Six weeks ago or so, one of my high school friends sent me a message on Facebook.
“You do flowers, right?” she said. She’d seen the flowers photos I’d posted after doing the October wedding, and remembered. My friend works for a winery in Alexander Valley, and she told me about this big event they do every year for their wine club members, a fancy sit-down dinner in honor of Cyrus Alexander (for whom the valley was named), with a wine pairing for each course. “We need 10 centerpieces,” my friend said. “Do you think you’d be interested?” The best part, of course, was that the dinner is served in their WINE CAVE. (How cool is that?)
She put me in contact with the person in charge of the event, and I went out to visit the space. Barrels lined the walls of each branch and tunnel, and I pictured how it might look with one long table, set with linens and candles, stemware gleaming, and my flowers. I’d emailed photos of my work, but the lady wanted to see a sample arrangement, so in February, armed with the knowledge of their linen color choices and a 5×5 glass vase, I got some flowers at the wholesale place in Santa Rosa and a few more at Trader Joe’s and I made two arrangement options, one more formal/elegant and one more in my style (including some mustard, which blooms everywhere around here all spring.) The lady liked the one in my style best but her partner who was the final word on decision-making chose the more traditional style. And they decided to have me do a large arrangement for their tasting room as well.
Everything was set to go. I gave them an invoice with my estimated material and hourly costs, including the time spent and materials I’d used for the trial centerpieces. I planned a trip to the San Francisco Flower mart for March 10, giving me an extra day to acquire anything else I needed and for the flowers to open some. But on Monday, the lady I’d been working with called me to say that her coworker had been let go, and she was suddenly made aware that he had ordered 12 tables instead of ten, so she was panicking and asked if I could do two extra centerpieces. Then, she said that she’d liked the “my style” version of the centerpiece I’d done and gave me free reign to make them the way I wanted. I sent an updated invoice to include the additional labor and material costs, and Thursday Dan and I drove south, arrived at the Flower Mart just after it opened to the public at 10 AM (it will be months before I get a wholesaler’s badge, as I need my business license and then I need to apply and then I need to wait etc. etc.), and explored the market. It was an amazing experience for me (I suspect Dan had less of a good time, since he was essentially my pack mule and probably couldn’t care less about flowers), and I’m looking forward to going again to get the supplies for Leah and Simon’s wedding.
But I digress. Thursday night, I did two hours of flower prep – stripping leaves, trimming stems, removing newspaper wrappings. Friday, I picked up my check from the winery and then we went on another 20 mile bike ride around Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley and then, while heading home, we passed by a community blood drive at the Geyserville Grange, so we stopped and I donated blood and saw at least five people I recognized as parents of preschool and elementary school classmates but didn’t remember their names. Plus a high school teacher. We went home and I drank lots of water, trying to rehydrate and prepare for Saturday.
And then, Saturday came. I got up pretty early, got all my stuff together, and loaded buckets full of flowers and a hastily-assembled peanut butter sandwich into the car. We drove to Geyserville where I picked a few lupines to include in my arrangements and we stopped at the side of the road near the winery for mustard. And then, by about 9:30 AM, I was in the zone, cutting and assembling and experimenting in the winery’s commercial kitchen.
It took me six hours, about an hour and a half longer than I’d expected it to, but I successfully created twelve centerpiece arrangements and one large arrangement. Sadly, I only have photos of the arrangements themselves and none of them in the wine cave, as the caterers didn’t arrive to set up the tables before I finished my part of the job. I asked whether the lady I was working with would take photos, but she hadn’t thought to bring a camera, either.
But now I have more examples of my work, and another reference, AND I got PAID! Yay!