I sold my first flowers at the age of six. Mom continued teaching me about different types and styles of arrangements and floral design, and I kept learning. One day I decided I would go it alone without Mom’s help. I set out to make an arrangement by first selecting a green, rectangular, ceramic container, and then the artificial flowers and filler flowers that I would need. First, I cut a piece of green Styrofoam to fit my container, securing it to the bottom using cling (that sticky stuff I had seen Mom use). Next, I carefully covered the Styrofoam with green moss, ensuring that none of the foam was visible. Mechanics are very important in floral design. Mom used to say that it was like building a house. You had to have a good solid foundation upon which to build or the arrangement could fall apart, and that would reflect poorly upon Cook Floral and your design ability. So now I had a good foundation which was properly concealed, so I made ready to set about the task of arranging my flowers. I wanted to do something a little different than I had been doing (which up to this point had been primarily small fresh flower arrangements), so I decided to try designing this arrangement in a Hogarth curve (a swept down, smooth, flowing S shape) which I had watched Mom design several times. I tried to do everything the same way I had seen Mom do it. It was the sixties, so lots of designs used artificial flowers, and the Hogarth would have typically been made with them as well. Each stem had to have a steel pick (a thin, sharp, serrated steel blade, wrapped around the stem by means of a special mechanical device know as - - you guessed it - - a pick machine) attached to the end of the stem, then be wrapped with green florists’ tape, to hide the mechanics before inserting them deeply into the Styrofoam, ensuring that it wouldn’t easily come out of the arrangement. After having completed this process for each stem, my design was complete. Mom hadn’t taught me anything about pricing yet, so I devised my own pricing method based on my own high opinion of my completed design, and so I priced it for probably three times what my mom would have sold it for! After I tagged it, I carried it over to the front display window and selected the best location for maximum exposure, moved what Mom had sitting there, and substituted my own arrangement in its place.
Imagine Mom’s surprise when a few days later she was waiting on a customer when all of the sudden the woman gasped, saying, “This is exactly what I have been looking for to sit in my entry way!” When Mom saw that the woman had picked up my arrangement, and realized that she had not checked my work, she tried to steer her to a different arrangement. When the woman insisted that the arrangement was perfect, and exactly what she had been searching for Mom said, “I have to confess, my six year old son made that.” The woman told her she didn’t care who made it, that it was perfect and she would take it. Mom checked the arrangement to ensure it would remain intact, and told the customer that she would be able to sell her the arrangement for less than what was on the price tag (though I think the woman would have gladly paid my high price!). Later, when I came to the shop, Mom told me my arrangement had sold as she handed me the money. (As I recall, I think she paid me the full original selling price of the arrangement, and while that was by no means profitable for the business, she must have believed that paying me what I had asked for would encourage me to continue designing.) She was right!