One time when I was at my favorite Mexican restaurant here in Birmingham I tried to ask a question about the menu to the woman who was bringing people salsa. She gave me a confused look. Not realizing that she didn’t speak much English, I repeated my question. We sat in silence until she finally said, “No situation. No can.” And then she walked off. She was basically saying, we are at an impasse in this situation because I can’t understand you therefore I cannot do anything to help you.
I went to Puerto Rico in November to do my last wedding of the year and I don’t speak Spanish. I had a lot of no situation, no can moments. The only thing was that no can was not an option. I had to push through and find solutions to a world of problems. Like when your street is closed for construction and you have six 50lb boxes of flowers that you have to move two blocks from your illegally parked minivan to your apartment. No situation. No problem. I walked down the street with a box on my head until I found a construction crew and mimed to them that I needed to borrow their wheelbarrow while saying over and over, “Mas flores aqui,” and pointing towards the stack of boxes by the minivan in the distance.
I did have one no can moment. After about 87 nightmare conversations with Dept. of Agriculture officials who were determined not to release my flowers to me the day they arrived, I decided my only option at that point was to source additional flowers from a local wholesaler. My trusty assistant and I piled into the minivan and navigated our way to a store in San Juan that upon first glance did have rather a lot of bars on the door and windows for being a flower shop. Undeterred, I entered. Actually, I had to be buzzed in the barred door. Once inside, I found myself separated from the contents of the store by a floor to ceiling wall complete with thick plexiglass window. A man stood behind the window and spoke to me through perforations in the plexiglass. What did I want? To see the flowers. No see the flowers. He pointed to a dogeared, yellowed poster – essentially a grid of flower mugshots. What flower you need? Roses? Tulip? Hydrangea? I tried to explain that my primary concern was palette not variety. For some reason, this was not convincing to the gatekeeper of the Fort Knox of flowers. Finally I realized I was in a no can situation. We retreated.
Flower-less, confused and discouraged, we trudged across the street and ordered a burger that arrived sporting an inexplicably bright blue bun. It was more like fuel than food so we force fed ourselves a small portion and sat in silence for the eternity it took our waitress to bring us our bill. Morale was low.
In the end, we found a great wholesaler who did care about the subtleties of my palette. I learned how to say hyacinth in Spanish. Jacinto. We found the cargo area of the airport with the help of several complete strangers, two policemen and one highly complex hand drawn map. They released the flowers to us that same day. I didn’t have to bribe anyone and I only had one notable meltdown.
I was repeatedly reminded on this trip how important it is to be flexible. As beautifully orchestrated as your Plan A may be and as hard as you’ve worked on it for months and months, it’s Plan B that’s going to save you. I wish life went according to plan so that I could always feel safe and secure but the fact remains that it just doesn’t work that way. This is something I’m beginning to accept and it’s making my life easier. I’m also learning that I might need a minivan, but I’m not ready to accept that. No situation. No can.
Greetings, friends! Guess what’s right around the corner?
Hint: it was really fun when you were a kid…like waking up getting a Barbie Dream House kind of fun.
Answer: The Holidays.
Here’s the thing about the most wonderful time of the year. Sometimes it just isn’t. And I for one am over it being lame/stressful and have decided to make some spirits bright this year. I’m having a wreath class!!! It will be hosted by Christopher Architecture and Interiors at their beautiful new space in Homewood, AL. December 7th at 2:00.
I hope to see some of you there. My goal is for you to experience actual holiday cheer learning to make a gorgeous wreath WHILE you enjoy cookies with icing on them and drink champagne. (Or cider. Cider is also cheerful.)
If you are interested in attending, click HERE for a class description and ticket information.
P.S. There’s a lady bug in the first photo! She styled herself. See if you can find her.
Hint: she looks good in spent clematis.
In art school I realized that I was “process driven”. Which basically means I don’t really know exactly what something is going to end up looking like until I just start making it and let the experience of working with the materials guide me. I think this makes sense if you work with flowers. You have to be flexible with flowers. For one, it’s live product so you never exactly know how the flowers you order are going to look until they arrive. Two, the flowers always interact with each other in unique ways that you just can’t predict until you have them in your hands. I’m always surprised by what ends up being the key element that ties a look together and I love that it’s often something that I didn’t plan.
You have to plan a lot in this business. I guess you could call it “creative planning”. (Sorry, I’ve been in a quotations mood all week.) You have to design a look in your mind very far in advance and then make a set of predictions about what all you will need to make it months later. I do a lot of it on a spreadsheet which is a little something my younger process driven art student self would not have believed. I mean I waited until my last semester of college to take math – where I remember learning how to do a spreadsheet and feeling SO confident that I would NEVER need to use one in my lifetime. I was however completely confident that threading a loom would prove to be a key life skill. Art school…
Sometimes I can see why my parents were less than thrilled that I was a fiber art major (and French minor – mais oui). But the reality is that I learned a lot studying art that I use constantly. Have I ever threaded a loom again? Lord, no. Do I consider color, texture, line, shape and form on a daily basis? Hell yes. It’s key to my “process”. (That and spreadsheet wizardry.)
Photos: Rylee Hitchner
Styling: Ginny Au
So I keep writing about what I’ve learned this season and then deleting it because it sounds too snarky which isn’t really a vibe I want to put out there today. (I’m trying to be positive.) Really I just want to give all of my florist friends a giant hug. It’s been a busy summer and I know how we can get a little worn thin. I learned something in an Ikebana class the other day I’d like to share. There is an element to the practice of Ikebana called fruition. It is a kind of relaxation rooted in realizing that you cannot control all the aspects of a piece. An appreciation for the beauty and magic of nature. An understanding of the natural order and state of all life. And a knowledge that everything changes.
I think there is some kind of freedom in this. Letting go of some of the control. Letting the piece direct itself a little bit. Let it be a work in progress. Walk away if you’re not connecting to it. Come back and see what it says to you. Don’t force it. Be changeable.
This wedding took place at the Blount Conservatory in Montgomery, Alabama. Did you know that Alabama’s state motto is “Alabama the Beautiful”? It would be kind of braggy sounding if it wasn’t so true. This really is a lovely state full of green and trees and old southern ruins. It has a natural beauty that’s hard to describe until you’ve been here which many people haven’t. I guess it is a little out of the way. I was up in New York recently working on a wedding for another florist and several people sounded amazed that I had managed to get all the way from Alabama to The Big City. “You came all the way from Alabama?” Lord, I thought, it’s only an hour and a half direct flight, not a 19 day trip on the back of a mule drawn turnip truck. But I think people still think of The South as being a little frozen in time, immune to progress and change. I mean honestly, there is some truth to that but in general I think we have a lot to offer. Alabama grows a lot of talented people. I mean just look at these photos by Leslie Hollingsworth. And the styling of this wedding by Ginny Au. I was proud to be a part of this homegrown affair. Roll Tide, ya’ll.
See more of this wedding in the Summer 2014 issue of Weddings Unveiled.
Photography: Leslie Hollingsworth
Styling: Ginny Au
It’s very common for brides to feel a lot of pressure to abide by a lot of rules. If you get married in Spring your flowers need to be pastel. In the Fall, warm tones. Etc, etc. It reminds me of the 80’s when makeup sales people, after draping a series of poly-blend swatches across your chest and shoulders in order to evaluate your skin tone, declared you to be one of the four seasons and then informed you that you could only use a particular set of eyeshadow colors and lipsticks. I remember being immediately drawn to all of the colors I wasn’t supposed to wear. I mean how dare that lady label me! I can pick out my own damn lipstick, thank you very much.
But not everyone is this way. Some people just buy the bossy lady’s lipstick and never look back. A lot of people feel compelled to accept rules like these and feel very bound by them. And it’s just really limiting and oppressive. And I’m not having it. Especially when it comes to wedding flowers. Is it grandiose for me to see myself as not just a florist but a liberator? A floral Moses? Ok, yes, but hear me out. I’m just saying that we should all be free to express ourselves, to like what we like, wear what we want to wear, say what we want to say, etc. Maybe I’m more like a floral Madonna…Ok, I’ll stop, I’ll stop. Now I’m labeling myself for god’s sake.
Bottom line is this. I’m here to get to know my clients and to create for them wedding flowers that are unique to them. I think that is one of my favorite parts of my job really. Discovering what my brides are really inspired by and encouraging them to move in that direction despite any and all outside pressures/rules/labels. So you’re a Fall trapped in a Spring’s body? No problem. Inspired by Beauty and the Beast and Dutch flower paintings? Whatever! It’s your wedding and I’m here to remind you that you can wear whatever lipstick you want.
I am a total perfectionist.
And today I feel like talking about it. I just feel like being honest about it because I think it’s a common struggle for people. It comes and goes for me but lately it’s got me feeling a little worn down. I mean, I KNOW that nothing in this world is perfect. I KNOW that striving for perfection is crippling. I KNOW all sorts of things about the pitfalls being a perfectionist but I can’t seem to absorb what I know in a way that helps me to let go of the drive for perfection. It’s just such a harsh and critical state of mind. Believing that something could always have been better is totally exhausting.
Here’s an example. I made this bouquet this weekend. Here is one of about 400 photos that I took of it. I just kept trying to get the perfect shot and when I couldn’t I became more and more frustrated and critical of what I had made. And I realized all of the sudden how sad this was. I realized that I wasn’t enjoying the flowers because I was too busy criticizing them. The truth is that I was letting perfectionism rob me of joy. The joy I get from working with flowers. The joy I get from taking photos. I have to find a way out of this mental trap.
I wonder what it’s like to not be a perfectionist. I hear you do a lot of being in the moment. I’m like what does that even mean? The moment. THE MOMENT. I think it has something to do with your mind relaxing. My mind, on the other hand, is relentless. I don’t ever stop thinking of what I should be doing or what I could have done better. It’s ridiculous. In college I had this friend Ainoah. She was a total hippy. I loved being around her. She used to take me on long walks into the woods and she would play her flute and I would hum along. We would pick wild flowers. I would forget about my worries. I think looking back on it, we were being in the moment. It was nice.
Basically, I’ve got to find my inner hippy. Wish me luck.
February 22, 2014 -Little Flower School – Long Island City Queens, NY
Despite it being the dead of winter, my month of February was all about growth. I met two of my biggest inspirations in this business. I worked for one and studied with the other at Little Flower School. As you can see from my photos, it was a gorgeous experience. I mean, can you believe these flowers? And all that stunning light streaming through the windows of The Metropolitan Building? I could barely focus on building my arrangement as I was so busy taking photos of all the flowers we had to choose from. Somehow I managed…
My arrangement is the last on in the set. I feel like I learned a lot. I had a successful “blue moment”. I learned to love tulips. I loosened up some. I think that last one was key. I had a mini tragedy occur towards the end of the class when my grapes fell out of the chicken wire and pulled out half of the surrounding flowers. But it was ok because it gave me an opportunity to try not to be a massive perfectionist and just go with it, be in the moment, rework it and move on. Sometimes I need that. A little upset to get me out of my head and into the moment. That’s my new thing.
Sometimes I wonder what to make of dreams. Some we experience while sleeping and others while we are very much awake. We dream of who we would like to become, places we want to go, beautiful things we’d like to see or make or do. Sometimes we run from our dreams and sometimes we go after them. The whole thing can be scary because what if we go after one and it doesn’t work the way we had dreamed it would? I guess that’s the hard part. But I’ve decided that dreams are not to be feared but rather embraced. Fodder for our creative growth. I’ve also decided that things hardly ever work out the way we think they will so why worry about that part? Sometimes you just have to go with it. Be a part of the process. Let it wash over you and change you. Collaborate with life. Let your dreams inspire you, not frighten you.
I don’t really remember my sleeping dreams so I tend to focus on my waking ones. Being a part of this shoot was a bit on the dreamy side actually. Allow me to elaborate. My friend Caitlin asked me to collaborate with her on a shoot for her gorgeous blog, Roost. Many of you are familiar with her work I am sure and if not, now is the time to enter into her beautiful world. She asked if I could do hair, makeup and flowers for a video she wanted to make about a dream. I was beside myself as I am a huge admirer of her work and have always wanted to see her in creative action. I always learn so much from watching people work and was thrilled to be able to be part of Caitlin’s process. Being a kind and generous friend, she allowed me to tag along with my camera and take photos throughout the day. It was such an honor to be able to capture bits of this dream world she created on film. I hope you will enjoy her video. I hope it encourages you to run toward your next dream. Our lives are always changing and sometimes our dreams really do become a part of our reality. Here’s to the dreamers…