hard to put together some money to really get that out in the world. I’d love to do more restaurant and residential deliveries and if I can have that refrigerated truck going around it can be more affordable for everyone. I’d love to get more into that European mindset of having fresh flowers as a really normal and welcomed thing to have in your home. And I think the truck can help with that, which by the way is named Scoops. The name from when it was an ice cream truck in it’s former life is still on the bumper and we left it on there, so it’s called Scoops still even though it sells flowers.
You kind of have your hands in all sorts of things – educational classes, flower design, horticulture, The Flower House (which we’ll get to in a minute). How do you balance all of those aspects, and which make you the most excited and fulfilled to work on?
I just love being in business for myself. I love the flexibility and the mobility of it, I think it’s more normal for people to be able to be flexible in where they work and when they work, and I am so fortunate to be in that world. I love the design classes, often I collaborate with florist friends to host those, and every class that we teach is a really fun evening and I make new friends, sometimes hire people straight out of them, it’s always a joy. Of course I love the flower design… as I’m busier and trying to manage all this, actually working with the flowers is a very small part of my week, and so I really try to set aside time to enjoy when I am working with the flowers and materials. In terms of balancing, I guess it’s in my genes to make to-do lists; I often consult with my mom about her to-do list techniques. I think it’s just a balance of using software that’s helpful and managing what’s important to you and what charges you. And I think that when you’re doing things that you love and enjoy it doesn’t feel like work.
And now, you knew this was coming… The Flower House. What an amazing idea and such a unique and creative way to revitalize an old, abandoned house and neighborhood lot. What made you think of this whole project?
I have always been completely enamored with the work of the artist Christo and Jeanne-Claude, they have done things like the wrapped bridge in Paris with gold fabric, the orange gates in Central Park, umbrellas on the coast of California and Japan, and now Christo is wrapping up a river in Colorado and a floating bridge in Italy. I was just always completely consumed by that kind of work – long term planning, high dollar projects that were temporary, the juxtaposition of the long term planning and the short term exhibition – what a concept. I guess I never really knew how to embody that on my own until I saw images from the 2012 fall/winter Dior show where they filled the walls of a mansion outside of Paris with flowers – white phalaenopsis orchids as far as you can see, a whole room of yellow salidago and other yellow flowers, and I was just obsessed with finding images and videos of this project. And I knew instantly that I was going to blatantly steal that idea and do it myself. It took a few months to figure out where I would do that, but once I had this lightning bolt, it was really obvious that we have thousands upon thousands of abandoned houses here in the city of Detroit and I could use one of those for the project. So I found myself at a city auction in the city of Hamtramck, which is a tiny city within the Detroit city limits, and bought not one but two houses for $250 each, one we used for the preview event in May and the second will be used for our big exhibition, a fifteen room installation in October for Flower House.
Photo by @hsaundersphoto
How have you seen the community, both floral and geographical, come together to support this project and make it come to life?
Oh my goodness, I can’t even tell you how warm my heart is working on this project. There is something in this project for every one. There’s this idea that it takes place in Detroit, and in one of these abandoned houses, and that can really speak to someone. It’s a floral art installation, a massive one, and maybe that really tugs at someone’s heart strings. It’s the floral design community coming together. It’s flowers, it’s design, it’s art, it’s a little bit of everything, and then all that aside, it’s a deconstruction project. This responsible deconstruction of a house with the materials repurposed for use in other projects in the city. And THEN it’s like, stop, I can’t take anymore – I’m going to have a flower farm on the property where Flower House once stood! Like I said, there’s something in it for everyone.
Knowing what you know today, what would you tell your younger self, as you were just starting out and beginning your floral adventure?
Oh boy. Well I actually know how to answer this, because I am seeing friends who are younger than me just starting businesses. Maybe they’re in floral design or event design, and when you are a creative person, you know how to be creative, you can’t stop that. But there are so many logistical boring things that you need to do in order to do the creative things you want to present to the world, or your bride, or your daily clients. If you can fold that in early and make that part of your routine, then it’s easy, especially now, with all the software that is built into our lives. So I guess my very boring advice is to fold in all that logistical stuff at the beginning when you’re launching your business and make it easy and part of your routine. Then it actually frees up more of your brain space and more of your creativity to go and really do that stuff. If you’re not good with the boring stuff, like if you’re allergic to math like me, then hire someone to do it for you. Figure out how to make that extra money and hire someone. And if you know it’s getting done, that’s freeing up your personal bandwidth to be able to do cool stuff. And that’s what we’re good at!
Guest Blogger: Andy Arthur
Last night was the Flower House Detroit Preview Event. Myself and Megan DeMara went to the event on behalf of Mayesh. This is an exciting project by a group of very talented floral designers in the Detroit area to act as a model to turn blighted structures into creative platforms for art and business. Lisa Waud, owner of Pot & Box in Ann Arbor, Michigan, purchased two side by side blighted buildings in Hamtramck, Michigan. The one building was once a storefront, and the other is a two unit duplex. She, along with Heather Saunders, of Heather Saunders Photography, Liz Stoltz of Parsonage Events, Jody Costello of J Costello Desgins, Holly Rutt of Sweet Pea Floral Design and Susan McLeary of Passionflower are the creative force behind this project. They plan to create a breathtaking weekend exhibition on October 16, 17 & 18.