Monday, December 14, 2015

The Business of Art & Flowers

By Marie Bradby

Carolyn Minutillo, owner of Lavender Hill Florals, couldn’t imagine choosing any other career.

“I must have flowers always and always.”
— Claude Monet

Once there was a girl who loved flowers. She played in her grandparents’ garden where she breathed in the scent of the roses, the vegetable plants, and the dirt. She would walk into floral shops in her hometown of Chicago just to smell the flowers. When she was 19, she started community college, at first thinking of nursing, then switching to floriculture. But before the first semester had ended, she dropped out...

...when a prominent floral shop offered her a job just for her raw talent.

Now owner of Lavender Hill Florals in Jeffersonville, award-winning designer Carolyn Minutillo has never looked back.

The award-winning designer opened her shop in 2002. 

“It was something I was destined to do,” Carolyn says. She adds that her passion was born of tragedy. “My first affiliation with flowers was at my mother’s wake when I was 4. I remember the smell.”

But she has turned adversity into creativity.

There are red, pink, lavender, and white flower petals strewn on the sidewalk in front of the door of her shop. It is mid-October; large planters with seasonal flowers and pumpkins grace the entranceway.

It took a decade and a relocation before Carolyn had her own shop. In 1993, she left her beloved Chicago and moved to Floyds Knobs, Indiana, because of her husband’s job. She did floral design out of her home until she opened her first retail shop in 2002 on Spring Street. In March 2015, she moved the business across the street because her original building was sold.

Floral design is more than a business for Carolyn — it is a form of art she wants to share with others. 

The surprise of walking on flower petals as they lift and swirl in the gentle fall breeze is a harbinger of what’s to come inside the floral and gift shop, where exotic plants such as a carnivorous pitcher plant and climbing onions dominate the large windows.

But front and center, there are arrangements that evoke the still-life floral paintings in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. One small vase — a dimpled, fuchsia bubble — holds two orange Dutch tulips, pale green miniature Cymbidium orchids with a touch of burgundy and yellow, and a flare of explosion grass.

Carolyn got her certification as an American Institute floral designer and is currently pursuing a European Master certification in floral design. Her classes will take her from San Francisco to Belgium to the Louvre in Paris for her final exam.

She devotes much time to enhancing the quality of her business which involves pursuing a European Master certification in floral design. 

“I want to complete this course because I can go overseas and teach,” Carolyn says. “In Europe, you have to complete a certification to be a florist. Here, anybody can get a retail license and become a florist. The only place in the U.S. where you have to have certification is Louisiana. That’s why there is a difference between average work and art work.”

Here are Carolyn’s business and home floral tips:
  1. Keep up with technology. Between classes, Carolyn will use Periscope, a Twitter live broadcast, to show her staff what’s she’s done in her European Master course.
  2. Make the Internet work for you. Years ago, you went to a floral shop to buy flowers. Now you can get them online or at grocery stores and farmers markets. The consumer can go online to place an out-of-town order, but they have no idea what shop is filling the order. So if it’s a bad experience, they say, ‘I’m not spending money on flowers again.’ To ensure quality, we will email a photo of what we are going to send out to the customer. For out-of-town orders, we try to send the order to other AIFD certified florists we know.
  3. Have a family florist on hand. People don’t think to make that contact. You have your dentist, your stylist, your accountant, your babysitters. Who’s your florist?
  4. Use several small arrangements throughout the house. Place them on the kitchen island, beside your favorite reading chair, the entranceway, the bedroom.
  5. Coordinate wedding flowers to the bride’s dress. Dresses have a more fitted silhouette, so you want a more sophisticated look for bouquets. Cascades are coming back—more of a forage look like it was just picked from a garden, including succulents. But the bouquet should be an accessory. It’s all about the dress.
  6. Funeral flowers are much more important than people think. Lately, families are telling people, ‘in lieu of flowers, make a donation.’ Then they go into a wake and it just looks so horrible, so sad without flowers. Then you have people running around trying to get flowers at the wake to perk things up. It’s the last gift you can give a loved one.

Carolyn has her certification as an American Institute floral designer.

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