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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!