A Week in the Life of an MFA Flower Designer

A Week in the Life of an MFA Flower Designer

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I have been an MFA Flower Associate since May 2014, and just had my last stint as captain of flower team last week. I can’t believe that the four years have passed so quickly. I have given a lot of myself, but have gotten way more back. It has been a great opportunity to volunteer at the MFA- I’ve made many friends, and feel such a strong attachment to the museum, that I look forward to participating as a Senior Associate. I thought it would be fun to share the process of what it means to be captain of a flower team, and of course the results of our week’s work together.

When visiting the MFA, I am sure you notice the beautiful arrangements that grace both the Fenway and Huntington entrances as well as the Sharf Information desk. All of the arrangements are done weekly by the MFA Flower Associates. There is a captain who designs the arrangements, a co-captain that assists, and four others who condition, arrange and provide daily watering during the week. Designing the arrangements includes choosing the containers from our huge container hall in the basement of the museum, deciding upon the style of arrangement and types of flowers to use, and purchasing the flowers at the Boston Flower Exchange in Chelsea. Once flowers are decided upon and ordered, the Captain and Co-Captain pick up them up very early on a Wednesday morning (around 6-630), and unload them at the loading dock of the museum. Two of the team members wait at the dock with carts to help unload. Once settled in the flower room, we condition the flowers and store them in the cooler in preparation for arranging them on Thursday.

A word about conditioning. Do you know the MFA Associates has published a book about arranging and conditioning flowers? It is called “Art In Bloom At Home”. It is for sale through the MFA Associates. Let me know if you’re interested.

If you love flowers and being a part of the MFA and don’t mind being sleep deprived, then being an MFAA Flower Associate is just right for you!

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Here are the conditioned flowers in the cooler all ready for arranging on Thursday morning. We get to the museum at 6:30-7 to start arranging so everything is finished before the museum opens at 10.

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Here I am loading flowers onto the carts for each location. It’s before 7AM, so I’m not smiling yet.

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Here is the Sharf arrangement that I worked on with Jane Shulman, a member of the team. The design was inspired by a beautiful summer window box I saw when having lunch with a friend in Lexington Center. Jane and I had a lot of fun working on it together.

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Here are the flowers at the Fenway entrance beautifully arranged by team members Dina Peinert and Mary Lou Ashur. The Fenway location is a bit darker than the other areas, so it’s nice to do something bright and large.

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We have 2 arrangements at the Huntington entrance, and I managed to photoshop them next to each other for you to see. They were arranged by team members Thu-Hang Tran and Dorothy Sergi. At the Huntington entrance we often have the arrangements mirror each other or have them look like fraternal twins. Nature isn’t perfect, and neither do our arrangements have to be exactly alike. I wanted beautiful summer color for this location.

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Here are the 40 bud vases for the Bravo restaurant. We arrange them on Wednesday, put them in the cooler overnight and then install them on Thursday before the restaurant opens at 11.

These arrangements stay up for a week, and each team member has a watering day where she goes in early before the museum opens to water and sometimes replace plant material in the arrangements. Whoever waters writes the watering report for the day, and sends it to the entire team so everyone knows what’s going on. During the week we had several problems with all of the gladiolus. The Fenway glads tanked by Saturday. At my request Thu-Hang graciously picked up two new bunches and replaced them in the arrangement on Sunday. On Monday I pulled all the glads and amaranthus from the Huntington arrangements and replaced them with roses and spider mums. This is one example of what we do to keep the arrangements looking beautiful for our visitors who love the flowers!

Thank you again to Thu-Hang, Dina, Mary Lou, Jane and Dorothy! You were a great team!

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