Monday, February 23, 2015

post valentines/new idea

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind, and if you follow us on instagram you know we've been hustling hard through fashion week and valentines day. No one cares about how busy you are but it's worth saying that we've been working really hard to raise some money for some serious projects we're trying to get off the ground...

One of the things that has always lurked around in my master plan for Saipua is how it can have a real effect on the environment. Growing clean flowers is not good enough for me; shouting the benefits of sustainable living (what does that even mean) from my soap box (pun) is not either and I don't like preaching (lie) I just want to make some actual, countable, quantifiable difference.

Lately this idea has taken form in a new scheme; offering NYC florists a breakdown service that composts their flowers and branches, thus keeping thousands of tons of natural materials out of landfills.

Typically, when a wedding is over we send a crew of people to trash the flowers and collect the vases. During the high wedding season we send trucks back to the farm full of spent flowers and branches; haphazardly depositing them into our 'flower compost' heap which is in the woods next to the trucks. Come fall, Nea nests in it; I like to think shes sentimental and misses life at Saipua.

This spring we plan to have a regular truck route that brings flowers from Worlds End and other farms to the city. My dream is to sell these flowers to Saipua and my flower friends and then have them hire us to break down their weddings; bringing those same flowers back to the farm to compost them. If I can make it work, it would make a beautiful cycle - further vertically integrating Saipua, maximizing the use of the truck and keeping more compostable natural materials out of black trash bags and landfills. We'll need to buy a new used box truck; convert it to bio-diesel and install a solar powered refrigeration unit on it.

Have you ever bagged flowers? Sticks poking holes out the sides, a caterpillar or ladybug clinging to a leaf as its shoved into the abyss; unknowingly entombed forever in a 55 gallon, 4 mil contractor bag. I think about bugs in this flower trash eating away for hours and days until they sense in their tiny bug brains that something is awry. (Dramatizing for effect here.)

This plan has so many obstacles. My friend Sarah, an insanely talented and responsible farmer asked me last week: did I really want to become a composting business? I know so little about compost, and it is an incredibly complex process. So many of the flowers that we use in the city are laden with pesticides. The last thing we need at Worlds End is an albatross of a toxic compost heap leaching chemicals into our water stream and soil.

But this side business addresses both of my main goals for SAIPUA: to start to affect real environmental change in the world through flowers and farming and 2. to build a business that can support more and more people.

So I'm going to keep working on this idea. First, I need to talk to some compost brains.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

I was in the city, as I always tend to be when shit goes down at the farm. I'd say 'poor Eric' but does disposing of a bloody half eaten chicken trump a 2.5 hour site visit at a stuffy hotel in midtown? Ask yourself.

Chickens have it tough in winter - as we all do I suppose - and spend a lot of their time cooped up. When the snow is deep we shovel paths for them, and the intrepid girls will venture outside to do a few loops and then return to the coop. If a chicken flies off the path it can get stuck in the deep snow - a sort of a adorable struggle to watch - unless you're not watching in which case an onlooking hawk has an easy lunch. Eric came back from a walk with the dogs and the hawk was feasting. The dogs just can't be on watch all the time. So it goes.

Admittedly chickens are low on the totem poll of loveable farm animals, though I'm sure someone will jump to argue this with me. They are seeminly angry, mean little things (perhaps why I'm drawn to them?) with a brain-to-body weight ratio that is somewhat askew.

Our flock is an even spread of three breeds of cold hardy layers: Black Lace Wyanndotes, Araucanas and Buff Orpingtons. The Araucanas are the only chickens with names as they are easily distinguishable from one another. Boris (a female, don't ask) is by far the most clever chicken. When I cut flowers and drive the truck into the yard, she's the first to jump into the back (encouraging many NYC stowaway chicken jokes which are not really that funny) looking for grapes or amaranthus - both of which she's enjoyed in the truck post harvest and remembers. In her tiny, tiny, evil chicken brain.

Still, I'm crazy about them. I wish I had a photo to insert here of me casually holding a chicken under my arm gazing down at it in adoration, but no dice. Instead here is our dear Cruella working on a cadaver provided by the Worlds End School of Chicken Dentistry. She was the top of her class, and despite several complaints ("this school SUX") she was prized by her mentors.

Now might be a good moment to mention the fact that humor comes to die at Worlds End. Especially in the winter, we live in a black hole of bad jokes, told to each other but when taken out of context - say in a bridal consultation at Saipua - don't quite translate as funny. For example, the joke about which R Kelly song would make for the most inappropriate daddy-daughter dance at a wedding... or any mention for that matter of Eric's 'Awkward Slow Jam' mix should not leave the safety of our evening cocktail hour. There is an important escape velocity of humor which needs to be respected.

But now I'm not joking, I'm going to be serious and talk about life and death.

In the city, thinking about Cruella and imagining her one moment pecking around in the snow and the next in the clutches of a hawk I came back to the same conundrum I often get stuck on with death. Why can't you watch it happen and then turn back time and make it so it doesn't happen? Why can't you control it better?

I watch a lot of death on the farm, mostly my plants in the field, or small creatures like moles eaten by dogs. I'm not obsessed with death, despite my propensity for dark pictures and bones. I'm just struggling to understand nature - if one ever does - or at the very least feel more comfortable as a part of its grandness and its mystery.

I realize it's not unusual at all for a hawk to eat a chicken, but it is very human for us to dramatize it or try to prevent it. That is farming in a nutshell; controlling what lives and dies. And farming is how we all ended up with better brain-to-body ratios. Big brains that afford us the luxury of considering our place in it all.

Friday, January 30, 2015


[do you like sweating and sipping champagne? this could be you]

As we expand in 2015 we are looking for two new apprentices. The right candidates are tough, smart, hungry, and willing to get up early. Applicants should be able to commit 3 days a week starting March 1st and finishing in June. 

1. Events/Weddings Apprentice

This person will work under Genevieve Rainsberger our Art/Marketing Director and assist her with administrative tasks pertaining to client inquiries, budget preparation, contract writing and Saipua marketing and outreach. This person will see through the planning and execution of several large spring events; and will learn to arrange flowers in our distinct style. Strong communication and interpersonal skills required. Knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office a must. 

2. Studio/Event Production Apprentice

This individual will work under Deanna Nairns our Studio Director. Deanna runs the Saipua studio, and her apprentice will learn floral design in the Saipua style in order to assist with deliveries, retail sales and general studio upkeep. This person knows how to always anticipate the next task without being told. He/she is willing to get their hands dirty, clean buckets and occasionally ride along on deliveries. Knowledge of coffee a plus. [We're soon launching a coffee program at Saipua....]

Internships at Saipua are rich with possibilities. Since the programs inception in 2008 Saipua has turned out some of NYC’s most sought after new florists. We expect above and beyond performance from apprentices and in return offer free soap, flowers, lunches...and floral guidance forever. Collectively our interns have helped build Saipua into what it is today. They become like family and we are eternally thankful for them and keep them close in our fold. Potential opportunities for long term employment for the right person if the stars align. 

Interested applicants will send their CV and a brief letter of intent to sarah at saipua dot com
In the subject line, please note which position you are interested in. 

Application deadline is February 6th
Interviews conducted February 18 - 25th. 

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


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.