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Inside Steven Alan

Studio Visit: Amy Merrick

  • March 22nd, 2013 | Photos

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    Last week, we popped by the Greenpoint studio of florist and stylist Amy Merrick. Amy was responsible for creating the beautiful holiday wreaths in our shop windows last December, which so many of our customers inquired about. We showed up bearing bread and cheese, and watched Amy work her magic as we chatted in her sunlit space.

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    Where did you grow up?
    I grew up in Annapolis, Maryland. My folks still live in the same beautiful old Depression-era farmhouse. I love going down there and cutting branches or stealing my dad’s daffodils. They let me grow some flowers in their vegetable garden, too.

    How long have you been doing this?
    I have been working with flowers for 3 1/2 years but I’ve had my own business for two. Flowers are the only thing that instantaneously, from the moment I started doing it, just made sense. With flowers everything came together and it was easy from the start.

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    Did you always have a thing for flowers? At what point did you know you wanted to do this for a living?
    My parents are fantastic gardeners and very hippie/nature-centric, so being outdoors was a huge part of my childhood. I moved to New York to go to school and after a few years here I really started to mourn the loss of a natural connection. I felt like I had completely closed off such a big part of my life. I wanted to take a flower arranging class just to have my hands on something green but instead to save money I found a florist who was looking for an intern. I never sought it out as a profession – it was more about filling the void that comes with living here.

    I love my work but I never want to have a static job. Right now, instead of focusing on events I’m really excited about teaching more classes and also writing and flower photography. Flowers will always be a part of what I do, but I’m excited to push my business in all different directions.

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    How did you get your business started?
    The woman that basically taught me the flower trade was radically talented, but after working together for over a year, I sort of outgrew my job there. When it was time to leave, I was heartbroken. I figured I could work out of my bedroom taking on small weddings to tide me over until I found something else, but it snowballed into something more.

    We hear you used to keep all of your plants in the bathtub.
    Yeah, it was really crazy! It’s easy to water them all at once like that. I worked out of my house for a really long time – longer than I should have! I have a railroad apartment so it has four rooms in row, and I just turned the biggest room into the studio and had my bed in the tiny room in the middle. I would find clippers in my bed and there would be dead flowers everywhere, even in my sheets – it was gross.

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    Is there a particular type of flora that you really enjoy working with?
    Whatever is in season is the most inspiring. That’s the best thing about working with flowers – your favorite flower is whatever is just starting to bloom. Right now, I can’t get enough of ranunculus, helleborus, and all the flowering branches, but in two months I’m going to be so excited about peonies. Then I’ll be dying for dahlias and fruit on the branch, and it just goes in this beautiful circle where you’re always excited for what’s about to happen.

    Where do you like to get your flowers?
    There’s a wholesale flower market in New York on 28th Street. 6-11 AM is when all the flowers are sold. That’s where I get the bulk of my product throughout the seasons. In the winter it’s mostly imported flowers, but in the summer and fall it’s local material. The Union Square farmers market also has wonderful flowers.

    We’re always a bit overwhelmed when we go to the Flower District. Do you have any tips for us?
    It can be really intimidating. There are no prices on anything, so you have to be confident in asking for help. A lay person may not know what’s a really expensive flower versus what isn’t. You can shop at almost all of the wholesale places – you just have to bring cash and I would definitely go by 9:30 in the morning. Anytime after that, a lot of the flowers have already been bought and they’re starting to put things away. So go early, bring cash, and don’t be afraid to ask the employees for names or prices. And please trim the stems when you get home!

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    Is the bulk of your business editorial shoots or events?
    Right now I’m sort of half and half. This year I’m really trying to limit the number of weddings I do. It’s really easy to overbook (especially in New York) and then all of a sudden you have three weddings on one day and it’s just chaotic and you get really burned out. I’m trying to do one or less per month. The other half of my business is styling for photo shoots.

    We’ve admired your work in Kinfolk. What was it like collaborating with the team?
    I love working with Kinfolk since they’re so open to working with all kinds of ideas. At other magazines, a story needs to be approved by a ton of people, but with Kinfolk I can just say, “Hey guys, let’s do this thing . . .” I feel so lucky to work with them and also be friends with them, too.

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    Tell us a bit more about your classes.
    Up until this point I’ve been teaching basic flower arranging classes. This season I’m hoping to introduce several more types of classes – houseplant skills, flowers for dinner parties, weddings 101. It’s complicated because on the one hand you want to do these big flower arranging classes with the most exquisite stuff money can buy, but that’s really hard to replicate at home. You want people to leave with both a skill and excitement to connect with the natural world.

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    We heard you made some of the tables in your studio.
    It’s my first and only foray into woodworking! It was totally out of necessity. I needed two six-foot work tables and to buy beautiful ones would have cost thousands of dollars. I was already spending so much money trying to get this thing off the ground so I needed to figure out a different way. I went to a salvage wood place and got started.

    What are some of your favorite spots in the neighborhood?
    All of my favorite places have to do with food. There’s a great health food store called The Garden on Manhattan Ave and down the street is my favorite neighborhood restaurant, Eat. It doubles as a pottery studio so they sell really amazing ceramics that you also eat your meal off of. Of course, Peter Pan for doughnuts and Troost for coffee – can’t live without that.

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    {Featuring table linens by Auntie Oti and Scents and Feel, ceramics by Helen Levi, planter by Small Spells, kettle by Kaico, and Old Field Farm honey, available at our home shop; bread from Orwashers and cheese from Cavaniola’s at All Good Things}

    Many thanks to Amy for having us over! You can read more about her on her blog.

    This entry was posted on Friday, March 22nd, 2013 at 4:57 pm and is filed under Photos. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

One Response to “Studio Visit: Amy Merrick”

  1. Bianca says:

    I’m a longtime fan of Merrick’s and happy to watch her business expand. Looking forward to a class with her one day. She inspires me. Thanks for this interview/studio visit.

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