This last month has been charity benefit, after benefit ball after fundraiser here in Southern California – I‘m going to rename late March, April and early May “Benefit Season” – it falls right after award season. I have definitely done my quota for the year!
It’s really important to me to be of service and to give back to the community. My commitments generally involve a lot of hard work, sharing my talents and resources! During my 25 years in the floral industry I’ve been asked to help with every kind of charity event. My clients, friends and organizations that I don’t even know have contacted me over the years to donate my services. How do you filter all these requests and choose where to help? I’ve learned to pick one or two charities a year that I’ll work with. Generally, it’s a cause that I am passionate about and where I respect their leadership, fundraising capabilities and use of resources. I’ll share a little bit of what I have been doing charity-wise so far this year.
I was asked by Silver Birches to design and create the flowers for President Obama’s fund raising dinner at George Clooney’s residence in Los Angeles. The design was simple and abundant. There were 15 centerpieces of blue Hydrangea and Viburnum en masse. The hydrangea were cut from 8″ plants – I like the plants because they have a lot of new growth and variation of color. Other arrangements were masses of different green hydrangea and huge Viburnum. For the stage surrounding the podium I arranged two nine-foot tall arrangements of a white dogwood en masse. This event raised $15 million for his campaign. It was great fun to do and I know that flowers were a great success!
I also recently designed the cocktail, VIP and silent auction area for The Indigo Ball at the Santiago Estate in Orange, CA benefiting The Center of Orange County. It’s a great organization – they really help a lot of teens and young adults. Since the theme was indigo I did everything in shades of blue. My inspiration was the Artist Yves Klein. He is famous for his solid blue paintings – Pantone has even named a blue color chip after him! I thought blue floral arrangements would be very cool and would fit really well with my design concept.
The venue was a modern stone Aspen-esque Estate – a mish mass of bad architecture and contradicting styles. My challenge was to try and enhance the space, although I have to say, it’s really hard to fix ugly design. I asked if we could remove all the furniture and start from scratch, unfortunately that was not an option. At least I got them to take down all the bad art. The space was bland with a lot of stone and I needed to bring in color. So, I brought in a lot of blue – in keeping with the theme of the event. Fabric was the first thing I wanted to find so I went to the downtown LA fabric district (right next to the flower market) on a mission to find a cool print for a $1.00 a yard! My budget was very tight! It took a while, but eventually I found 65 yards of a great floral print. Vendors put low-priced teasers out on the sidewalk to lure you in…this vendor was disappointed I took the whole bolt! I sewed about sixteen 7 ft. long banners, table runners and pillowcases (to cover the ugly couches pillows).
The next layer was to get some impactful room design, so I asked Mike Anthony Mellano of Mellano & Company to donate some product. He generously helped out even though it was the day before the busiest wholesale holiday – Mothers Day! I took 30 bunches of 7ft tall Curly Willow and spray painted it blue (1 whole can per bunch!) and arranged them in pots on the perimeter of the room. I also used dark blue Belladonna Delphinium in dramatic arrangements accented with chartreuse greens and moss in blue containers. I replaced all of the art with paintings I painted in a modern blue theme. I then took dark blue gel and covered all of the existing recessed lighting. I copied the Center’s logo and branded all the windows and mirrors. The room was impactful and had a strong Indigo theme and your eye didn’t go to the ugly furniture. In the end it was a lot of work, but the fact that it was for a worthy cause made it all worthwhile.
I want to give big thanks to Mike Anthony and Mellano & Company for making this event a huge success. Everyone was blown away by the beauty and quality of the flowers and The Center made a really nice mention of Mellano and Company’s generous sponsorship in the event brochure!