I recently interviewed Lisa Waud, creator of Flower House about her installation
in October, and the launch of her flower farm in Hamtramck. You can currently
purchase a gorgeous Flower House tote from Nora to help support the project.
Casey Rocheteau: Where did you come up with the idea for Flower House?
Lisa Waud: It goes back to a long time love of Christo and his projects with his
wife. Wrapping the bridge in Paris really spoke to me, just to plan something for
so long that is so giant. He’s really appealing to me, that people would travel from
great distances to come and see something just because of the size and the
temporary nature of it. There was also a Dior show from 2012 that I saw, where
they filled a mansion in Paris with flowers, and that also inspired me, just seeing
the walls filled with flowers.
CR: I was interested in the video for Flower House and I was interested in the
idea of temporality, and what is permanent and what is impermanent, especially
in a place like Detroit, so I wondered if you knew who lived in the house before,
or was the video an imagined idea of who might have lived there?
LW: We know bits and pieces. As we’ve been working in the house, neighbors
have stopped by and the puzzle is being filled in. We get segments here and
there from different people. I know that in the 50s the house that the preview took
place in, there’s a little console truck and that used to be a TV repair shop. We
have these great visuals from there, people waiting for their TVs to be fixed.
CR: The house, I go by it on my way to work on Thursdays, it’s sort of alongside
I-75, on the service drive.
LW: In picturing where Flower House would take place, I started to think about
buying a house at auction. I had an idea that I wanted it to be in a place with
empty lots and I wanted it to feel a little lonely. I wanted you to feel the
juxtaposition when you walked in from outside and it’s this weathered, dilapidated
structure and you walk in and it’s filled with flowers. So I had a general idea of
what I wanted, but I would never have thought I would love for it to be on a one-
way service drive off 75, it’s just kind of perfect. It speaks a little more to the
temporary fleeting feeling of it, because you whoosh go right by there and no one
thinks twice about it until there are 15 florists hauling flowers in.
CR: The florists that are coming to put flowers in the house are from all around
the country. What was the process of finding florists and figuring out what that
would look like? Also, if you could speak a little bit about why you’re using
American grown flowers.
LW: There’s a movement happening around being aware of where cut flowers
come from. There’s a woman out in Seattle named Debra Prinzing, she’s coined
this phrase and spearheaded this movement referred to as “slow flowers”, much
like the slow food movement. It’s about being aware of the farmers that grow
your flowers and really trying to decrease the amount of flowers that we bring in
from Bolivia and Ecuador and everywhere else but here. It seems like kind of an
obvious choice that we would use American grown flowers, because it’s been
this sort of rallying cry. When we sent our wish-list to wholesalers that we work
with, it was kind of a Hail Mary—“here’s this ridiculously long list of flowers, and
maybe we’ll get a few”. And all three wholesalers fulfilled the whole list, and then
as they told growers about the project, they donated more and more. It was
pretty heartening when we were waiting for the flowers to come for the preview
And then to answer your question about florists: there’s a pretty fierce tight-knit
group of florists here in southeast Michigan and they were the first to sign on to
help me with this project. There are five florists on the unofficial board, even
though we’re not a non-profit, so that’s filled five rooms. So between local florists
and florists that we know that have a similar style, we have eleven rooms spoken
for, and we have fifteen rooms. So we’re actually about to launch an application
process doing a call for entries. It’s not necessarily a competition, we just want to
make sure we have florists that are likeminded and really understand the project
and can speak about it well.
CR: Some of the images, and the video that I’ve seen for Flower House remind
me of, or are reminiscent of, some of the images of “ruin porn”—like where you
see an old plant, or opera house taken over by vegetation, and I wondered how
you think the project contributes to narratives about Detroit?
LW: I like to think of it as maybe a tipping point from people from out of state to
maybe come visit and see Detroit for the first time, and book a trip to come visit,
check out new restaurants and see the exhibit. As far as the narrative, I realize
it’s using an abandoned house as a canvas for this project, but I don’t think we’re
showcasing that it’s sad or overwhelming. It really is one last hurrah for this
house before we bring the house down. I feel like this house has been lonely,
and we’re going to throw it one last party. I like that personification of the house,
like “I’m waiting around here for someone to notice me”.
CR: So what’s going to happen to the house when it’s torn down?
LW: If you simplified the story of this, it’s really that I’m launching a flower farm
on this property in Hamtramck, but two giant things are going to happen before
that. First is the installation. Then there’s the demolition. We’ve partnered with
Reclaim Detroit and they will be bundling up the materials that can be used for
other projects in the city and they’ll be able to divert up to 75% of the materials
from the landfill, which is really phenomenal.
Flower House Totes are available at Nora and all proceeds go to benefit this wonderful project.
To purchase Flower House Tote Bag http://noramodern.com/products/flower-house-tote-bag
To learn more about Flower House please visit http://www.theflower.house