Cats and Plants

We partner in our flower growing with a renowned, women-led farming enterprise called Patchwork farms. Patchwork is just down the street from us, West on Chicago Avenue. Through almost a decade of intrepid work, these women have originated a utopian vision of a sustainable future for all of Chicago. Providing weekly C.S.A. subscriptions on a sliding scale for people who might not normally be able to afford such a luxury as local, organic produce, they also deliver job training for at-risk youth. The farm is right on bustling Chicago Avenue, accessible and open to everyday Chicagoans. I was pulling seedlings out of the greenhouse the other day when the Chicago Avenue bus came to a screeching halt behind me. I heard the cha-chunk of CTA bus doors opening behind me and turned to lock eyes with the driver staring me down intently… “You all promised you would grow watermelons this year! Don’t forget!” he yelled with the unquestionable authority of a Chicago public transportation official.

Elise and Katie are meticulous professionals in so many ways, with impeccable reputations in the Chicago urban agricultural scene which can be a bit Wild-West-ish. Taking the cleanliness of the farm very seriously, the first line of defense in keeping any rodents away is their remarkable maine coon Moushi. Her name is pronounced and spelled a million different ways, Mush, Moosh, etc… but all cat fans fall under her spell in the same way- immediately and irrevocably. She lives on the farm all Spring, Sumer and Fall, but this winter she needed a warm place to stay and we got to foster her!

Productivity at the studio came to a grinding halt as we were pretty much full time hostages to cuteness. When clients came to visit she would lay on their Celine bags and chew the tassles, or their notes, finally settling into a warm lap for the whole consultation, but no one seemed to mind.

Like Persephone released from the underworld, she was returned to the farm last week and now all growing things can now follow. Looking towards another season of resplendent hunting and general glam- bassadorship for the farm, she is in fine fettle.

Just as we released Moushi from her house arrest, we had the honor of hosting Chicago based artist Stephen Eichhorn for a flowerside chat at the studio. He is currently celebrating the second printing of his iconic book, Cats and Plants.
Having seen his dumbfounding botanical collage in person, I was already a superfan, but meeting him and hearing him share about his process was sheer joy. It turns out he is a somewhat reluctant superstar as a result of his cat collages- they started out as more of an experiment than a reverie of cat worship as they might appear. Just as he thinks the phenomenon is dying out, it flares back up larger than before. One day he woke up to hear that Karl Lagerfeld had started hoarding his cat work, then that PUSS PUSS ( a culture, fashion, music and cat lover magazine out of France) wanted to feature his .

We got to talk about the obsessive, worshipful precision necessary in our respective practices, and even share a few top secret sources. Although Eichhorn is a highly educated and successful, trained artist on the ascent, I see his work somehow on a continuum with Chicago’s history of being an epicenter for the world’s most important outsider artists such as Vivian Maier or Henry Darger.
There is something about the obsessive technique, the mystical diegesis he conjures, universes with perfect and immutable laws of their own that harkens back to my favorite rule-smashing visionaries from Chicago. It’s like he doesn’t know “better” than to weave astounding art from “common” materials, spinning gold from straw so to speak. I think it is this absolute refusal to cooperate with the typical agreed upon rules of engagement so to speak that separates the actual artists from the aspiting ones, the seers from the followers.


Moushi as a kitten

North Shore wedding in July

As an only child, I always wanted a sister more than anything in the world, or to be a cat.  One of my favorite aspects of this business is how intensely collaborative it is, and working so closely with clients and colleagues allows for a kind of familial intimacy which I treasure. This was the second sister’s wedding we got to work on with this remarkable family who have such a deep appreciation for beauty and everything good that is is always a thrill to be in the mix. The bride has a personal style that is all about distilled, classic cool. Her fashion is so subtle and flawless that you almost miss it at first. She always just looks so impossibly, perfectly at ease. It’s that every day, essential cool that is almost impossible to pull off. I always say, anyone can throw on a ball gown, heels and lipstick and look great, or wear soft pants around the house, but looking great when you run into people at the grocery store…. almost impossible! Summer is her favorite season and the wedding was very much about capturing that illusive, sumptuous July night when you can pad barefoot through the garden to grab a handful of mint for your mojito….

Black Lives Matter Mural with Neva Sills

We treasure our ability to collaborate with both luxury brands and non-profits doing critical work in Chicago. Visionary enterprises like the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic, ( DVLC), The Chicago Honey Co-op and IGrow Chicago redefine traditional efforts towards environmental and social justice, with deeply effective and inspiring demonstrations of what is possible.

When IGrow, a restorative justice peace campus in Englewood, asked us to produce a botanical installation for their annual fundraiser, we asked the brilliant painter Neva Sills to paint a mural. Neva’s work is both classical and timely, both of this time and of some grander, illustrious past now lost to us, perfect for the utopian tableau we envisioned for these heroic activists to be photographed in. Extending the mural out into three dimensional- sculptural hedges of moss we embowered the scene with fragrant chamomile, lemon basil and dhalias fresh from our own urban farm. IGrow’s vision: “A world where love lives in public. Cornel West said justice is what love looks like in public. We want to bring justice, hope, and love to all in our city and beyond.”


Neva Sills’ Black Lives Matter mural for IGrow Chicago

Farrow and Ball colour launch with Studio This Is.

We were honored to decorate a private dinner celebrating the launch of Farrow and Ball’s new colours this past Fall. The dinner was held in Marchesa restaurant’s private room, a space that feels like a secret escape into a Merchant Ivory film. I’ve been helplessly in love with Farrow and Ball’s unmatchable hues for years now, and had so much fun matching our farm flowers to their new colors. This lisianthus matched Rangwali, while that anemone aligned with Sulking Room pink and so on. Enter the remarkable Nancy Beale of Studio This Is, who made these images below. With an arresting mix of calm humility and ferocious talent she is a joy to be around and her work never ceases to take my breath away.

Rangwali inspired brown flowers by Cornelia
Cornelia McNamara flowers photo by studio this is

The beauty of blue and white

There is some indescribable perfection about the colors of blue and white together- some kind of boundlessly serene, clearing and calming vibration there. Living near such a large body of water as Lake Michigan, I always eagerly look to see what shades of these two are at play when I get on the outer drive, and always get a thrill when the water is paler than the sky.

Of course, green is a huge trend these days for weddings, with lots of brides wanting only greens or just greens with a touch of white. I always believe that my brides are ahead of the trend with their choices of wedding flowers and decor and that the direction their tastes move in always dictates design trends in fashion in home decor as well. It is their passionate focus on planning their weddings that makes them so attuned to whats next, and it’s fun to see the culture at large catch on to a color, fabric or pattern a few years after we’ve been working with it already! Chicago wedding flower trends are so similar to New York weddings in this way.

However, there really can’t be anything more classic than blue and white. Carolyn Rohem has an entire book on it! Although I have many of her books already, I don’t have this one yet. I’ll order it now and report back soon! In the meantime, we’ve been planting lots of white flowers on our Chicago flower farm, with dashes of blue in the mix.  Aren’t these white ranunculus to die for!?

Vosges for Valentines!

For Valentine’s day, we are ecstatic and honored to be partnering with one of the finest chocolatiers in the world, Chicago based Vosges Haut-Chocolat. Founder and Chocolatier Katrina Markoff has been on the vanguard of the food movement since 1998, and in many respects, the culture is only now catching up with her. Her chocolate is so indescribably delicious that I regard it as a wellness product, but you have to taste it understand what I mean, so please come to visit us at our studio pop-up Valentine’s day flower shop on Chicago Ave, to taste free samples.  You can pre-order flowers here, or pick them up in the studio on those days!  We will also be setting up a micro flower shop at the Vosges Haut-Chocolat Armitage boutique, so be sure to stop in and see us at either location on February 13th or 14th, 10-7!

Cupid Inspiring Plants with Love”, a plate from Robert Thornton’s Temple of Flora (1807), Wellcome Library

Chicago Flower Farm

We’ve moved our flower farm to downtown Chicago! We lucked into this one-acre plot in late April, and have been scrambling to catch up all season. On our Chicago flower farm, we are growing dahlias, echinacea, hollyhocks, caucasian scabiosa, bee-balm, foxgloves and an extraordinary assortment of weeds, including the most potent catnip on the planet!
The idea is to maximize resources, to minimize the negative impact of shipping flowers from other continents and relish the rare beauty of flowers fresh from the field- so we made friends with the weeds and utilized them in our wreath making workshop at the French costume jewelry atelier Les Néréides with great results!

Floral Workshop at Les Nereides jewelry

The French costume jewelry company Les Nereides has been boggling my mind for years now, inspired by both the floral and animal world,  they create strikingly original treasures, that seems to me to be deeply French,  irreverent, chic, inscrutable. The family that has been creating this wild finery for 36 years now, refers to it as *emotional jewelry*.  From the crazy-making levels of cute- a secret ring with a cat sleeping in a gold basket that opens to reveal a pair of tiny kittens inside- to the eccentric and opulent necklaces of their wild-life collection for 2017.- I’d pretty much like to rock all of it daily.  So when they asked us to host a flower arranging workshop at their atelier on State Street we said, “Yes, Please!”

Next Thursday, June 22nd, at the Les Nereides shop on State from 5-7 pm, come to celebrate the first day of summer with a free floral workshop where you can create fresh floral wreaths, sip champagne and see some sparkle!

Cake Walk & Studio Opening

For our new studio opening party, we teamed up with the charming Betsy Yagunic of Betsy Lou Bakes! Sharing the beauty and deliciousness of her artistry with our friends, colleagues, and clients was such a joyful way to herald the opening of our new space.  We had a classic Cake Walk with everyone walking around in a circle until the DJ stopped the music and whoever landed on the X won a cake… 6 lucky winners won cakes! ( actually just 5, I kept the fern cake for myself!) 

Sweets to the sweet! Here is our dear friend and collaborator Michael Thompson, purveyor of the what must be some of the world’s finest honey, from  The Chicago Honey Coop–  winning the first cake. He is trying to decide which to take while Betsy stands by, trying to remember which flavor is which… Michael later confided that he thought the DJ liked him and let him win on purpose!
 
Miniature matcha and chocolate cupcakes were enjoyed by all, especially me,  seen here with my face stuffed full of them!

Wedding in Marfa Texas

We did a wedding in the high desert, a town of Marfa, Texas last year.  200 miles from anywhere, this tiny,  West Texas town was settled in the 1800s. James Dean starred in the film Giant there and since Donald Judd began working there in the 1970’s it has become a contemporary art mecca. Here is a picture of the courthouse, built in 1886. Our lovely couple was married in its Cupola and below is the view of the main street from that bird’s eye view.

The reception was at The Capri restaurant and event space. For the tables, we did clusters of desert native foliage with hyperbolic peonies and ranunculus. Our insanely chic bride, Lindell Thorsen, pictured here in the Capri gardens, carried a bouquet of tumbleweeds and ranunculus and put us up in her fetching storefront on the main street where she sells Navajo rugs and other fantastic antiques. Her son, Laszlo Thorsen -Nagel shares the other half of the space and produces his stunning Sumi-ink paintings there. Stumbling out in the morning and shuffling to the Hotel Saint George for good strong coffee each morning was a sheer luxury.