Debra Prinzing

Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

Brooklyn Grows Flowers! Meet Molly Oliver Culver of Molly Oliver Flowers (Episode 172)

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014
Meet Molly Culver, and a bouquet of beautiful larkspur she grew in Brooklyn.

Meet Molly Culver, and some of the beautiful  flowers she grew in Brooklyn.

One of the largest consumer marketplaces in the U.S., where floral design is a huge business, is sadly a little disconnected from where flowers grow. There is a cadre of flower farmers and floral designers who are working creatively to change that situation. And today’s podcast guest, Molly Culver, is at the forefront of this momentum.

The designer at work.

The designer at work.

Molly Culver is the owner of Molly Oliver Flowers, which she runs with partner Deborah Greig. In their day jobs, both women are deeply involved in urban agriculture. When the weekends roll around, you can probably find them designing bouquets, boutonnieres, centerpieces and more – for couples who love their fresh-from-the garden style. Together they create beautiful botanicals for New York area weddings with a huge emphasis on local.

A late June bridesmaid bouquet, designed by Molly and Deborah

A late June bridesmaid bouquet, designed by Molly and Deborah (c) Levi Stolove photograph

I’m so sorry Deborah couldn’t join us for this interview, recorded in late October when I was in New York for just a few days. Molly graciously helped me coordinate a Slow Flowers gathering – an after-hours affair that drew floral designers, flower farmers and one intrepid lifestyle blogger to 61 Local in Brooklyn.

Here's a fun photo from our NYC-Brooklyn Slowflowers.com gathering. From left: Gloria Battista Collins of GBC Style, me, Jessica Stewart and Justine Lacy of Foxglove Floral Design Studio, and Molly Culver of Molly Oliver Flowers.

Here’s a fun photo from our NYC-Brooklyn Slowflowers.com gathering. From left: Gloria Battista Collins of GBC Style, me, Jessica Stewart and Justine Lacy of Foxglove Floral Design Studio, and Molly Culver of Molly Oliver Flowers.

Over delicious food and beverages, we talked about our individual projects and collective vision for using and promoting American grown flowers. Molly brought the most lovely late-autumn floral arrangements to decorate the tables, wowing everyone with what she harvested from the growing fields that late in the season – the 3rd week of October.

Before I share our interview, let me share a little more about Molly Culver:

a Molly Oliver Flowers centerpiece for an October wedding.

a Molly Oliver Flowers centerpiece for an October wedding. (c) Kelly Kollar photograph

Molly has been working as a local food and flower activist in New York City since 2005. Early in her career, she kicked off a brand new CSA chapter and farmers market in the poorest congressional district in the US, and hasn’t stopped working to make growing food and eating local accessible to all. Molly has managed both rural and urban farms since 2009, and currently manages the 1-acre Youth Farm in Crown Heights, Brooklyn where she oversees flower production and sales and runs educational programming and farm training for adults. She is Farm School NYC’s Farm Manager and Director of the Urban Farm Training Program.

September bouquet by Molly Oliver Flowers (c) Amber Gress photograph

September bouquet by Molly Oliver Flowers (c) Amber Gress photograph

Molly has taught the 5-week course “Growing Soils” for Farm School NYC since 2011, and has made a soil worshipper out of many an urbanite. Molly holds a degree in Ecological Horticulture from the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, UC-Santa Cruz and sits on the Board of Farm School NYC.

A flower crown by Molly Oliver Flowers.

A flower crown by Molly Oliver Flowers (c) Forged in the North

As I mentioned, Molly and Deborah Greig are partners in Molly Oliver Flowers, a sustainable floral design company launched in 2012. They are bringing new meaning to the term ‘green weddings.’

An April wedding bouquet by Molly Oliver Flowers (c) Clean Plate Pictures

An April wedding bouquet by Molly Oliver Flowers (c) Clean Plate Pictures

I hope that you’ll hear from Deborah in a future interview. She’s also the agriculture director for East New York Farms, a Brooklyn nonprofit that since 1998 has been working with youth, gardeners, farmers, and entrepreneurs to build a more just and sustainable community.

Yes, growing food is essential, especially when it feeds people who don’t otherwise have  access to fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs.

But then there’s flowers, which as Molly explains account for a significant portion of her work at Farm School NYC.

“Flowers are food for the soul; they feed me,” she says.

I couldn’t agree more!

Late August bouquet - photo credit (c) Elizabeth Andrews

Late August bouquet – photo credit (c) Elizabeth Andrews

My personal goal is to put more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. I promise that when you tune in next week, you’ll hear another insightful and educational episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Listeners like you have downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 27,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net.

Flirty Fleurs: Meet the Farmer-Florist

Friday, December 12th, 2014
Feast your eyes on "Flirty Fleurs," a new magazine celebrating the love of flowers.

Feast your eyes on “Flirty Fleurs,” a new magazine celebrating the love of flowers.

Alicia Schwede

Alicia Schwede

My friend Alicia Schwede of the Flirty Fleurs blog recently set for herself a huge new creative challenge: To design and produce her own floral magazine. The result is simply beautiful and last night, I finally got my hands on the brand new issue of Flirty Fleurs: For the Love of Flowers, Edition One.

Alicia asked me to pen a story for her inaugural issue and she gave me the assignment of interviewing two of her favorite design studios: Botanique, owned by Kelly Sullivan of Seattle and Verbena: Flowers & Trimmings, owned by Karin Plarisan and Karly Sahr of Roseville, California.

Of course, since all three are involved in the Slow Flowers Movement and members of Slowflowers.com, it was an easy “yes” on my part.

I’m sharing a little preview of my involvement in the Flirty Fleurs magazine here. Click to order a digital or printed copy so you can read every word.

For $19.95, the printed copy is worth every penny. You’ll love the luscious look, the pearly-matte paper stock, the elegant graphic design and pages bursting with flowers. Alicia and her team pulled off something that many people dream of doing, but few can ever take from idea to reality.

The story I wrote: “Meet the Farmer-Florist,” begins this way:

Kelly Sullivan of Botanique, photographed in her Seattle cutting garden.

Kelly Sullivan of Botanique, photographed in her Seattle cutting garden.

Karen and Karly of Verbena, photographed at their Roseville, California flower farm.

Karin and Karly of Verbena, photographed at their Roseville, California flower farm.

Meet the farmer-florist

Marrying science and art, a new crop of floral designers are growing their own botanical ingredients

By Debra Prinzing

I first wrote about a “farmer-florist” in 2012, with the publication of The 50 Mile Bouquet (St. Lynn’s Press). In a chapter titled “The Accidental Flower Farmer,” which profiled San Francisco floral designer Baylor Chapman, owner of Lila B. Design, I documented Baylor’s decision to start growing many of her own flowers, vines, ornamental shrubs, succulents and herbs, in order to diversify the palette with which she designed.

Even two years ago, I didn’t know that the “farmer-florist” category was going to be the phenomenon it has since become. In that chapter, I wrote: “Increasingly, there are designers who, by necessity, harvest floral ingredients from their own gardens. As well, there are growers who assume the role of floral designer, satisfying a bridal customer’s request for unique, straight-from-the-farm bouquets. That these two world are happily intersecting is due to curiosity, innovation and experimentation on the part of designer and grower alike.”

Today, more than two years later, all you have to do is search the hashtag #farmerflorist and dozens of self-references appear on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. Designers and flower farmers alike are describing themselves as farmer florists, including two of the most recognizable names in the industry, Erin Benzakein of floret and Jennie Love of Love ‘N Fresh Flowers. No longer considered something outside the accepted scope of what a flower farmer is supposed to do (grow flowers) or what a floral designer is supposed to do (create beautiful bouquets using flowers that someone else cultivated and harvested), there is a lovely blurring of the lines between those formerly  conventional roles.

But to give credit where it is due, an entire generation of specialty cut flower farmers has been designing bridal bouquets and farmers’ market bunches for a long time. Lynn Byczynski first wrote about the business opportunities for flower farmers to design and sell their bouquets back in 1997 when her book The Flower Farmer was first published (the second, updated edition came out in 2008). But long before then, British designer-to-the-royals Constance Spry (the first celebrity florist) cut blooms, branches and foliage from her family’s land to sell in her London flower shop as early as the 1930s.

Thanks to a newfound passion for local and seasonal floral ingredients, more floral designers are putting on their gardening gloves and cultivating small and large patches of earth for cutting gardens, rose borders, raised beds and hedgerows – anywhere a few extra flowers can be planted and cared for. So we asked three Farmer-Florists to share their motivations for doing just that.

Here’s hoping that Alicia will continue her project to plan her 2nd edition of Flirty Fleurs. And here’s to farmer-florists everywhere, for bringing beauty to our lives!

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ASCFG #4: Wild World of Weddings (Episode 171)

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014
JeansBouquet_6969

Wedding bouquets: the ultimate design challenge

Today’s episode was recorded on October 20th at the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers conference held in Wilmington, Delaware – and it is our fourth featured segment from that event.

“Wild World of Weddings” is a panel showcasing four voices that may be quite familiar to listeners of this podcast.

You’ll hear Jennie Love, of Love ‘n Fresh Flowers, based in Philadelphia; Sarah Ryhanen of Brooklyn-based Saipua; Ellen Frost of Local Color Flowers in Baltimore and Sullivan Owen, owner of Sullivan Owen Floral & Event Design, also based in Philadelphia.

This free-ranging panel was left unstructured so that audience members could ask ANYTHING they wanted to know about growing, designing and selling local flowers to the bridal and wedding marketplace.

The panel wasn’t moderated per se, but you will first hear Jennie Love, who co-chaired the entire conference with Becky Devlin.

Remember, like all of our episodes from ASCFG, this one exceeds one hour in length. So I’ll keep my intro short and get right to the juicy material.

There’s amazing intel to learn from these four women — and you’ll hear a range of topics — from marketing your design business to navigating consultations to pricing and contracts.

Flower farmers and floral designers – and farmer-florists – will learn volumes from this panel.

Let’s get started with Jennie Love. After Jennie’s first remarks, I’ll interject to introduce each new voice who joins the conversation. You’ll begin to get used to the unique voices and points of view of each panel member as the segment continues.

Thanks for joining me and if you’re interested in learning more about any of these four talented designers, check out debraprinzing.com to find links to their social sites.

For the rest of December, my Slow Flowers Podcast episodes are very special and I’m thrilled to share two new voices with you.

On Dec. 17th, you’ll meet Molly Oliver Culver of Molly Oliver Flowers, a farmer-florist who’s growing her botanical ingredients right in the heart of Brooklyn!

And then on Dec. 24th, I’m very pleased to welcome Emily Thompson, owner of Emily Thompson Flowers, another New York star, a floral designer whose wild, rustic style is at the same time thoroughly elegant and timeless.

I recorded both interviews in person while spending a few days in NYC after attending the Cut Flower Growers Association conference and I’ve been eagerly waiting to broadcast them.

To wrap up the year, on December 31st, we’ll be looking to the future. I’ll host an episode that includes my 2015 forecast for the floral industry. Yes, I have a crystal ball and I’m going to gaze into it and share my insights with you.

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If you’re hoping for something special to show up in your stocking or under the tree this year, be sure to send the gifters in your life to Peonyparty.com to buy you a space at the design table next July when Slow Flowers and the Field to Vase blog produce Peony Party.

You’ll join Christina Stembel and me over four fabulous peony-filled days focusing on the cultivation and design of Alaska Peonies.

Find all the details at Peonyparty.com. There are only 20 spaces so grab your spot soon!

My personal goal is to put more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. I promise that when you tune in next week, you’ll hear another insightful and educational episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast.

Listeners like you have downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 27,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net.

 

 

 

A Quiet Sunday Morning

Sunday, December 7th, 2014

A Seattle Sunday Morning: 43 degrees F. Foggy and damp. It’s supposed to get up to 53 degrees F this afternoon, so who am I to complain about a little morning fog?

I woke up grateful for many things, including the sense that my life has slowed down for this 30-day holiday period. I’ve purposely limited my social commitments so as to save my energy for the creative projects that are tugging at me. This afternoon, I might get the sewing machine out and see what I can fashion from my collection of pretty scraps and remnants.

One lovely suprise happened last night, just as I was about to turn off the back episode of “Madame Secretary” I was watching and crawl under the flannel sheets.

Fran Sorin, yes that Fran Sorin – of Digging Deep and Gardening Gone Wild fame, sent me a note to say she devoted her latest CBS Radio gardening segment to “Slow Flowers.”

I’m hoping to get the audio posted, but right now, let me just say THANK YOU so much to Fran! What a generous gift of support from one serious flower lover to another. She gave me the transcript, which I’ll share here:

CBSradio CBS RADIO SPOT

December 5, 2014-4- Slow Flowers

If you’re thinking about sending flowers to someone for the holidays, I’ve got a suggestion for you.

This is Fran Sorin for DIGGING DEEP.
A gardening colleague, Debra Prinzing, has singlehandedly created and committed her life to developing a nationwide online directory of florists, shops, and studios who design with American-grown flowers. It’s call Slow Flowers.
In the U.S., we spend close to $28 billion a year on floriculture. Around 80% of the cut flowers bought in the U.S. are imported.
The Slow Flower Movement is following the sustainable values of the Slow Food Movement—which is to buy local, lower the carbon footprint, enrich the local economy, and preserve local farmland.
To learn more and buy magnificent flowers from local American growers, click on slowflowers.com

This is Fran Sorin for CBS Radio News.

GLOBAL CHORUS

A lot like Fran’s unepected gift of a 1-minute endorsement heard on radios around the country, this next item also gets filed under the “out of the blue-gift from the universe” category.

In April 2013, I received an email from a stranger. Someone named Todd E. MacLean who just reached out with an invitation to get involved with a new book of essays entitled “Global Chorus.” Here’s what he wrote:

Global Chorus, edited by Todd E. MacLean

Global Chorus, edited by Todd E. MacLean

My name is Todd E. MacLean and I’m the Editor-in-Chief for an international fundraiser anthology that is currently being compiled called Global Chorus: A 365-Person Anthology of Worldwide Concern and Enduring Hope.

With collected words from Jane Goodall, Nelson Mandela, David Suzuki, Stephen Hawking, Bill McKibben, R.K. Pachauri – Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Ashish Ramgobin – great granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, Frances Moore Lappé, Paul Hawken, Trudie Styler, Gloria Flora, Wes Jackson, Wendell Berry, Kenny Ausubel, Joel Salatin, Alexandra Cousteau, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The Dalai Lama, and many, many more, Global Chorus is growing into a powerful anthology for a world in crisis; and through this letter, I am now extending to you an invitation to write a brief response for inclusion in the Global Chorus anthology.

Global Chorus is a 365-day compendium, bringing together 365 contemporary voices and sharing in the experience and wisdom of many of humanity’s most concerned citizens. Contributors are asked to express their thoughts on the future of the planet, and the anthology will present a different contributor’s response for each day of the year. Proceeds from the sales of Global Chorus will go toward World Wildlife Fund, The Jane Goodall Institute, The David Suzuki Foundation and The International Committee of the Red Cross.

Contributors to Global Chorus have one page (suggested length of up to 250 words, to a maximum of 350 words) to answer the anthology’s question:

“Do you think that humanity can find a way past the current global environmental and social crises? Will we be able to create the conditions necessary for our own survival, as well as that of other species on the planet? What would these conditions look like? In summary, then, and in the plainest of terms, do we have hope, and can we do it?”

Something resonated with me about this project and I decided to say “YES.”

I used Todd’s invitation to bring flower farming and flowers into the dialogue about global environmental issues and the individual choices we make to respect the planet.

Todd helped me with a few edits and here is what ended up in the book, one of 365 essays (you can find mine on the page for October 19th). Learn more about Global Chorus and find a bookstore near you to purchase a copy. I’ll be giving these books as gifts this holiday season.

Debra Prinzing

It feels daunting to think one person can change

things in this world. That is when I turn from the

macro to the micro and focus on individual action.

A single gesture takes on meaning far greater than

me, my family, my block, my neighbourhood, my

city. When that gesture is frequently repeated, its

impact is exponential.

I have always turned to flowers, those growing

in my garden and in the fields of my flower farmer

friends.

The symbolic gesture of giving flowers has

been practised for generations. Flowers appear in

history, in literature, in every culture and in every

land. Gathering flowers as a show of affection or a

celebratory display is no small thing. It is a timeless,

universal practice.

Flowers connect humans with Nature and

heighten our awareness of the seasons. They root

us to our place on the planet. Our senses see, smell,

touch (and even hear and taste) botanical beauty.

This is a truth understood by all humans.

I do believe that flowers parallel food. We don’t

often eat petals and buds, but they feed us nonetheless.

The spiritual sustenance of flowers has caused

me to think more intentionally about how I consume

them. I have been inspired to start the Slow

Flowers movement, a conscious practice of sourcing

flowers grown close to me rather than ones shipped

to me from afar. When I choose local flowers, I am

preserving farmland, ensuring economic development

in rural areas and keeping farm jobs viable.

As an advocate for those who grow flowers

enjoyed by so many, I believe it’s important to remember

the human toil required to plant, cultivate

and harvest those blooms. I find hope in honouring

the flower farmer, hearing his or her story and

acknowledging the farmer’s role in bringing beauty

into our lives. By making a simple connection between

flower and farmer we humanize an entire

industry, one that has previously been so disconnected

from us. It is perhaps more indirectly rather

than directly world changing, and yet, it is the act

I know makes a difference far beyond the vase on

my dining table.

— Debra Prinzing, author, speaker, designer,

founder of Slowflowers.com

Gorgeous field-grown tulips, from Gonzalo Ojeda of Washington's Ojeda Farms.

Gorgeous field-grown tulips, from Gonzalo Ojeda of Washington’s Ojeda Farms.

 

Lavender News from the Northwest Regional Lavender Conference (Episode 170)

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Lavender-web-small-150x150 Today’s episode was recorded in late October at the Northwest Regional Lavender Conference outside Portland, Oregon.

Susan and Jack Harrington of Labyrinth Hill Lavender, the conference producers, invited me as the luncheon speaker to talk about – what else – the American grown cut flower industry!

My talk was titled “From ‘Buy Local’ to ‘American Grown’ – How you can Join the Slow Flowers Movement.” I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with more than 200 lavender growers from around the country; in fact, the sold-out conference attracted participants from at least 22 states and several Canadian provinces, according to Susan’s tally.

One might ask: What does Lavender have to do with the Cut Flower Industry?

A gorgeous scene from Sarah Richards's Lavender Wind Farm on Whidbey Island in Washington State.

A gorgeous scene from Sarah Richards’s Lavender Wind Farm on Whidbey Island in Washington State.

Well, that’s what I was there to explore, along with my two guests today. By the end of today’s episode — All about Lavender – I believe you’ll conclude, as I have, that there is huge potential for integrating American Grown Lavender into the American Grown Cut Flower Community.

The flower- and lavender-growing communities are closely aligned in so many ways: In both worlds, you’ll meet family-owned farms, people who desire to make a living from their land, people who use sustainable practices, people who want to preserve farmland, people who create livelihoods for others in their community and people who believe in creativity and hard work.

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Mike Neustrom of Prarie Lavender Farm in Kansas.

Mike Neustrom of Prarie Lavender Farm in Kansas.

Mike Neustrom owns Prairie Lavender in Bennington, Kansas, and is a founding board member of the U.S. Lavender Growers Association.

Mike has been growing lavender since 2002.

His 4,000+ plants reside on two acres at the cusp of the tallgrass and shortgrass prairies of North-central Kansas.

Not only will Mike  share his experience with the challenges of growing lavender under harsh conditions, he will enlighten us with tales of manufacturing and marketing 90 lavender products on his farm.

Sarah Richards of Lavender Wind Farm.

Sarah Richards of Lavender Wind Farm.

Sarah Richards owns Lavender Wind Farm in Coupeville, Washington on Whidbey Island, a little closer to me. She is a founding and current board member of the U.S. Lavender Growers Association board. At Lavender Wind Farm, Sarah grows 14,000 plants on six acres. After 12 years of growing lavender and welcoming visitors to her farm, she started planning for an expansion beyond her farm’s borders. In 2012, she opened a manufacturing and retail facility in a charming 1916 bungalow, attracting both locals and tourists.

“I knew that one of my crops was tourists,”

– Sarah Richards, Lavender Wind Farm

Lavender Wind Farm's glorious fields.

Lavender Wind Farm’s glorious fields.

I know you’ll enjoy our conversation and perhaps it will inspire you to explore lavender as a new crop – or to think about ways to use your farm as an “agro-tourism destination” or for new product development.

My personal goal is to put more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. I promise that when you tune in next week, you’ll hear another insightful and educational episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast.

Listeners like you have downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 26,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net.

Digging Deep for Flower Lovers: A cyber book party, complete with gardening giveaways

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
Let's Play With Flowers! Fran Sorin tells us about floral design without rules in "Digging Deep."

Let’s Play With Flowers! Fran Sorin tells us about floral design without rules in “Digging Deep.”

I’m one of those accidental bloggers who breaks most of the rules when it comes to what supposedly makes a garden blog successful.

For one thing, I write posts that are probably far longer than the experts advise.

Another thing: I am completely oblivious to key words, SEO, tags, metadata, etc. – all those tricks to get Google and other search engines to pay attention.

And finally, I write for my own pleasure rather than to merely sell or persuade. If I like something, I’m usually compelled to share it with the universe; and even if no one comments or clicks through, well, that’s no big deal. It makes me happy and that’s what stimulates me to create a post.

The just-released, 10th Anniversary Edition of "Digging Deep." Read on to find out how you  can enter to win!

The just-released, 10th Anniversary Edition of “Digging Deep.” Read on to find out how you can enter to win!

So today, I am thrilled that the stars have aligned to accomplish two things at once — to share something that inspires me (and, I hope, you, too!) and to celebrate the publication of Fran Sorin’s 10th Anniversary Edition Digging Deep, a personally engaging book that gets to the heart, soul and “why” that lures us into a meaningful connection with nature, plants and gardening.

Today’s post is part of a “virtual book party” involving seven veteran garden bloggers, writers far more experienced than I am in the art and science of this craft. I was touched that Fran invited me to be part of the Cyber Book Party, all the more because I am smitten with this book.

I received no compensation or products for participating, although Fran sent me a review copy of Digging Deep (which is now a little used, because I’ve turned down page corners and underlined some of my favorite passages).

In honor of Digging Deep’s Cyber Book Party, Fran has priced the e-book at .99 while the giveaway is live. Yes, you read that correctly: 99-cents!

Here’s a little more about this book:

Observe a peony - this flower is one of Fran's first childhood impressions of nature and the garden.

Observe a peony – this flower is one of Fran’s first childhood impressions of nature and the garden.

If you’re yearning to get out of the rut you’re in and cultivate more meaning and connection in life, Digging Deep offers the encouragement and tools to make it happen. Overflowing with tips, exercises, and resources, this instructive and inspirational guide is even more vital in today’s technology obsessed culture than when first published 10 years ago.

From Fran, you’ll learn how to bloom right along with your garden and use gardening as a conduit for beginning to experience creativity as a rich and dynamic lifetime journey.

The 7 Stages of Creative Awakening will take you through the steps of removing self-doubt and replacing it with strategies that will help you trust your instincts, let your imagination run wild, take risks, envision and design the garden of your dreams, reclaim your playfulness, and live the life you’re meant to— one filled with joy, well-being, and creativity.

A diminutive bouquet, gathered from my former  Southern California garden and arranged in a tiny toothpick cup.

A diminutive bouquet, gathered from my former Southern California garden and arranged in a tiny toothpick cup.

And here’s one of the book’s “exercise” assignments that charmed me (I’ll tell you why later).

p. 35-37

“This is probably the most loved exercise we do in my workshops – I call it Playing With Flowers. Take a trip to your local farmer’s market, supermarket, street vendor, or florist. If you can possibly buy locally grown, sustainable flowers, please make the effort to do so [THANKS FRAN!]. Pick out as many different flowers as your budget allows. Just let your eye go to what it likes and add them to your bunch. Ideally, you want at last three different varieties of flowers in a range of colors as well as some greenery and other fillers like berries or branches.

smclippersIMG_3807 When you get home, remove any excess leaves and trim the bottom of the stalks on the diagonal. It’s easiest and most efficient to use a pruner, which you can find moderately priced at any gardening center. Place the flowers in a sink filled with cool water with the bottom of the stems submerged.

Go through your cabinets and take out any kind of vases or containers you have that could hold flowers. Think outside the vase – you can use teakettles, jars, glasses, cachepots, or pitchers. And don’t limit yourself in terms of size – even the smallest tumbler or toothpick holder can look lovely holding the top of one blooming rose.

Now comes the fun part. Put on some music you love, turn off your phone, and just let yourself play with different variations of arrangements. Experiment with a variety of combinations and see what you like and dislike. Notice how colors, shapes, and textures of leaves and flower petals work together. If you start one arrangement and don’t like it, take it apart and start again. There are no rules here – no boundaries, no goals you need to strive toward. I know there are countless books and articles out there about how to create lovely flower arrangements, but that’s not what this is about. You don’t have to be a professional florist here. In fact, striving for any kind of perfection negates the whole point. This is about letting yourself go and playing, trusting your eye, and noticing all the interesting things you come up with.

You may find that the critical voices in your head are quick to sabotage -

“I can’t do this.”

“This is too hard for me. I’m not good at things like this.”

“This is stupid. Why am I bothering?”

This is all the product of the ego, rising up to make sure your spirit stays buried – right where the ego likes it, thank you very much. Notice how much you question and censor yourself. Let your kinder inner voice (it’s in there somewhere!) lead you through and nudge you into letting go and being in the moment. Remember, you don’t have to do this brilliantly. You don’t even need to do it well. You only need to do it for the sake of the childlike soul within.

This exercise has so many benefits. It shows you how to start trusting your instincts, allows you to develop an awareness of color, texture, shape, and form (which you’ll need later on), forces you to slow down and be in the moment, and opens you up to experimenting and exploring – all essential elements in the process of creating and gardening.

When you’re finished with your arrangements, place them in various spots in your home where you’ll see them often. Change the water and trim the bottom of the stems every day to continue your interaction with them and keep them fresh. Living with these flower combinations will give you a taste of their beauty in the micro so you can begin to cultivate your aesthetic appreciation for them in the bigger picture later on.”

Fran’s lovely exercise is one I’ve personally used many, many times. I just didn’t know to call it “Playing With Flowers”! My experience with flowers has been so similar to the one Fran suggests to her readers.

Yes, my lifelong love of lilacs dates back to a favorite childhood practice of playing at the base of an overgrown Syringa vulgaris shrub - and inhaling the fragrance.

Yes, my lifelong love of lilacs dates back to a favorite childhood practice of playing at the base of an overgrown Syringa vulgaris shrub – and inhaling the fragrance.

In the introduction to my book Slow Flowers. I wrote about my year-long, weekly ritual of clipping and gathering stems, arranging them in just-the-right vase, and photographing the finished bouquet:

. . . Slow Flowers reflects life lived in the slower lane. My family, friends and professional colleagues know that it’s almost impossible for me to do anything slowly. I’m the queen of multitasking; I just can’t help myself. There are too many exciting opportunities (or bright, shiny objects) that command my interest. But this “year in flowers” was altogether different. I can only compare it to the practice of praying or meditating. I didn’t realize that those few hours I spent each week, gathering and choosing petals and stems, arranging them in a special vessel, and then figuring out where and how to capture the finished design through my camera lens, would be so personally enriching.

    I used all my senses. Unplugged, away from electronic distractions, I studied the form, line, texture, subtle color and utter uniqueness of each stem. What a gift to slow down and experience the moment. I don’t know much about ikebana, the Japanese art of arranging flowers, but I understand that silence and contemplation of nature are part of its practice. I experienced something similar. Slow Flowers forced me to work at a decidedly different pace as I embraced creativity, fearlessly.

    I learned about my own preferences, design style and ability to look at the world of floral ingredients in an unconventional way. I learned that I really am a floral designer. Like me, you don’t have to earn a certificate from the London School of Floral Design to create seasonally-inspired bouquets. You can find local blooms in your or your friend’s garden, or from the fields, meadows and farm stands of local flower growers. Each bouquet tells a story about one moment in time, about Grandmother’s cherished flower vase or the fleeting memory that returns with a whiff of lavender or lilac. That’s one of the intangible gifts of bringing flowers into our lives.

. . . Gardeners are especially qualified in the art of floral design. After all, we have an intimate relationship with our plants, their bloom cycle, their natural form and character – and their seasonality. We also know what colors and textures we like when combined in the landscape. A vase can be a little garden, its contents gathered and arranged to please the eye.

       So give it a try. Design a bouquet. Channel your inner floral designer and begin your own year with slow flowers.

Author, designer, visionary Fran Sorin

Author, designer, visionary Fran Sorin

Playing With Flowers can cost little or nothing to try, especially if you step outdoors and gather seasonal gifts from your own backyard.

Here are some more goodies that might make your day.

Thanks to the support of others fans of  Fran Sorin’s “Digging Deep,” we have several giveaways for you to try and win.

In addition to entering here, you actually have seven chances to win by visiting all the participating bloggers:

1. Dee Nash – www.reddirtramblings.com

2. Helen Yoest- www.gardeningwithconfidence.com

3. Jenny Peterson- www.jpetersongardendesign.com

4. Rebecca Sweet- www.harmonyinthegarden.com

5. Brenda Haas- www.bggarden.com

6. Fran Sorin- www.gardeninggonewild.com

The “Digging Deep” giveaway ends on Monday, December 8th at midnight Eastern Time. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, December 9th. Here are the rules:

1. Post a comment here on my blog, sharing an enduring, personal flower memory. For me, that “dig deep” flower memory is the color, soft texture and intense perfume of the common lilac, Syringa vulgaris, which reminds me so vividly of a Connecticut garden of my childhood. Share yours in the comment section below and you will be entered into the drawing, which takes places next week.

2. By making a comment here on debraprinzing.com, you will be entered into each of two drawings:

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Prize #1Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds — 19 handpicked varieties of veggies and flowers- valued at over $50. PLUS, a 3-pack selection of Authentic Haven Brand Tea, a premium soil conditioner  that’s safe for all garden, indoor plants and soil types. Makes an excellent foliage spray.

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Prize #2 – Nature Innovations- www.natureinnovations.com — a new product line for indoor and outdoor gardening that provides plants with the most realistic look of nature with out chopping down a tree.

Molded from live trees Nature Innovations planters are made from a high density polyurethane, lightweight, UV resistant, and incredibly durable.  All Nature Innovations planters are individually had painted and are 100% made in the USA. The prize includes four planters/containers  (retail $149).

Thanks for your participation! And no matter what level of a gardener or a floral designer you I challenge you to try “Playing With Flowers” as you Dig Deep into your relationship with the earth.

Slow Flowers: American Grown Wreaths for the Holidays

Saturday, November 29th, 2014
A California-Grown Holiday Wreath.

A California-Grown Holiday Wreath.

Detail of an edible/herbal-themed holiday wreath.

Detail of an edible/herbal-themed holiday wreath.

Thanks to some wonderful attention for Slowflowers.com in the media, I’ve been designing and writing and talking about American Grown Wreaths for the Holidays quite a bit lately.

Tonight, one of my friends asked: Isn’t that wreath-making how-to on a video?

And I said, “Not this time, but I’ll post the steps on my blog.” She’s getting ready for tomorrow’s Advent wreath-making party so I thought I’d get the instructions up quickly.

Here, you’ll find two of the DIY wreath how-to’s. I created the first for Chris Ross, Home & Garden editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune daily. “From Harvest to Holiday” appears in today’s newspaper and features ingredients grown near San Diego by Resendiz Brothers Protea FarmsThanks to Diana Roy and Mel Resendiz for sending me the flowers and foliage to play with!!!

Getting Started

Do-it-yourself wreath-making is as easy as placing flowers in a vase. Start with a walk through your neighborhood to gather “gifts” from nature, especially downed branches, autumn leaves, conifers and dried flowers (note: always wild-gather or forage with permission and never on public land).

Get your supplies in order: Wreath forms, bindwire or twine, clippers, snips, floral wire and ribbon.

Get your supplies in order: Wreath forms, bindwire or twine, clippers, snips, floral wire and ribbon.

1. Get your supplies in order. I bought the wreath forms at Michael’s, but you can also find metal and grapevine wreath bases at most floral and craft supply outlets. Choose your wreath base. For this design, I worked with a 15-inch round frame.

The floral elements and accents.

The floral elements and accents, including from left: Pink Protea, Brunia albiflora, Leucadendron and Creamy White Protea

The foliage elements

The foliage elements, including from left: Banksia, Eucalyptus, Acadia, Grevillea, and more.

2. Gather flowers and foliage: As you gather branches, foliage and other elements, clean away debris and trim away broken parts. Lay out pieces on sheets of newspaper and allow them to partially dry (this helps reduce mildew). Plan for twice as much as you think you’ll need. You want your wreath to look rounded and dense rather than thin and flat so make sure you have plenty of material.

READ MORE…

ASCFG #3: Pamela Arnosky on Selling Your Flowers to Groceries (Episode 169)

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014
Veteran flower farmer and industry leader Pamela Arnosky, of Texas Specialty Cut Flowers.

Veteran flower farmer and industry leader Pamela Arnosky, of Texas Specialty Cut Flowers.

Today’s episode was recorded on October 20th at the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers and features veteran flower farmer Pamela Arnosky of Texas Specialty Cut Flowers in Blanco, Texas, west of Austin.

Pamela’s presentation — about selling to supermarkets — was paired with Lisa Mason Ziegler’s session on selling to florists, which you heard several weeks ago. Head’s up – like all the ASCFG sessions and panels, this is a one-hour presentation, so don’t feel badly if you have to take it in over several days.

Before we get started, here’s some great news I have been waiting weeks to share.

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Flower child and co-producer of the Peony Party, Christina Stembel of Farmgirl Flowers. Photo (c) Victor Obeck

Flower child and co-producer of the Peony Party, Christina Stembel of Farmgirl Flowers. Photo (c) Victor Obeck

Earlier this year, my friend Christina Stembel of SF-based Farmgirl Flowers, joined me on a fabulous 4-day trip to Homer, Alaska, where I spoke and taught for the Homer Gardeners’ Weekend. You can listen to our podcast episode recorded in Homer, here.

It was my second visit to Homer during Alaska’s glorious peony season and I was thrilled to both watch Christina’s discovery of these gorgeous, incomparable American-grown flowers and to introduce her to my peony farmer friends in that community.

Like they say, “all good things happen for a reason!” Not only was Christina instantly floored by the beauty of the Kenai Peninsula, she went crazy about fields and fields of Alaskan peonies available in July (the Peony season is CA is only the month of May.)

What could be more amazing that to stand in a field of peonies with the amazing Alaska glaciers in the distance?

What could be more amazing that to stand in a field of peonies with the amazing Alaska glaciers in the distance?

To this, I just smiled, knowing only more good things would come from her discovery in Alaska.

Pretty soon, literally within minutes of visiting the farm, our creative juices started flowing. We asked ourselves: “What if we bring other peony lovers here, all the way to Alaska — to discover and participate in the magic of what we just experienced?” 

Since the sun doesn’t really set until close to midnight, we brewed and brainstormed some unforgettable late-night conversations. Together with our delightful host, Beth Van Sandt, co-owner of Scenic Place Peonies, we started envisioning a “Peony Party,” a private, custom event, limited to an intimate group of flower lovers, florists, farmers and friends to come experience the magic of Alaska grown peonies.

The Peony Party was finally made real when the members and farmers of the Alaska Peony Marketing Group extended their enthusiasm and support in August of 2014.

Today, we’re launching the new web site and invite you to check it out at PeonyParty.com.

Our fabulous event is scheduled for July 10 to 13th, 2015 and there are only 20 spaces open to students.

Unlike most of the floral design and farmer-florist intensives you’ve seen in the past year or so, we’ve packed ours with serious value-added bonuses.

Most workshops like this do not include lodging or meals. Guess what? Ours includes 3 nights’ of lodging all but one or two meals. The early-bird price is $2995, a $500 discount if you sign up before end of January.

Black And here’s my wonderful little secret. If you sign up for an Alaska Airlines Visa Card ASAP, you will receive 25,000 bonus miles in your first year – that’s exactly what you need to fly round-trip from many US cities on the west coast or to cover at least a one-way ticket from many US cities on the east coast.

 

The unforgettable Blue Barn of Texas Specialty Cut Flowers.

The unforgettable Blue Barn of Texas Specialty Cut Flowers.

And now, on to Pamela Arnosky. With her husband Frank, Pamela farms 20 acres of cut flowers in Central Texas. The Arnoskys grow more than 70 varieties of flowers – year ’round – and sell through many grocery store accounts, as well as to florists and at their own on-farm market.

They are popular speakers at regional and national ASCFG events, thanks in large part to their expertise and humorous presentation style. They say they’ve weathered just about anything from hurricanes and tornadoes to Mothers of Brides. Previous guests of this podcast, you can hear their last interview in Episode 130.

Ready for delivery - Texas  Specialty Cut Flowers.

Ready for delivery – Texas Specialty Cut Flowers.

This is a priceless and highly practical presentation – and if you’ve ever contemplated getting into the grocery store bouquet business, there is one person you need to learn from – and that’s Pamela Arnosky. Sit at her feet and listen, learn and be inspired.

My personal goal is to put more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. I promise that when you tune in next week, you’ll hear another insightful and educational episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Listeners like you have downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 25,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net.

Lola Creative, A Floral Design Studio’s Innovative Business Model (Episode 168)

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014
Emily Ellen Anderson of Seattle's Lola Creative.

Emily Ellen Anderson of Seattle’s Lola Creative.

Today’s awesome podcast guest is Emily Ellen Anderson, a landscape architect and sculptor-turned floral and event designer.

Emily brings a fresh, remarkable, and out-of-the ordinary point of view to the work of her Seattle area-based studio, Lola Creative.

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Sculptural (and eco-friendly) taxidermy by Lola Creative.

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A Lola Creative Event Venue.

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Emily Ellen Anderson LOVES Sticks!

Wowzer - a beautiful, edible centerpiece by Lola Creative.

Wowzer – a beautiful, edible centerpiece by Lola Creative.

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A Kokedama Hanging Moss Chandelier by Lola Creative

Lola Creative
I’ve been on the road for the past two weeks. Speaking about and promoting the Slow Flowers Movement has taken me to Rhode Island, Colorado and New Mexico. In addition to racking up a lot of valuable airline points, I’m so thrilled that in each destination, I’ve connected with America’s flower farmers and the floral designers who value their unique, homegrown blooms, botanicals and foliage.

The Slow Flowers design workshop at Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum in Bristol, Rhode Island - a fantastic burst of creativity.

The Slow Flowers design workshop at Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum in Bristol, Rhode Island – a fantastic burst of creativity.

A huge bouquet of gratitude goes to Julie Christina, Kris Greene and Gail Read of Blithewold Mansion in Bristol, Rhode Island, for inviting me to speak at their fundraising luncheon – and to teach a hands-on floral workshop on the grounds of this illustrious American architectural treasure.

READ MORE…

ASCFG #2 Design Basics and Beyond with Jennie Love and Sullivan Owen (Episode 167)

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014
Gorgeous, local, seasonal and simply sublime: Sullivan Owen's lovely urn arrangement.

Gorgeous, local, seasonal and simply sublime: Sullivan Owen’s lovely urn arrangement.

I’ve lots to share with you, so before introducing today’s episode, let me jump right into the Flower News of the Week:

COVER.The_Wreath_Recipe_Book._HIGH_RES First off, the winner of our drawing for a free copy of Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo’s beautiful new project, The Wreath Recipe Book, is Jen Beck, a professor, nonprofit consultant, and artist based in Austin, Texas.

Thanks to the people at Artisan Books for sending this info-packed prize her way- and thanks to everyone who took the time to comment about their favorite seasonal and local wreath ingredients.

Next, I am so pleased to announce that flower farmer Sid Anna Sherwood of Annie’s Flower Farm in Sequim, Washington, reached her funding goal for an interest-free loan via an innovative nonprofit program called Kiva. When I posted a bonus interview with her on October 29th, Sid Anna she still needed to raise close to three-quarters of her goal.

Thanks to listeners of the Slow Flowers Podcast and to the amazing way that news spreads on Facebook, that huge amount of money – more than $7,000 of crowd-lending, was raised in 9 days! Every penny will be paid back over the course of three years and Sid Anna’s customers will continue to benefit from her lovely local flowers, grown on a new piece of leased farmland on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.

I also want to give my personal congrats to two previous guests of the Slow Flowers Podcast. First, to Erin Benzakein, owner of floret flowers, for being one of the winners of Martha Stewart’s American Made Awards, given to her in person by Martha this week in NYC. Bringing local and domestic flowers to the consciousness of Martha’s followers is super important. I hope this award inspires everyone to think about the origins of their flowers and the people who grow and design with them.

Next, a huge shout-out to Farmgirl Flowers and creator Christina Stembel for reaching their 4th anniversary this week. Stay strong and flourish, my friend!

S-L-O-W   F-L-O-W-E-R-S in pink and white dahlias

S-L-O-W F-L-O-W-E-R-S in pink and white dahlias

Earlier this week, I received a wonderful email from Slowflowers.com members Kay Studer and Susan Studer King of Buckeye Blooms in Elida, Ohio. We recently met in person at the ASCFG Conference and they thoughtfully followed up to tell me about a recent effort to reach out to potential bridal customers. After their consultation, Susan and Kay sent her a note like this one:

We hope you have had a great fall so far and that plans for your wedding are proceeding smoothly!

We just wanted to follow up with you to confirm if you would like to contract our flowers and design services for your wedding. We are planning our spring flower crop now and are actually able to custom-grow flowers exclusively for you! As both a flower farm and a floral design studio, Buckeye Blooms is able to provide the very freshest, sustainably-grown flowers possible for your special day. We offer numerous varieties of flowers not available to traditional florists, which means your bouquet will be unlike any other!

Whether you decide to go with Buckeye Blooms or not, we do hope you will consider requesting seasonal, locally-grown or at least domestically-grown flowers for your bouquets. Incredibly, over 80% of flowers used by traditional florists are imported–primarily from Ecuador and Colombia where environmental and human health regulations are lax (I–Susan– used to live in Ecuador and can tell you stories of what I saw….).

Seasonal, locally-grown flowers arrive to you fresher and more fragrant, plus you help to support local farmers and the local economy. You can learn more about the local flower movement at fieldtovase.com and slowflowers.com.

We have found that brides love telling their guests that their flowers were grown in Ohio and came a field not far away– and that they know the farmer that grew them. This can really add a special, personal touch to your wedding day.

Educating consumers about their choices in flowers is something we are passionate about, so whatever you decide we do hope you will consider locally-grown flowers!

This is worth a hip, hip, hooray – Buckeye Blooms, I love your efforts at outreach and education. I know that it will inspire other flower farmers to convey similar messages to their existing and potential clients. Many thanks for your leadership in the Slow Flowers Movement!

Jennie Love of Love 'N Fresh Flowers

Jennie Love of Love ‘N Fresh Flowers

Today’s guests are none other than Jennie Love of Love ‘n Fresh Flowers in Philadelphia, and her friend, fellow designer and frequent flower customer Sullivan Owen of Sullivan Owen Floral & Event Design, also of Philadelphia.

The two shared the stage at ASCFG last month in a packed ballroom where they designed with gorgeous local flowers and discussed their craft in a talk called “Design Basics.”

Even though this interview is audio-only, I believe what you’ll hear will stimulate you to think about floral design and seasonal and locally-grown flowers in a new way.

Sullivan and Jennie have a lot to share and even their casual asides are packed with juicy information that will help you in your own floral business, be it growing, designing – or both!

Here’s a little more about them both:

Huge audience! ASCFG's "Floral Basics" with Jennie and Sullivan drew a crowd.

Huge audience! ASCFG’s “Floral Basics” with Jennie and Sullivan drew a crowd.

Owner and creative director at Love ‘N Fresh Flowers, Jennie Love is a trained professional horticulturist and an experienced, life-long farmer.

Jennie has led numerous workshops over the past five years, including the sold-out Seasonal Bouquet Project LIVE series and classes for Longwood Gardens’ Floral Design Certificate program.

Sullivan Owen at the ASCFG floral basics workshop.

Sullivan Owen at the ASCFG floral basics workshop.

She has also presented to many garden clubs and other groups throughout the Mid-Atlantic area.

A charismatic and passionate flower farmer, Jennie found her natural niche as a ‘farmer florist’ for wedding and event design, becoming a recognized leader of the local flower movement.

She was recently featured in the New York Times for her farm-to-centerpiece efforts. Her distinctively lush and textural floral designs have been used in hundreds of weddings as well as for numerous photo shoots, magazines, style blogs and books. Jennie is a board member for ASCFG and write a regular column for The Cut Flower Quarterly.

Sullivan Owen is the owner and creative director of Sullivan Owen Floral & Event, her eponymous floral design studio, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

She is sought after for her lush and fashion-forward style, and is a trendsetter whose work is regularly featured in wedding publications, and most recently in Martha Stewart Weddings. Her business acumen and background in marketing and branding have made her just as passionate about running an excellent business as she is about creating gorgeous designs. She loves working with the best flowers available and loves to get to know the growers behind the amazing products they cultivate.

Jennie's hand-tied bouquet features All American flowers from her farm and others'.

Jennie’s hand-tied bouquet features All American flowers from her farm and others’.

If you haven’t started following Jennie or Sullivan on their various social platforms, you can follow them at these links:

Jennie on Pinterest

Jennie on Facebook

Jennie on Instagram

Sullivan on Facebook

Sullivan on Twitter

Sullivan on Instagram

 

Next week’s guest is event designer Emily Ellen Anderson of Lola Creative in Seattle. Then, you’ll hear another presentation recorded at the ASCFG Conference. . . so I promise lots of good stuff in the coming weeks.

On another note, a few weeks ago I dedicated an episode to a little girl named Shylah who faced many challenging health issues. Blessedly, your prayers, thoughts, meditations and good wishes have been felt. She’s out of the hospital and back at home. And while there are months and months of treatment ahead, everyone around Shylah feels optimistic about her recovery. Among others, this floral tribe has gathered around her and I thank you for sharing in my best wishes for this little one’s swift road to good health.

Listeners like you have downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 25,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

My personal goal is to put more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. I promise that when you tune in next week, you’ll hear another insightful and educational episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net.