A Morning with Tess Casey–Flower District NYC

For our version of #BlogTour, Veronika from Modenus was keen to introduce a learning component, where we’d meet a bunch of fabulous creatives (am I the only person who loathes that word?) and get to see them at work and ask them questions.

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I can safely say that these sessions were some of the most fascinating and rewarding of the whole tour, and none more so than the morning we spent with Tess Casey who designs floral arrangements for films and TV shows. You may not have heard of her, but you’ve very probably glimpsed her work, in movies such as Sex and the City, The Devil Wears Prada  and The Nanny Diaries, or on TV shows such as Boardwalk Empire, Ugly Betty  and Pan Am. Tess prides herself on creating camera-ready, period, season and character appropriate flowers for all manner of productions and the amount of work and research that can go into an arrangement that is scarcely glimpsed on scene is truly mindblowing. I for one will look at on-set flowers in a whole new light from now on.

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It was a cold and frosty morning when we headed down to New York’s Flower District on W 28th St, but in the various shops Spring was definitely springing. Our tour was sponsored by the wonderful team behind the  WestEdge Design Fair and they met us together with Tess and her super cute assistant Miles for a tour of Tess’s favourite flower and accessories retailers.

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I’ve been a little disappointed by the quality and variety of flowers that I’ve been able to get in Seattle, and here everything was explained. All the flowers in the world are hiding out in New York. The selection was truly incredible and we were still in the depths of March.

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After the tour, we were welcomed to Tess’s glorious Flower District studio. I love seeing where creative people work and as studios go this was a DOOZY. You really couldn’t fail to be inspired here.

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The room was full of charming details. Yes, that’s Tess’s wedding dress hanging up and those glorious chandeliers at the far end were made by Tess and Miles for an event out of Home Depot pot racks and some hanging chains.

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I was amused to spot a poster from Roman Polanski’s Tess on the wall. Could someone PLEASE bring out a movie called ‘Paola’ so I can have a movie poster with my name on it?

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Then Tess demonstrated a few simple flower arrangements, showing us how to create the internal ‘mechanics’ of an arrangement using either chicken wire, oasis or the stems of the flowers themselves. She is a mistress of improvisation showing us that many of the vases she uses are buckets and pots sourced from Home Depot or Bed, Bath and Beyond and repurposed as vases.

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Originally from Ireland, Tess lived and trained in London at Knightsbridge florists Pulbrook & Gould and her naturalistic, organic but luxurious style seemed very English to me. Tess moved to New York in the early nineties and apparently had a fun time in the New York club scene. She is currently pitching a screenplay of her life story and I for one would love to see that movie happen – you know at the very least the flowers will be extraordinary.

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The Blogtour paparazzi in full force

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Here’s super cute Miles with part of Tess’s gigantic vase collection and a very happy me taking a selfie just because really.

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After the demo we were each given our own generous bucket of flowers to try making our own arrangements with Tess’s guidance.

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It was fascinating to see all the different variations which we produced using essentially the same raw materials.

I was utterly delighted with mine, it was such a pleasure to work with such beautiful blooms instead of the supermarket flowers I normally use, and was thrilled that they offered to transport all the bouquets back to the hotel, so we could enjoy them in our rooms.

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After all the hard work, we managed to get Tess gossiping a bit. For the famous scene where Carrie smashes her wedding bouquet over Big’s head, Tess had to prepare fifty identical bouquets, each one with the thorns removed, so Chris Noth’s face wouldn’t be destroyed, and each with the stems specially prepared to shatter easily.

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Because she had to design the bouquets Tess was one of very few people in the know about Carrie’s wedding dress. Even producer Michael Patrick King was kept in the dark. Apparently when he finally saw what Carrie was wearing he turned to Tess and said, ‘She’s wearing a fucking bird on her head.’

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Thus echoing my words and the words of every single person in every cinema everywhere who saw it.

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Comments

  1. says

    What a great blog post, Paola, and what an experience! The flowers (and your photos) are just breathtakingly beautiful! Thanks for sharing such a stupendous adventure!

    • says

      It really was an experience to remember Jamie.
      That was the incredible thing about BlogTour actually. We had experiences and adventures that it would be pretty much impossible to replicate on your own.

  2. nazila says

    Am planning on taking a class with Fiori sometime this spring. I think I do a decent job, but would really love to learn more,

    NANLA

  3. says

    Wonderfully written and photographed post Paola!! Your posts have a beautiful lyrical quality to them….and a touch of London too. I just finished my two posts on that one morning and it was so hard to edit them down. You did a beautiful job of articulating the essence of Tess and the magical day we all experienced! Thank you for sharing. Love reading your posts!

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