Savannah is a hotbed of artistic talent, thanks in part to the presence of the Savannah College of Art and Design, as well as a laid-back atmosphere that fosters the kind of “why not?!” vibe that is conducive to exciting and avant-garde design. Floral and event designer Michele Mikulec, otherwise known as Madame Chrysanthemum, is an integral part of the scene and shares some of her thoughts on her favorite subject, flowers.
Michele, first of all, we LOVE Madame Chrysanthemum! Our editor still raves about the flowers you did for a brunch she hosted in Savannah. Tell us a bit about your background—were you raised by “flower/garden people?”
Funny enough, I was not raised by “flower/garden” people, but my very first job at 15 was at Flower Time, a garden center and greenhouse in Levittown, New York. That’s where I began my love affair with all things floral. I remember one spring morning walking into the greenhouse and being taken aback by the vision of hundreds and hundreds of tulips and hyacinths. The smell alone was amazing.
As for my family, they are quite creative. I was lucky to be surrounded and influenced by strong, smart, talented women who worked in the garment district and on Broadway as master patternmakers, seamstresses, and designers—fabricators of all things beautiful.
How did you come up with the name Madame Chrysanthemum?
After months and months of brainstorming, I happened to be looking through a book on the history of flowers. I came upon this painting of a woman in white, sitting in front of a wall of white chrysanthemums. The painting’s title was something along the lines of The Lady in White—Madame Chrysanthemum, although I don’t remember the exact title. I knew instantly that Madame Chrysanthemum was it. There’s a certain sassiness to it, a playfulness. I did not want a “regular” name for the store because I knew, that my store would not be even remotely considered “a regular flower shop.
Describe your shop. It sounds like fun and full of eye candy.
I like to say the store is an explosion of colors and beautiful, sparkly things. I am not afraid of color, glitter, or birds, for that matter. I’m obsessed with birds, bugs, and butterflies in my arrangements, so those find a home in my shop too.
Your work is so exuberant and yet never over the top. What’s your secret?
Well, I feel like my style is constantly evolving. I’m more partial to tighter, fuller designs. But as in all things creative, I know that my work will change as I do and experience things in life.
What do you see in the world of floral and event design that you embrace and what do you eschew?
I love the use of natural elements—branches, moss, rocks, found objects, etc. I am seriously over the whole DIY, Etsy wedding. Enough of this please!
What are some of your design inspirations?
I live for color, so my work is inspired by my paint palette. I’m influenced by sculpture, because I view everything I do as a living piece of art. The novel Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel is about a woman whose passion for life permeates her food. That’s how I view my own work—my passion flows into my flowers. And Dutch and Japanese floral designers are so amazing. I’m constantly striving to learn from their incredible talent.
What kind of arrangements do you design for your own house?
I don’t have flower arrangements, per se, I prefer to have cool-shaped branches I find outside. I like how found wood has its own beauty. But when I do have flowers, I prefer tight bunches of similar flowers. Very simple!