We at Thursd. love to inspire our readers with interesting stories about all different aspects of the floral industry. We sat down with Putnam & Putnam Flowers
to find out more about their background in flowers, what inspires them, their following on social media and how they've started Putnam & Putnam.
Our names are Derek and Mikey and we are the guys behind Putnam & Putnam Flowers, based in New York City. We’ve been doing this for about 5 years. Derek: How did you get into flower? Mikey: A hobby, I didn’t love what I was doing before so I took it as a hobby and experimented and played around, and now we are here. Mikey’s background in interior design and mine (Derek) is photography so I would shoot his arrangements kind of at home on the weekends. We would put them on social media and it kind of blew up.
You guys have a book, a shop, a podcast, you are flying around the world. How do you keep up with this, you must be crazy busy?
We are kind of crazy busy, we might also be a little crazy, just a little bit. This year is really special because we are celebrating the launch of our first book ‘Flower Colour Guide’, which is our baby. It’s the book we wish we had when we first started flowers but we always have new ideas and are really excited and passionate about the projects we get to do. We have a really good team in New York that helps us out.
How much do you travel around the world and where have you been recently?
Recently quite often. We started traveling just over a year or two years ago. We started teaching in Mexico and taught all over Asia, it is incredible that the world of flowers kind of brought us all around the world to get to see where flowers are coming from. Traveling is probably the most fun part of our jobs. A couple of weeks ago we got back from our book tour in Asia. We were there for a whole month. So we went to China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Singapore. It was really cool.
How do you keep up with that, energy-wise?
It’s not easy. The jetlag can get challenging, especially between Asia and back. We don’t know how we keep up, we just keep going.
How do you keep being inspired when being so busy?
Honestly, being in new places inspires us so much. It makes the tiredness go away, you know? (Mikey) I get inspired by new flower markets, architecture in new places, colors. I really just pull from everything around me and then everything else kind of fades away and I get in the zone. We have a really special flower market in New York City and we get flowers from all over the world and it has been incredible to be able to travel to those countries and actually see where those flowers are grown and the markets that they come from.
When you get to different countries is there a different way of how people look at your floral designs.
It’s really interesting, yes and no. (Derek) I think that with social media and Instagram, it has made the world a lot smaller, specifically in flowers. When we were shooting for the book, we shot 400 flowers. We shoot this book before we started traveling and we were worried that this would be very specific to the north-east or New York City.
But when we were in Korea, Japan, Mexico we realized these flowers are being used all over the world. We saw a ton of them this morning in Aalsmeer. (Derek) I think that social media has brought the world of flowers together because everyone can kind of share what they are growing or what they are working on, which is really cool. (Mikey) I think there is a big connection in terms of style in Europe and the United States. Asia is definitely a little bit different. Japan has probably the most unique sense of style when it comes to floral design.
How do people react to your work, do they react differently because of different cultures and backgrounds?
We have a big following in Asia, kind of surprising how big of a fan-base we have in Asia. What was interesting about China is that you are not allowed to have Instagram so no social media, so we didn’t even realize that we would have a big following but we gave a book lecture in front of hundreds of people who were really excited to be there. We had no idea. I think, again with the social media, we are going through a really interesting time where yes, there is a lot of progression with technology but I think that has kind of causing this effect of people wanting simply a little bit and slow down their life, do thing with their hands, do things with flowers or ceramics or that kind of stuff. That’s kind of a trend that’s happening all over the world.
You guys designed a couple of big celebrity weddings like Gwyneth Paltrow's, how was that and how does it work?
That was our first big blow out celebrity wedding. We did that this fall at her property in the Hampton's and it was extraordinary, it was a beautiful wedding. it was really interesting when we were doing the sight visits and walkthroughs they kept talking about how careful we would have to be with paparazzi. We thought that they were like being a little dramatic, but as soon as our trucks started pulling out of the property there were helicopters flying around and guys with cameras. The whole series of events had to be tinted and covered with tents. But besides that, ones we got situated and got in there, we were in our private oases so it was pretty calm. The energy was good, Gwyneth is amazing. She put a lot of trust in us and it’s was just a great weekend.
How was it like designing something for a wedding like that?
Specifically working with Gwyneth and her wedding planner was actually really cool because they hired us because they knew our esthetics and they knew that was what they wanted. They really did put a lot of trust in us. There were a few design sample mockups where we would create some arrangements, show them to her for approval, but besides that, we had full creative control with the florals and it went really well. That is the most ideal situation to work in is when your client trusts you to do what you do best and make something beautiful.
How you do start an arrangement, do you draw it out first or just start going at it?
So, we meet with our client or planner and then kind of throw out initial design concepts or ideas and we get together and we chat about what we think would look best in that space. We start pulling colors, flower varieties, vases and also do sketches for installations works so arches, hanging pieces. We always put up a design deck so we will pull imagery of the color palette we are thinking and the design process comes to life about 5 to 6 weeks in advance of the event where we create our design mockup.
We’ll go to the New York flower market, pick the flowers that we think would work best with the color palette that we are creating then we make a mockup arrangement in our studio. After this, we will have the client come, see it, get inspired and we all have a good time with it. From there we kind of count how many stems and we multiply it for the event that we are about to create.
So, we meet with our client, we throw some ideas around. We just want to get a basic idea of what they want. Then we meet internally, us two and our team, will sit down and look over images and conceptualize something that we could pitch to the client. From that point, we create a design deck for them to review. It will have the flower varieties, the colors, examples of arrangements, if there is larger installation stuff, Mikey will do a sketch for the client to envision what we are thinking. Ones that approved, the design process really comes to life 5-6 weeks in advance of the event when we do our mockup. Well go to the New York flower market, find the best flowers in season that we want to use for the job and create a sample arrangement in the studio for the client to come and review. That way there are no surprises when it comes to the event.
Because you are becoming more and more popular, does that make it easier to say no to a client?
Yes, it is, we are in a good position where we are finally able to start saying no. We used to yes all the time when we first started of course. We have such a great team in New York and we know how long it takes to execute a job and we also never double book, we are never doing two jobs simultaneously. If our schedule is filled we can’t take it on and we say no which in some way thinks it frustrates people but makes us a little more desirable. Also, we can tell if a client has red flags, you know. it’s just trial and error, working with the wrong people.
What do you want to take from giving workshops?
It’s our favorite thing to do, to travel around and teach. It’s so cool to meet people from other cultures and learn what flowers mean to them or how flowers play a role in their lives. What is so fascinating about our work and being in Amsterdam, is that we are so inspired by old dutch still life paintings and we draw so much inspiration from there, specifically with the colors. We look at the colors that the old painters have used and we bring them to life. Tonight we will be doing arrangements in those colors, in that style and of course with a lot of tulips. We find it so interesting because we didn’t reinvent the wheel here, we are getting inspired by old dutch masterpieces for our modern work and so will teach our style and how we do that, and that’s what we’ll do tonight. And we also learn so much from our students too, every interaction we learn so much from.
Photo: Courtesy of Moxy Chelsea
What is the setup for tonight, what is going to happen?
We are going to have all the flower laid out and we’re going to do a demo and talk about the process and put the focus on color which is something that we really try to teach our students. After that everyone will make an arrangement and we will walk around and help them. When we first started doing flowers I (Derek) would look at the color of the flower and say ‘Oh, that is pink or purple’, but Mikey’s interior design background after I worked with him, the way he looks at a color, he looks at the color variation in a single flower. So one flower might kind of transition from a blushy-pink to a butter-yellow and that will be the inspiration for a whole arrangement or even an event. It’s having that color palette within the arrangement, using flowers to transition from a blushy-pink to a butter-yellow. It is really fascinating to see how Mikey looks at flowers and translates the color on individual petals to a whole centerpiece. There is so much color in every flower, so you can use that to connect all that color together.
Do you still discover new flowers?
Yes, so many even quite a few while we were here in Amsterdam. Tulips that we’ve never seen before. We could’ve had done a whole flower color guide with just Tulips.
Your podcast is called Unicorns Do Exist, what is a unicorn?
We came up with this term recently, we actually call each other unicorns. So a unicorn is an extraordinary person doing amazing creative things for the world and changing the culture but most importantly, they love every second of what they do. So they are just totally obsessed with it whether it is in flowers or fashion or arts. In our podcast, we are going out in the world and finding other unicorns that are changing the world in a creative and inspiring way.
Because you guys are a couple as well, how is it like combining your work and private life?
We have been together for almost eleven years, we have been doing this business for five years together, but we handle different parts of the business. What people usually don’t do is that Derek doesn't arrange flowers at all. Mikey is the flower mastermind and creative director. Derek handles more of the business at the back end. Derek's background is also photography so he photographs everything, he shot all the flowers for our book ‘Flower Color Guide’ and he runs all the social media. So we not only have different work styles but also handle different parts of the business and that really helps because we are not stepping on each other's toes too often. Also, we are completely different, we balance each other out which is nice.
The biggest thing is finding space and time to still recognize yourself as an individual. So when we travel we have so much fun together, but when we are back in the city we make sure to find time for each other to be alone and focus on ourselves and recharge so we can bring our best selves to work and to our relationship.
Question geared towards Mikey: What do you like the most about being able to travel the world and to see all these places?
Honestly, inspiration. Everything that I see inspires me. I remember a couple of years ago I want to India and just the colours in India inspired so much of my work immediately after being there.
It’s really funny before we started this business I think we always wanted to work together but all he (Mikey) tells me over and over is “I want to travel the world, that’s the most important thing to me in my life”. It is incredible that just a couple of years later we are actually that. I never thought it would be flowers, that would bring us all over. And still, we have to sometimes pinch ourselves to “wow we are here in Amsterdam or Asia or where ever”. It is really special and we jump at any opportunity we have to travel around.