NeoFlora: What Does a Sushi Chef, Rock Star, and a Florist have in Common?

Blogger: Sabrina Mesa


Question: What do a sushi chef, Paul McCartney and my mom have in common? Let’s look at these people individually.


Sushi chefs spend years perfecting the art of combining and grading ingredients both raw and cooked in a multitude of combinations and variations. They use tools such as sharp knives to cut intricate designs for displays on plates or wooden sushi boats. Many sushi restaurants have the sushi chef right in plain view of a bar area where patrons can watch them create these delicious meals.


Paul McCartney is a musical icon whose many achievements began when we was part of the Fab Four (The Beatles of course!), then with his wife and band mates in the group Wings and continues today with an amazing solo career that spans over 30 years. He has released countless albums and hit singles. He sells out concerts on almost every continent.


Iris Mesa (also known as my mom) she has been designing flowers for a local flower shop here in Tucson, Arizona for over 12 years. She has designed countless weddings, large corporate and government events. I am pretty sure she can make a corsage in her sleep. Her arrangements sit in mansions, apartments, houses, hospitals, gravesides and offices all over town. She takes classes and reads trade magazines to keep up her craft.

So what is the common thread these 3 individuals share? They are artists and their art last only minutes, hours or days. I love sushi so I know that it does not take an hour to eat a great roll. I have been to a Paul McCartney concert so I know that they do not last forever (as much as I wanted it to), after a few hours the show ends and the music stops. I worked with my mom for 10 of the 12 years she has been designing so I know that her clients do not receive arrangements that last forever (even silks need to refreshed and refurbished eventually.) Making sushi, performing music and designing a floral arrangement takes talent and skill; those skills are harnessed after years of practice.

They are all rock stars in their own right and the public enjoys the fruits of their labor. Out of the three only two perform in front of a crowd. My mom, like most florists, spend most of her design time in the backroom of a shop. Everything is created away from the public and only viewed once it is complete. Not to say there has not been times where clients have asked to take a peek behind the scenes or she has come up to the front counter to ask a question or finish a vase with perhaps a bow. Other than that, she really does not spend a lot of time upfront.



This brings me to what I believe was Hitomi Gilliam’s vision during her one week only pop up store in Vancouver, Canada.Flower designers are artists and rock stars! Why should they be confined to the back room? The public needs to see how talented floral designers are and all the work that they do behind closed doors. Why their talent is valuable and why purchasing from a local flower shop should be always top of mind. Not everyone can put together a beautiful hand-tied bouquet that when placed in a vase falls in all the right places and stays perfectly round. You (designers) are MacGyver’s! You can take wire, tape, sticks, flowers and almost anything else and create art. That art conveys emotions for people who just cannot find the right words to express how they feel.


Over the course of a year, Hitomi assembled a group of rock stars who worked hours on end at this pop-up flower shop. It was a combination flower shop, art exhibit and fashion show stage. It was incredible. Every day the shop evolved. It was a collaborative effort all around. Hitomi had a vision and the rest she left up to women and men who live and breathe this industry. The excitement was palpable and very contagious. It did not take long for my friend and co-worker, Jenn McJunkins and me to be swept up in the excitement. We wanted to be a part of what was happening. We helped sweep, clean flowers, wrap orchid plants and even talk to customers. The environment was such a positive one that I do not think I heard a single negative thing come out of anyone (unless it had to do with the cold weather outside hahaha.) Even at the end of their long days the crew was still smiling and laughing and excited for what the new day would bring. The NeoFlora team took us in and made us feel like we were part of the amazing event unfolding before our very eyes. To say we were sad to leave after the shop was only open 1 day would be an understatement.


Over the course of the week that followed, Hitomi and her rock stars performed for people young and old. They adorned men and women in haute couture style designs and costumes, inspired other designers to think outside the backroom and informed people on what being a florist is all about. My favorite pictures from that week were the pictures of the children learning and designing. It is these young ones that will grow up to appreciate their florist and will turn to them when they need flowers.

NeoFlora may have only been open for 1 week but I am sure they left a huge impression on the city. People will remember the week when flowers took over 1200 Robson St Vancouver, BC Canada.

If you would like to learn more about NeoFlora check out our interview with Hitomi here and our video recap here.



Here is a list of the amazing designers who contributed to an amazing week:

Dawn Block CFD, Gloria Cheung (The Flower Factory), Bronia DePedrina, Aniko Kovacs CFD (Garlands Florists), Susanne Law AIFD, Diane Levings CFD (Full Blooms Flowers), Alexis MacLeod AIFD (Simply Perfect Flowers), Stephanie Lee (Balconi Flowers), Yukari Mitsui AIFD, Sharrai Morgan AIFD (Holly’s Fine Flowers), Ania Norwood AIFD, Lottie Nys AIFD, Kim Oldis AIFD, Poppy Parson CFD (Smart Flowers), Cindy Pham, Brenna Quan, Lisa Russo, Kyo Sada (Zwada Home), Arthur Williams CFD (Babylon Floral Designs), Demi Wu, Don Zwaryk (Zwada Home) and, of course,  Hitomi Gilliam AIFD.




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