Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Our Ceramics Program: Part I

I've been whining about the vase selection in NYC for nearly a decade. Not that I don't cherish my relationships with Cecelia, Pasam and Maria at Jamail Garden Vase Supply on 28th Street - but not enough to keep me from cursing the shelves in that place every time I have an event. We've dabbled with having things custom made but it's never caught on….until I met Julianne from Object & Totem at a holiday sale this past christmas. A glass of wine in hand, I found myself entranced by her work, and while fondling a female-form-inspired vase, began chatting Julianne up. She was looking for a new studio. And I had just rented the new saipua cave -- a giant space that quadruples our working space…

That was the moment I began to dream about a ceramic studio inside SAIPUA... where there could be an ongoing conversation between seasonal flowers and the sort of vessels best suited to arrange them in…I couldn't get Julianne's work off my mind and wrote to her a few days later…

The relationship between the vase and the flowers is paramount to designing a composition -- I can't stress this enough. The way flowers fall and intermingle has everything to do with the depth of the vessel the size of its opening. When we teach floral design we always remind students that the flowers need to mimic the shape of the vase -- a low wide compote receives flowers that move low; sprawling horizontally across the top of the vessel. A tall thin cylinder is suitable for a pair of anthurium or a single branch of flowering quince…

A vase for winter anemones should be quite different from one intended for an armload of our farm's dahlias and apple branches this September. The idea of this cross pollination of mediums is the core of what SAIPUA aims to be in the future…an epicenter for artists and craftspeople to make work inspired by nature and each other. I get chills thinking about this vision … and the more time I spend with Julianne or with her work, the more excited I am to have this opportunity to collaborate. 

Julianne is the first of what is intended to be a rotating ceramic artist residency program. A new ceramists every year, making four seasons of custom vases. The idea is to catch a young ceramic artist right at the moment when they are not quite able to afford their own studio space…offering them a residency at Saipua for one year ... free use of the studio in exchange for creating our new Floral Delivery Program vases. Vases which could also be collectors items; encouraging our clients to order seasonally.

So pending any other major structural building issues ... (I won't bore you here///but I will write a chapter in my book about building owners and the NYC contractor racket) … Object and Totem will be completely moved in by May… she's already started -- pictured here is the first batch of spring vases.

That I met Julianne - a seasoned ceramicist with the experience to help us build out the best possible working ceramic studio - when I did is serendipitous timing. We are very lucky. We will aim to keep her inspired and happy here.  And further,  I am open to the idea that we may not want her to leave when her year is up. In which case, similar to so many other aspects of our business, we will rewrite the rules.


UP NEXT in Part II: I will tell you all about our new delivery program; how it aims to solve all the problems with seasonal floral deliveries, fund some major SAIPUA educational projects and bring more of the best local flowers and ceramics to people who are needing a little beauty in their lives.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Wedding Thoughts Part 2

This is the post where I tell you everything we dislike about the wedding industry. I've thought a lot about how to make it not feel too negative, and how to not piss anyone off. My intention is to take an honest stab at pulling apart some of the trends, traditions and wedding industry standards that make us here at Saipua uncomfortable - and then to use those points to attempt to reinvent our part in that industry and make it so much more enjoyable for our clients. (That's going to be detailed in Wedding Thoughts Part 3)

When I started Saipua in 2006 I was not thinking about weddings at all. I hated weddings. I've never wanted to get married. I railed against the 'institution' of marriage, and all the deeply rooted associations of men owning women etc. Of course it was foolish and immature to be so polarizing. Because when I accidently started making flowers for weddings in 2007 I met some really inspired couples whose love was big and grand enough to publish to the world in this very public, very emotional way. I started witnessing really good weddings and watched my attitude toward it all slide...

I like public displays of affection and I like emotion. I like drama and I like declarations. It was not long before I was the florist crying behind the curtain or sneaking into the back row during the ceremony. Weddings are romantic and I was converted…

But you know what is not very romantic? The wedding industry. It's basically the opposite of romantic, it's full of sanitized pastel colors and perfectly plastic images of women and cake and puffy twee things that are so sterile and unreal. Ask yourself would you go to bed with that sort of imagery? It's the opposite of romantic.

A wedding photographer friend of mine told me about the frequent requests she gets to airbrush images to make arms appear thiner or cheeks smoother. I nearly fell off my chair. This is the world we operate in. And if you know me at all, you can see this sort of thing is the opposite of Saipua culture. (More on this in Part 3.)

The pressure to have a highly customized, unique wedding is really weird. My mother, having grown up in a very rural area outside Rochester, NY always wants to know what happened to the days when you just had punch and cookies in the church hall afterwards? (My parents got married at Peekskill City Hall, April Fools Day 1980. If there are any photos, I've never seen them. I love the simplicity of their wedding, the lack of collateral even.)

In the last 10 years I've seen a lot of stressed out brides feeling a lot of pressure to plan the perfect, most 'authentic' wedding. My concern with this pressure is that it takes the emphasis off the celebration of two people declaring their commitment and puts it on creating a memorable party for their guests, and one-upping all that has come before. [The shareholders of SAIPUA are getting nervous, shifting in their seats, texting their brokers from under the table…SELL YOUR SAIPUA SHARES! but lets hedge our bets here for a minute…and continue to talk about this honestly…]

There is a larger picture to consider. Before we go condemning big expensive celebrations, I'd like to remind everyone that over the course of human history those with means have fueled a lot of really incredible art and celebrations, and I believe firmly that these expressions of grandeur and celebration are worthy of the money that is invested in them. Aspiration is real and effects positive things across the socioeconomic spectrum. We all want to see images of beautiful expensive art and flowers even if we can't afford them. They inspire, and inspiration is free. I like free things.

But what I dislike is the feeling that some brides feel pressure to keep up with the jones in this respect,  going to incredible lengths to have the "perfect" wedding only to find themselves later disappointed that they weren't more present in the moment. Our greatest fear is when brides and grooms are so confused by all of the "shoulds" from magazines, mothers-in-law to be's, friends, etc that they end up at a celebration that doesn't reflect them.

Thanks to instagram and pinterest - rabbit holes of regurgitated wedding inspiration - brides get so wrapped up in a fantasy which reality can never come close to. Even worse: I've heard of brides making plans to ensure their wedding is placed in an editorial feature before it's even happened. What the hell!?

Luckily we've noticed lately that many of our clients seem more assured about what they want. Many of them want to give their friends and family a night of revelry - as a sort of thank you for supporting their relationship all the way to the alter - its been so refreshing to see people be able to let unnecessary "shoulds" fall by the wayside and just plan a truly unique celebration for themselves; be it simple OR extravagant.

A lot of the success or duress of this could be attributed to wedding and event planners and the editorial staff at large wedding magazines and websites…these are the gatekeepers of the information on 'how to get married.' Because the truth is that there is a lot of confusion about how to go about it -- most people have never done it before.

The guidelines and suggestions printed in magazines about how to go about planning your wedding are so bonkers. 10% of your budget to flowers? Maybe if you don't care so much about flowers, but what if flowers are the most important part for you? I have clients regularly spending 25% on flowers because the flowers are so important to them (SAIPUA stocks holding steady…)

I think a better approach is to start with a budget and then break it up according to what is really important to you. Maybe that's not flowers! It is totally legit to forgo flowers if it's not your thing (SAIPUA shares dropping…)
If the dancing is really important to you - start there. What does the best dj cost? Book him and then plan the rest from there. Who says you can't have a DJ before a venue?

If it were my party I'd put all emphasis on oysters, a flame eater, a giant rotating disco ball and wine. 

I think the key part here is really considering what's important to YOU specifically and not necessarily being so tied to all the aspects of the day being perfect. Perfection is boring.

In the last installment of this wedding series, part 3, we will reveal how we've been changing the structure of SAIPUA to attempt to make better, more honest experiences for our clients...

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


Saturday & Sunday; March 5-6

At our new studio: 177 Dwight St. Brooklyn, NY 11231


You can preview and reserve all the best specimens, hear SOUNDSDISASTROUS spin records and drink beer from from our new friends at Sixpoint Brewery across the street

Friday, March 4, 2016
6pm - 9pm

(*and a great dinner)((SIGNUP HERE)


Plant Care 101

Join Sarah Ryhanen, founder of Saipua and Taylor Johnson of The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum as they cover the basics of plant care for all your indoor plants! Learn about different light and water requirements, how to manage common pests, and how to propagate certain plants from cuttings. If you know little about the plant world but have an inkling to start keeping house plants - this is the perfect opportunity to gain a bit of confidence and knowledge.

Saturday, March 5, 2016
11am to 12pm
Cost: Free
Capacity: 20

Cactus Dry Garden

Learn basic care and propagation techniques for several specimens of indoor cacti from horticulturalist Taylor Johnson of The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Participants will choose from a large array of arid garden specimens and design a large terra cotta bowl dry garden to take home.

Saturday, March 5, 2016
2pm to 4pm
Cost: $95
Capacity: 10

Winter Feast & Silent Auction
We are thrilled to announce the first of our new dinner series (more on this in the previous journal post!)

For Saturdays dinner we’ve asked our good friend, Nahvae Frost of L’Atelier Verte to share her seasonal wisdom of roots, fermentation and mushrooms (not magic). After a cocktail reception, we’ll sit down for a four-course vegetarian meal.

Throughout the night we will also unveil rare specimens from our secret plant vault. All proceeds from the silent auction will go to support our educational programming both in the city and at our farm, World’s End.

Cocktail reception begins at 7p with dinner to follow.
To reserve your seat email:

Saturday, March 5, 2016
7pm to 10pm
Cost: $150
Capacity: 20


The Mounted Epiphyte Garden

Join horticulturist, Taylor Johnston of The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum as she demonstrates how to mount orchids and ferns.  Using wood and wire, Taylor will walk participants through a few simple techniques that transform ferns and orchids into breathtaking mounted garden.  Each participant will select desired materials and mount a fern or orchid. Topics covered include plant specifics, specialty plant food, design techniques, and caring for your mounted garden - plenty of tips and inspiration as you plant your own. The workshop fee includes: wood, one fern or orchid and a care sheet.

Sunday, March 6, 2016
11am to 1pm
Cost: $95
Capacity: 10

Aloe Soap Workshop

Join SAIPUA soap-maker Susan Ryhanen in this intensive, hands-on workshop to discover the powerful agents of aloe within their own batch of olive oil soap while learning the basic tenants of the cold-processed method. 

Each student will be given the following tools to use in class AND to take home: One of Saipua's handmade 3 lb. wooden soap molds, a mixing bucket, a ‘stick blender’ (so critical for making soap without hand stirring for hours), a complete list of suppliers where you can mail order supplies like essential oils and various butters and natural additives.

Students will also receive recipes for making additional soaps at home.

Sunday, March 6, 2016
1pm to 5pm
Cost: $350
Capacity: 10

Screening of The Secret Life of Plants (1979)

“The Secret Life of Plants” is a documentary based on the 1972 cult classic book of the same name. It explores mysteries of the plant kingdom and touches on the potential consciousness of plants and their ability to experience something akin to human emotion. Join us for a discussion about plant intelligence led by Sarah Ryhanen and Taylor Johnston after the screening.

Sunday, March 6, 2016
7pm to 9pm
Cost: Free
Capacity: 30