Mother’s Day Will Rock This Year!

I am speechless. Stunned.  What an outpouring of support for our little idea!  This Mother’s Day, the 50 residents at Holy Family Home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Philadelphia are going to be receiving some gorgeous designs, thanks to all 24 of you who found it in your hearts to donate.  We received donations from $10 up to $200, and each one counts!  Our total amount raised is $938.  Can you believe it???

carniv2

Our Donation Hero List (last names omitted for privacy): Motria L., Aaron B., Elizabeth C., Shannon O., Jen S., Amy K., Walter B., Emily M., Carolyn D., Josh L., Lise N., Mandy G., Mary F., Emily M., Vincent T., Jason H., Joseph K., Michael B., Joseph K., Amy K. (2nd time!), and Rebecca M., Penny B., Julie S., Dan B., and Eunice F. 

'Do Tell' Peony

I can’t wait to get started ordering materials (extravagant wonderful things) and planning the designs with our ladies over at falls flowers!  If there are those out there who still want to be a part of our project, feel free to click this link:  DONATE.  You will receive a Paypal receipt that can be used as a tax deductible donation to charity. However, we do have enough to make some lovely things!  I am so touched by the generosity of others.  Stay tuned for the next update, and thank you again.

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Mother’s Day Flowers – Donations Update

Thank you to the 19 people who have donated to our Mother’s Day Flower Project so far. Your generosity is stunning, and will make a big statement to the 50 elderly residents of Holy Family Home, run by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Philadelphia. We’ve received Paypal donations from family members, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances we’ve only met a few times.    It was my sister Amy and her husband John who brought us over the $500 mark! Right now, at $563, we have enough to make some simple wrist corsages.  If we get more, we can give these elderly residents something really over-the-top!

combos2Our Donations Hero List, last names omitted for privacy:  Motria L., Aaron B., Elizabeth C., Shannon O., Jen S., Amy K., Walter B., Emily M., Carolyn D., Josh L., Lise N., Mandy G., Mary F., Emily M., Vincent T., Jason H., Michael B., Joseph K., Amy K. (2nd time!), and Rebecca M.

We are still accepting donations! Please visit the Paypal site by clicking this link: DONATE.  You will receive a Paypal receipt that can be used as a tax deductible donation to charity.  Even just a few dollars will go continue a long way.  

I’ll leave you with some quotes on mothers, who all deserve flowers on Mother’s Day:

  • A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.  –Tenneva Jordan
  • All mothers are working mothers. –Author Unknown
  • Sweater, n.: garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly. –Ambrose Bierce
  • Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother. –Oprah Winfrey
  • Our mothers always remain the strangest, craziest people we’ve ever met. –Marguerite Duras
  • There’s no bitch on earth like a mother frightened for her kids. –Stephen King
  • Most mothers are instinctive philosophers. –Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. — Abraham Lincoln

Help Give Elderly Residents a Great Mother’s Day

The Little Sisters of the Poor Holy Family Home in Philadelphia does something special for each of their 50 elderly residents each year: they purchase wrist corsages in celebration of Mother’s Day.  But this year, they don’t have the money to do it.

Residents at Holy Family HOme

Residents at Holy Family Home, from their website

Peicha and Emily of falls flowers, the fabulous flower shop in East Falls where I used to work, wanted to collaborate with me on making them since their shop is already so busy. Because the Sisters don’t have the budget to commission us at a regular price, or even enough to cover the flowers, we decided to raise money and give these residents a great Mother’s Day!  And that’s where you come in.  We only have two weeks until Mother’s Day, and depending upon how much you’re able to share, we can give them small or large wrist corsages dripping with roses, ranunculus, and other accent flowers.  If we raise even more, they could each get a small bouquet!

bouquet created by peicha chang of falls flowers

Won’t you share your generosity and give some low-income elderly women a great Mother’s Day?

DONATE ON PAYPAL TO CREATE ONE-OF-A-KIND FLORAL DESIGNS FOR THE RESIDENTS AT LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR ON MOTHER’S DAY!

We need donations in the next week so we can then plan the acquisition of materials and do the labor.  We will only use these funds to create floral designs for these residents, and if we receive excess of what we need to do so, the money will be contributed directly to Holy Family Home via me, Ann MacMullan.  You will receive a Paypal receipt that can be used as a tax deductible donation to charity.  Even just a few dollars will go a long way.

The blog will feature updates, how much we raise and how much we spend, photos of the process/making the flowers, and then the delivery of the flowers and hopefully the delighted residents receiving them!  Lend a hand, and spread some beauty!

Awakening

When spring finally comes, especially after a long winter, I think to myself how very brave it is for plants to send out buds and leaves and flowers again.  They have the courage to reach for the light and keep growing, despite the fact that they’ll inevitably die.

Magnolia

Magnolia

Especially courageous are spring ephemerals like Mertensia virginica, or Virginia bluebells; for these beauties are but fleeting bursts of color in the spring landscape, typically above ground for only a few short months before folding back into dormancy again.

Virginia Bluebells, or Mertensia virginica

Virginia Bluebells, or Mertensia virginica

And what about the sheer doggedness of our native dogwood tree, whose bracts unfurl in April to reveal the true inner blooms, tiny and button-like?

Dogwood

Many of our spring flowering trees send out blooms even before leaves emerge.  That’s like getting up in the morning and walking outside naked, in my opinion!

Yellow Magnolia

Yellow Magnolia

If only I could take a lesson from spring’s treasures, and learn to get back up with grace when life knocks me down, knowing that it’s all just part of the cycle of life.

Art in Bloom

Imagine a work of art that’s come to life…in flowers.  The colors, textures, lines, and emotional energy of the painting or sculpture are all interpreted in the floral design, displayed next to the artwork itself.

Warning by Jimmy Ernst, 1960

A spot-on floral translation of the painting Warning by Jimmy Ernst, 1960                                 Photo by Laura Blanchard

That was the challenge for 45 national floral designers and 15 garden clubs during the first weekend in April at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts – and I was lucky enough to be one of them.

This floral designer showed unbelievable mastery over her material.

This floral designer showed unbelievable mastery over her material.

With the inaugural PAFA in Bloom event, a breath of fresh air blew into the 138-year old Historic Landmark Building.  Sixty diverse floral designs, from the diminutive to the dominating, were placed carefully throughout the building, and an echo was sounded between paint and bloom.  (Or in some cases, marble.)

Nydia, the Blind Girl of Pompeii

One of my favorite floral designs, depicting Nydia, the Blind Girl of Pompeii by Randolph Rogers c.1853 – Marble

So, how does one go about tackling a floral interpretation?  This was the question I asked myself months before the exhibit.  It was my first time doing something like this and I was more than a little intimidated by the scope of the project.  First I had to study the work of art, which in my case was a portrait of the poet Walt Whitman done by Thomas Eakins in 1887.  

My lovely sister-in-law Juliet and I took a trip to PAFA to get an idea of how large a space I'd have to fill and see Walt close up.

My lovely sister-in-law Juliet and I took a trip to PAFA to get an idea of how large a space I’d have to fill and see Walt close up.  Here, she shows how large the pedestal will be.

I started thinking about colors: brown, sage, slate; white, grey; peach. I decided I wanted the container to represent his body, and the design to be symbolic of the painting’s content rather than a recreation.  There were some very specific rules about what materials we could and could not use, with the emphasis on using fresh material as opposed to wood and fabrics like wool which could harbor damaging insects.  You could still use those items, if you fumigated and/or dry-cleaned them, but I didn’t really want to add any steps to the process, and wanted to keep my design as simple as possible.  To me, the energy of the painting is male, vital, and merry; and with that white collar my mind went instantly to calla lilies; a perfect representation of Walt’s joie de vivre.  His gnarled quality might be echoed by a branch of some kind.  The greys and whites of his beard could be items like spanish moss, dusty miller, and I loved the idea of using a big air plant – Tillandsia xerographica – as a focal point.

I ended up picking out my Calla lilies personally at Del Val Wholesale, with the help of Carol Taylor. These were locally grown and the most deliciously huge callas you will ever find!!

I ended up picking out my Calla lilies personally at Del Val Wholesale, with the help of Carol Taylor. These were locally grown and the most deliciously huge callas you will ever find!!

Picking up materials from DV Flora was an exciting part of the process, because I got to see behind-the-scenes of the largest wholesale floral operation in our area, and meet some of the friendly and helpful staff who were topnotch to work with. Thanks, DV! After gathering all my materials, I did a mock design first; borrowing the perfect container from my friend Jane (her basement is a designer’s dream come true)! I was really happy with the outcome, but could I replicate my design on the spot, at PAFA, on the day of the installation? I was incredibly nervous about that part, but luckily I had a huge help from my sister-in-law Juliet (who is a talented architect.)  This short video shot by Juliet shows the scene at PAFA the morning of the preview party.  There was also a cameraman from FOX news there, to add to the excitement!  

Then it was time to place the design upstairs on the pedestal.  We wheeled Walt’s floral counterpart up to see if it stacked up next to the real Walt.

Making some last minute tweaks to my design...having trouble 'walking away'...photo by Juliet

Making some last minute tweaks to my design…having trouble ‘walking away’…photo by Juliet

In the end, I was pleased with our efficiency in getting in and out of PAFA, because my design really only had a few materials in it (I had created the base of galax and some spanish moss the day before.)  Thank you Juliet for rocking this day with me!  

Getting friendly with Walt

Getting friendly with Walt

Then, it was on to the Preview Party, a gala affair attended by those in support of PAFA in Bloom.  It was so exciting to see all the fresh faced designers and my floral friends Peicha, Valerie and Jane in one place..and to watch people looking at my design!  Here are some photos from the evening:

Jane takes a closer look at an intriguing design

Jane takes a closer look at an intriguing design

Peicha is in the house! With Naima, quite a masterpiece herself.

Peicha is in the house! With Naima, quite a masterpiece herself.

Ariadne Asleep on the Island of Naxos as interpreted by Peicha Chang of falls flowers

Ariadne Asleep on the Island of Naxos as interpreted by Peicha Chang of falls flowers.  Simply sensual!

Valerie's magnificent "hand-tied" bouquet

Valerie McLaughlin’s magnificent “hand-tied” bouquet.  Thanks Valerie, for making me aware of this event!

Take a look at Death on the Pale Horse, a Benjamin West painting, which at 176 x 301 inches is one of the largest oil paintings in PAFA’s collection.  The floral designer who interpreted this one was a genius in my opinion…

Benjamin West's Death on The Pale Horse 1817

Benjamin West’s Death on the Pale Horse 1817

This floral translation of Death on The Pale Horse knocked our socks off!

This floral translation of Death on the Pale Horse was astounding.

It was intimidating to be in the same room with the works of so many great artists, and then great floral designers as well, but it was an experience I will never forget. Thanks to Schaffer Designs for including me and for organizing this very successful event, and for maintaining my design over the course of the exhibit…I hope this will be the first of many!

Walt and my design

After the show, I got some great feedback from George Hubner, right here in Swarthmore:  “I saw the PAFA in Bloom exhibit this afternoon, and your arrangement stood out in particular among the 60 others! I didn’t go around paying any attention to the names of the arrangers, but I noted yours. I have noticed that in the US when someone makes a flower arrangement, the more flowers they can cram in the better. Why use just three flowers then you can stuff in 30 in the bowl instead. The Japanese will use three to great effect, but in the US more is preferred (or as Mae West is supposed to have said “too much is not enough”).  Your arrangement stood out for your use of only three flowers. It looks like a Sogetsu to me. And it seems to me that your using calla lilies was referencing Whitman’s calamus poems too. There must have been thousands of flowers used in the arrangements!  The masses were impressive, but your arrangement was simplicity itself and refreshing to see in the middle of all the other over-the-top arrangements.”  Thanks, George!

Getting Ready for Art in Bloom

Oh, this is exciting!

I am one of 45 floral designers from around the country creating a work of floral art that will interpret a painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in the Historic Landmark Building in Philadelphia, PA. I’ve been working on a mock draft of my design (can’t show you now,) and will be installing the real thing tomorrow morning!

The pedestals that will hold our designs are in place! Photo courtesy of Bill Shaffer Designs

The pedestals that will hold our designs are in place! Photo courtesy of Bill Schaffer Designs

The painting I will be interpreting is a portrait of the poet Walt Whitman done by Thomas Eakins in 1887. I’m trying to capture the emotional content in the painting, as well as echo the color palette and some of the lines, using materials that are symbolic. I think of Walt as a very visceral, life-loving person, so I’m using some calla lilies to represent his almost perverse love of nature; they also mimic the white of his collar perfectly. Materials like Artemisia, Tillandsia xerographica, and fresh spanish moss will represent his beard.

The painting I'm interpreting florally is a portrait of the poet Walt Whitman!

The painting I’m interpreting florally is a portrait of the poet Walt Whitman!

The show opens to the public on Friday, April 4th and goes until Sunday, April 6th. A Big Thanks to Bill Schaffer designs for organizing the event and giving me this opportunity, and to my friend Valerie who forwarded the application info along to me – she is also in the show. So is the ultra talented Peicha Chang of falls flowers! If you’re in the area, come check it out!

I’ll leave you with some Walt Whitman:

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.


52. The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab and loitering.

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.”

from ‘Song of Myself’ in Leaves of Grass