Diary of a photo shoot: Melissa Feveyear, Terra Bella Flowers

by Debra Prinzing

The ‘Sunday Brunch’

For the past few years, we have been fusing our respective storytelling talents to shape and finesse a book project about the seasonal, local and sustainable flower world.  Of course, we realize that once we sign with a publisher, our working title, “A Fresh Bouquet” may change, but to us the phrase . . . a fresh bouquet . . . suggests fresh-from-the-field and fresh-in-the-season flower growing, gathering and design.  It is a concept we have come to believe in more and more completely as we’ve progressed, getting to know the passionate people who make such bouquets a beautiful, working reality.

We have felt blessed with the support of kindred spirits at every step along the way thus far, as we’ve  journeyed toward building this project into an elegant book. Our belief that the universe has been opening its doors to the creation of this project was certainly reinforced on January 31st, when we arrived at Terra Bella Flowers & Mercantile, a floral design studio owned by Melissa Feveyear. David had originally met Melissa last fall, photographing her with our mutual friend Diane Szukovathy, of Jello Mold Farm, as Diane delivered organic cut flowers to Melissa’s North Seattle shop.

When we decided that we needed to produce yet one more mini-chapter for our book’s prototype, we asked Melissa if she would be willing to design the floral arrangements for us and allow us to photograph at her studio in Seattle’s Greenwood district. Thankfully, Melissa said yes. Her studio is in a retail district with a cool antique furniture store on one side and a hip coffee shop and vegan bakery on the other. Good vibes all around. The floral shop interiors are decorated in a luxurious-bohemian style, suggesting a Soho loft space. The high ceilings, chocolate brown and robin’s egg blue walls and the saturated jewel-tones of the furniture reinforce this feeling.

David shooting video clips of Melissa at work. (D.Prinzing photo)

The fine art of producing a photo spread involves equal parts of creative genius and logistical skill. In advance of our shoot, David visited the space to walk through it with Melissa; they decided where and how to orient the main shot. They talked about the type of vase Melissa envisioned using, as well as the availability of flowers and other design ingredients, given that it was still winter.

Later, Melissa sent us both a photograph of a tall, sexy glass vase from her personal collection. It is footed and fluted, with an almost Art Deco vibe. We knew that when the flowers were added, the arrangement would be almost 5-feet tall. That scale seemed ideal for the high volume ceilings.

Since I planned to fly into Seattle the night prior to the shoot, I asked my designer-friend Jean Zaputil to lend a hand with styling the set. Jean is an interior and landscape designer who has styled for some of my previous stories. She is a gifted artist and excellent collaborator. Jean also visited Melissa to talk about the floral palette and to see the studio space.

Melissa planned to use sustainably-grown roses from an Oregon source, organically-grown parrot tulips and hyacinths from a farmer in Washington, and greenery (camellia and sword ferns) from hers and her mother’s garden. Diane surprised Melissa with some just-harvested organic goodies from her farm, including glossy green acanthus foliage and winter-blooming white forsythia (Abeliophyllum distichum).  Jean cut bunches of berry-laden heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) from a client’s yard. We were good to go on the floral ingredients.

Photographer and Floral Designer (D.Prinzing photo)

A few days before our photo shoot, while Melissa was sourcing flowers, Jean went to town pulling props from her own cupboard (the beautiful terra cotta-colored casserole dish was Jean’s grandmother’s, for example), buying fabric for a tablecloth and throw, and shopping for food props like the pastries and fruit. Little did she know that the pomegranate and apricots would end up in Melissa’s design rather than on a tray.

All this pre-planning led to a smooth, collaborative Sunday morning at Terra Bella. We’re not sure how he pulled it off, but David managed to both produce dozens of glorious, yummy still-life and detail photographs while also shooting a behind-the-scenes video of our day. You can see that video above.

If this “Sunday Brunch” with Melissa and Jean is the model for how we will create the rest of “A Fresh Bouquet,” then we feel very blessed indeed. It couldn’t have been more artistically rewarding. We can’t wait to do our next photo shoot!

The ‘Sunday Brunch’ players (left to right): floral designer, Melissa Feveyear, set stylist, Jean Zaputil, photographer/videographer, David Perry and author, Debra Prinzing

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Patricia Reid January 24, 2012 at 6:13 pm

I was given a display of flowers from “Terra Bella Flowers” two weeks before Christmas. I was hoping that they would last until Christmas day and to my surprise they did. I added a few more Chrissy flowers and I had a center piece for me Christmas day dinner. Melissa is such a wonderful designer, I would recommend her to all my friends, and business associates.

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