Last week, consumers got two new options to dress up their mail: one sporting a corsage, the other, a boutonniere.
Not surprisingly, a professional florist had a (major) hand creating these attractive designs. Florist 2.0 caught up with Virginia freelance designer and educator Carol Caggiano, AIFD, PFCI, on her most unexpected job yet.
F20: How did this all come about?
CC: I was in the right place at the right time with the right people. Two years ago, I was working on a photo shoot for the Society of American Florists’ consumer marketing materials. At the end of it, the photographer, Renée Comet, told me she’d enjoyed working with me and that she had a project coming up that involved flowers. Would I be interested in collaborating with her? My attitude is “Say yes then sort things out later,” so of course I agreed and then forgot all about it. A few months later, we reconnected and I found out she’s working on a new wedding-themed stamp for the United States Postal Service!
F20: What did the process entail?
CC: There was a confidentiality agreement with the postal service. I had several conference calls with Ethel Kessler, the USPS art director to get a sense of her vision. In some ways, it was a lot like a wedding consultation: Ethel sent me pictures of designs she thought were appealing and I culled some that I thought exemplified what she wanted, and we discussed them.
F20: What did she want?
CC: She didn’t ask for specific flowers. It was all about style. She wanted something very “botanical” with lots of texture and greenery—basically, what everyone’s asking for these days! It also had to have broad appeal, so we couldn’t do something that looked very Southwestern or cosmopolitan, for example. These are the same things we have in mind with SAF’s ad campaigns, which I’ve been working on for about two decades. Those jobs were good practice!
F20: What did you end up creating?
CC: I made five variations of corsages and boutonnieres to present for the postal service’s consideration. I used ranunculus, hypericum, tiny succulents, Astrantia, Berzelia, clubmoss, and burlap ribbon. Alternate versions used linen and lace. They picked a boutonniere design for the new “forever” stamp and a corsage for the “2-ounce” stamp needed for oversized envelopes.
F20: What was the unveiling ceremony like?
CC: Oh my goodness, it was a thrill! I had no idea this would be such a big deal when I did the photo shoot. All of a sudden, I got this gorgeous invitation to speak at the stamps’ dedication ceremony May 2 at the St. Louis Botanical Gardens. Who knew there were stamp dedication ceremonies?! The setting was absolutely stunning and so perfect for these particular stamps, which are now known as “celebration” stamps, rather than “wedding” stamps. I pointed out that these pieces are appropriate for many of life’s special moments, including birthdays, proms, anniversaries, memorial services, Easter and Mother’s Day—and they stated at the beginning that their goal was to be inclusive.
The unveiling was very formal. They blew up the stamps so they stood something like 7 by 8 feet and they had a velvet curtain in front of them. The postal service gave me very beautiful gifts—framed versions of the stamps that were enlarged and matted, as well as the invitation.
I think there were about 100 people in attendance. Most were stamp collectors. It’s a very interesting culture of people with a very serious hobby! They do not think of stamps as things you stick on envelopes. Several asked me to autograph their programs. I couldn’t believe it! It was so humbling.
F20: You mentioned you were a speaker. What did you talk about?
CC: This was kind of funny. I had planned to discuss what an important role flowers play in life’s celebrations—but the chief postal director beat me to it in his speech! I was scrambling to expand on his points, because I didn’t want to be repetitive. I asked the audience how many people could remember the last time they received flowers, what they wore to the prom, what they carried at their wedding, etc. As I suspected, almost every hand was in the air.
It was a little stressful coming up with talking points on the spot, but I was so impressed by the postal director’s words. We in the industry know that flowers make people happy, that they have a soothing effect when we’re stressed, that they express feelings when we don’t know what to say. We talk about it all the time. To hear it from a consumer? That was really powerful.
F20: What effect do you hope the stamps will have?
CC: I hope they’ll foster an appreciation for professionally designed flowers and that consumers will associate flowers with celebratory moments. I’ve been so touched by the outpouring of kind messages from fellow florists; it would be wonderful if these stamps could help my friends in the industry!