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