A conversation with owners Stephanie Foster, Rachel Shinfeld, and Brianna Foehr
By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka
This year, BOUQUETS TO ART, the glorious annual flower festival sponsored by the San Francisco Auxiliary of the Fine Arts Museums, celebrates the upcoming landmark Impressionism exhibitions from the Musée d’Orsay that will be on view at the de Young Museum shortly after the close of Bouquets to Art 2010. Looking ahead to these two signal exhibitions, which are supported in part by the San Francisco Auxiliary, this year the popular flower festival adopts “French Impressions” as its theme. The opening night gala and preview, Floral Fashions, the decor and menu of the luncheons and afternoon teas, and Hat Day will feature this theme as a tribute to the exhibitions and to Impressionism, one of the most original and recognizable of all artistic styles.
By Nellie Family. Bouquets To Art 2009.
Bouquets to Art 2010, launches on Monday, April 19th, with the gala and preview. The decor will be based on the theme of a French chateau’s garden, and the menu from McCall Associates will be exclusively French. In addition to the first opportunity to view the spectacular array of floral arrangements by more than 150 of the most sought-after Bay Area, national, and international designers, the lavish buffet by McCall Associates and hosted bars, the evening will feature music by Moodswing Orchestra. The event will also showcase, for the second year, Floral Fashions, a fanciful parade of models in gowns and accessories made of real flowers, specially created for the evening by the students in the environmental design departments of participating Bay Area colleges.
During the following five days, the arrangements by the innovative floral designers – who pay tribute to and draw inspiration from the art at the de Young in creating their displays – will be showcased. Lectures by noted floral designers, and luncheons and afternoon teas on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday complement the flower-bedecked galleries and public spaces in the museum. Friday will feature the popular Hat Day, presided over by Mistress of Ceremonies Jan Wahl, KRON TV and KCBS radio personality. At this spirited event during which visitors wear hats adorned with flowers, prizes will be awarded in categories that include Moulin Rouge or Soiree hats, Boating on the Seine River, Can-Can, and Glamorous Garden Party Hats, with a separate judging category for the professional hat designers that the event attracts.
Donna M. Higgins, Design & Interiors. Bouquets To Art 2009.
Earlier this month, during several days of stormy weather, I visited with the owners of Church Street Flowers, Stephanie Foster, Rachel Shinfeld, and Brianna Foehr. The shop is located at 212 Church near the southwest corner of Church & Market, a few steps away from the Muni stop. I walk by it frequently. On this and the opposite site of the street are some of the most popular small businesses in town including great diners, great books, fashionable eyewear, desserts, a smoke shop, a bar with pinball, and more. No matter the weather or political clime, Church Street Flowers is a scene of constant beauty and very attractive vibes. The store will be buzzing with extra creativity this week-end as three floral masterpieces are prepared for Bouquets to Art 2010 – opening at the de Young Monday, April 20th and on display through Saturday the 24th. There will be 150 floral creations interpreting the museums’ permanent collection. Brianna, Stephanie and Rachel provided some great insight on the behind-the-scenes action. On the day we spoke, their individual designs were still in the planning stages.
Brianna Foehr, Stephanie Foster, and Rachel Shinfeld.
Sean: Tell me how your shop got on the list to participate in this long-standing event at the de Young?
Stephanie: We bought the shop from Michael Ritz and Tom Teel. They were involved with the event for years. When we bought the shop we had already worked here for years. Even though we didn’t have our pieces in the shows, Michael talked to Barbara Traisman and said we would really like to be a part of Bouquets To Art and would she consider us. She agreed and here we are.
Brianna: We did two pieces for the event last year. Since there are three owners now, we requested a third piece and they said yes.
Sean: I’m a native San Franciscan. I grow up going to the de Young all the time and I totally love the new building. Do you know which works you’ll be creating designs for?
Rachel: I didn’t get my first few choices, so I picked a photograph. It’s the Lunar Module at the Kennedy Space Center in NASA, Cape Canaveral, Florida, 1984. So, I will be making a cool space ship out of flowers.
Sean: How big can we expect this to be?
Rachel: I think there are some restrictions on it – but, a few feet by a few feet for sure.
Sean: Do you know what kind of flowers you’ll be using?
Rachel: I have a lot of different textural and colorful pieces in mind. I’m still working on the vision. When you come into the photography room you will see the piece, the photograph will be on the wall behind it. It won’t mimic it, but it will be inspired by it. You’ll be able to tell that it’s true to that photo, but it’s not going to be an exact measured replica. I wanted to just come out of the mold and do something really fun. This will allow me to do that.
The Wild Swan (The Trumpeter Swan). Alexander Pope.
Stephanie: I’m going to be doing The Wild Swan, by Alexander Pope. And I am so excited! The Wild Swan is a trompe l’oeil. It’s a big dead swan hanging on a door. I have actually always wanted to do a piece to this because it is so dramatic. And I like doing dramatic pieces. I’m going to have a lot of fun with it. I’m not exactly sure what I’ll do yet, but!
Sean: Will it mimic the painting?
Stephanie: In a way. I will try to mimic feathers with flowers, but I want it to be dark and dramatic. I want more of the feeling of it. I want to evoke the feeling from the painting more than being too literal.
Brianna: I actually got my first choice. I’m a native of San Rafael. I grew up about a quarter-mile from the Civic Center designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. I love his architecture. So, I got his armchair. It really stood out to me. It’s simple and beautiful like all of his work. It has a perfectly circular cushion with a cream fabric. It has a back that’s rounded and has wooden slats that are in a semi-circle. I love the symmetry of it. So, I’m excited about being able to kind-of channel him and formulate in my mind what will come out of that.
Sean: Given that you’re donating your services to the event, I’m just curious about the budgets.
Rachel: We came up with a budget for each of us. So many people will attend and see our pieces that it’s almost like an advertising tool as well as a creative outlet. It challenges us. We make arrangements for people everyday – but these will be ours.
Brianna: It’s one of those really fun things we get to do. We had two pieces between the three of us last year and we got rave reviews. This is a chance for us to exercise our creative brain and do something – for us.
Sean: What did you do last year?
Detail, The Lady In Black with the Spanish Scarf. Robert Henri.
Portrait of the artist’s wife, Marjorie Organ Henri.
Oil on canvas. 77 x 37 in. (195.6 x 94.0 cm).
Stephanie: I did “The Lady In Black with the Spanish Scarf” – so, it was a really big, dramatic piece.
Rachel: You can see what she likes.
Sean: Dark! What did you use to achieve that effect?
Rachel: We did purplish ti leaves coming down around the podium, white orchids, branches, some reds going on, and this giant skirt spiraling down. There was also a piece in the Trompe l’Oeil room with salmon, smelt, and trout. It’s really pretty. It’s in the same room with The Swan – another dead animal picture, except with fish.
Sean: After the arrangement is finished and the show has opened, do you go back in to refresh the flowers?
Rachel: At any point during that week we can go in and check on it. When we were doing that last year, there were people swarming about. They were so excited to meet the artist. We try to use elements that will last throughout the week. That’s another challenge. We can think of something that might work perfectly, but there are a lot of restrictions for what we can and cannot use.
Sean: What kind of restrictions?
Rachel: Size restrictions, water restrictions, soil, wood – because if you bring in something that has wood and if that has a bug in it the Conservation Staff will freak out. You can’t have anything that – if it should fall – can’t come near any art work. But it’s fun to figure out all of that.
Sean: Will you be using a stand for your lunar module?
Rachel: Yes, the museum provides podiums. So, it will probably look like it’s taking off.
Sean: How near to the pieces can the public actually get?
Rachel: There’s an honor system on “No Touching”, but you can go right up to it. The staff goes around measuring – while we’re setting up during the day – to make sure that, if it falls, the podium and the floral piece won’t hit anything.
Sean: What is the great personal challenge in all of this?
Stephanie: For me, absolutely, I get to do what’s in my head. I have an art background, so this is where I get to be a real artist and do some kind of a big display piece. I love doing what I do everyday, but this is coming from my artistic brain. So, I have a lot of pressure on myself to make it really awesome. It’s my night to really shine – you know what I mean? It’s the genre I want to join in again.
Brianna: Twice a week we run into all these other florists at the flower market. You know them, but don’t necessarily know the work they do. So, for me – I want to make it as beautiful as possible to show people what I’m capable of, to be able to show off my skills as a designer and an artist.
Stephanie: It’s super inspiring to see what other people bring. In the floral world – you try to see a new and cutting edge kind of arrangement. But this event is where you really see that kind of stuff. It’s a unique event in that way. It’s not like a flower show. This is more like—Wow! This is awesome. You’re never going to see anything like that anywhere else. It’s really inspiring. It’s a privilege to be a part of it.
Rachel: My personal challenge is to incorporate having fun. I want to see the piece and know we had fun designing it. With all the restrictions, it is challenging. It’s not like “do whatever you want”. You take a piece and make something, interpreting it, having restrictions on it, and showing it for an entire week. There are a lot of things you have to overcome to create this piece and make it successful. And we all will!
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Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.