Tuesday, January 20, 2015

on flowering for Louis Vuitton and growing pains




Well into my third week of isolation at the farm, I had the chance to reflect on some of the projects we worked on in 2014...a few of which were with Fiona Leahy for Louis Vuitton. Fiona is one of those women who can wear fringed capes like it's nothing and who, when she posts videos of herself hoola-hooping in gold snake stilettos poolside, inspires me to be a better woman like that.

These photos are all by Belathee, one of only a handful of photographers who really knows how to shoot flowers. I am grateful for her prowess in low light scenarios.



We don't typically do a lot of fashion work, I think for one thing we were pigeon-holed some time ago as wedding florists - hashtag brooklyn hashtag romantic - and arguably weddings are where we can really make some of our best creative work - #wild #organic #seasonal #local #obama ... But occasionally I think it's nice to test the waters in other stratospheres of the NYC event world. It keeps us on our toes, and admittedly one can only make so many 'beauty and the beast' weddings, as our breakdown crew apparently calls them (much to my horror).



These pictures are from November 7th when Louis Vuitton hosted 150 of the fashion elite in a glass house fabricated in the garden of the Museum of Modern Art. The production took a week, hundreds of people and the logistical wizardry of Prodject of whom I am in great awe of. I love logistics but these people obsess over them. It was fun to watch this come off.



Hi it's me, I'm just fixing something here...



These next photos are from back in September when we flowered with Fiona for LV at Saks Fifth Avenue. Again, so different from what we usually do, but interesting to struggle with the simplicity of single stems in Fiona's collection of gold tube vases. Not as easy as it looks.

[Rest assured that an entire section of my upcoming flower tell-all memoirs will be on the incongruity of my city/farm experiences. Leading up to this event, there was a day that started with a messy sheep wrangling scenario and ended with a Louis Vuitton meeting in midtown.]



Right now we're working on a new mission statement at Saipua. We've actually never had one, and when a business gets as top heavy as ours we realize we desperately need one to refer to as we say yes to somethings and no to others. We've been in a period the last few months of saying YES to everything which has taught us (or reminded us) about why we are good at some sorts of things, and bad at others.



For example, we are bad at making money on small events. In fact, often we loose money on small events. Because we have built a machine geared towards producing large events, we unknowingly apply those practices to small events. For small weddings now we tend to overbuy flowers and materials, over hire staff. We take too many taxis or spend too much on lunch out of habit....



In December our team hustled so hard saying yes to everything: deliveries, events, photoshoots... all these little things swarming the studio every week. Come January I had a depressing meeting with our bookkeeper and accountants to learn that all that work resulted in *zero* profit. Money was coming into the business and leaving just as fast. More importantly, saying yes to all the little things meant that we were not focused on the events that we really want, the ones that we're good at. For us now, the sweet spot -- where our business really works (meaning we have the right staff, the expertise, the right infastructure) are events with budgets of (and for those of you outside NYC, remember this is a bubble market) $25-$150K. That's what we've grown to do well. Over that and you get into construction elements that we're not equipped for, under that and we don't profit or worse, loose money.



These last few months I've been struggling with how to make Saipua profitable again so I can start sending resources to the farm. I've become a money-head which I fucking hate. Money is so boring; it feels like the absence of creativity. When my bookkeeper (who - lets be honest - is my mother)(who is also our soapmaker) calls me to talk numbers my eyes glaze over and I get confused. But the reality is that you need the green to do some things in this world. Like build a farm.

I want to finish our barn already and get moving on building the farm into the creative mecca it's destined to be.

So I'm working around the clock starting at the beginning -- writing the goals of Saipua both BIG (to fund a farm that can become a non-profit floral nerve center where people can come learn not just about flowers and farming, but also explore the juncture between general creativity and the natural world) and small (to have more excellent coffees, and less shitty ones -- i.e. open my coffee shack on the beaver pond.)

So that where I'm at; where Saipua is right now. Wish us luck chickens, we need it!!!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Mexico with Jose Villa






To be clear: I like cold weather, dark days, misery, butter, lonely nights, etc. However, an invitation to flower for one of Jose Villa's infamous photography workshops in Mexico had me reconsidering my ability to embrace warm weather retreat and suddenly I was digging around in my closet for sandals in November.





photo by Jose Villa


I had never been to Mexico before! I was given fair warning that the flower market in Mexico is not what we're used to in NY. Fortunately I had eyes on the ground -- my friend Gabriella, who recently returned back to her home town of Mexico City to build her flower business there, was willing to be my accomplice and use her flower hunting prowess for the cause...


Mexico does not allow ANY imported flowers across their borders so everything we used on this shoot was Mexican grown. They seem to really love roses, and some of the more typical pedestrian types of flowers -- but also Mums! There are big gorgeous healthy mums all over the markets and I enjoyed them immensely.





Photos by Jose Villa

As soon as I was off the plane I was on the lookout for material to forage -- this is the key to remote location events; using what the landscape offers to elevate the staple roses, lisianthus and ranunculus that you can find almost anywhere.


This Bougainvillea is the stuff dreams are made of -- commonly found in hot fuchsia -- the soft peach colored ones are rare. People ask me about this holding up as a cut, truth is it rarely does, but photo shoots are the perfect showcase it. Admittedly, I also use it in real wedding bouquets -- cutting it at the very last minute, and using the thicker stemmed pieces.





Photos by Jose Villa


There was a village of creative collaborators at work for these workshops; those who worked closest with me on decor were Laurie Arons who executed the over all design for the workshop (and who introduced me to Creative Candles makers of extraordinarily tall taper candles -- 36" - sometimes size does matter)...and Diana, the inspiring owner of Casa de Perrin, the country's leading high end table top rental company.





Photos by Jose Villa

Photoshoots, you know -- NOT REAL. Could any bride ever make a table like this across an entire wedding? Maybe; but it would cost a fortune. I would never actually cut brugmansia and put it in real centerpieces (as it was, it barely lasted for the shoot). But its our job in these scenarios to make inspiration, and what a luxurious creative exercise to be tasked with making just one perfect table...and how better prepared we are to bring that pursuit of perfection to our next real wedding...






Jose spares no expense with these workshops; every single detail is thought through and dusted with gold - the welcome dinner photos below show that. Intended to set the tone of the workshop week - the first dinner with all the attendees was pretty spectacular. We worked with brighter colors here; more mums, foraged foliage I can't identify and lots of fruit -- something we didn't all agree on, but ending up staying put on the table...






Photos by Jose Villa


We also cut large pieces of agave and layered them down the center of the table to pull the ancillary arrangements together and make a sort of backdrop for the fruit. Thorny suckers, I had lots of infected little cuts on my hands after that.





Photos by Jose Villa


 I don't drink tequila. Would I be more fun if I did? Probably.






Photos by Jose Villa


One of the stars here was Mock Orange which Gabriella brought from Mexico City. I did not understand how Mock Orange could be blooming in November in the Northern Hemisphere, but Gabriella insisted over and over again -- in Mexico, it's always spring somewhere.
That's enough to make me want to go back. [If you're getting married in Mexico, please call me.]

Thanks to Jose and Joel for making the week such a great experience.








Friday, January 2, 2015

YEAR IN REVIEW

I find it incredibly boring and painfully self indulgent to recount the events of the year. I've spent several frustrating hours at the computer and consumed way too many pieces of toast with nut butter trying to write this post. I feel better deleting it all and letting the photos tell the story. 

Photos here are from Amsterdam, UK, Italy (Rome, Ischia), Marthas Vineyard, Portland, Napa and Guadalajara, Mexico. There was a lot of traveling this year for Saipua and I am very grateful for the opportunity it affords me to meet new people and be exposed to new flowers and ideas. That said, I hope to stay put more in 2015 and focus on the farm which needs so much... 

I will say this; at the end of last year I vowed to work harder in 2014, and I did. We all did. This year we tackled some of the largest, most far flung events we've ever attempted. We rented enough trucks that U-Haul is offering us corporate sponsorship, soon you'll see cartoon renderings of Saipua flower arrangements on the sides of trucks everywhere. 
FOXGLOVE! it will say..."Biennial, native to southwestern Europe, highly poisonous..."

I am eternally grateful for a staff that continues to impress and inspire me. Deanna, Genevieve, Asheley (I'm going to convince you to keep coming back), Taryne, Dan, Todd, Meg, Mindy and all the freelancers that have hustled with us -- here's to you. And of course thanks to all our incredible interns and apprentices who come and go but never really go that far, thank god. And thanks to my mom who keeps the books and makes the soap and keeps me honest.

I hope to make flowers forever, and I hope they keep getting better and I hope they don't get weird, and I hope I don't get weird. Because that shit happens in the creative world, you and I both know it.

In 2015 we're going to blow it up. I know this because a lot of the logistical ground work was put in place in 2014. Somethings take time, and you know I've been working on my patience...

Happy New Year.