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Hamtramck, Michigan – Florist Turns Old Abandoned House into Floral Art Installation



Hamtramck, Michigan - Florist Turns Old Abandoned House into Floral Art Installation

HAMTRAMCK, Mich. — Eleven months ago, a derelict house here that is now filled with 36,000 flowers contained far grimmer things. A dead dog. Jammed toilets, untouched for years. Broken glass from beer bottles and shattered windows.

Twelve thousand pounds of trash had to be hauled out before Lisa Waud, a florist who bought the duplex at auction for $250, could see what kind of canvas she had purchased.

The house remains a structural wreck, but its atmosphere has been transformed. This weekend, some 2,000 visitors will tour Flower House, an art installation Ms. Waud and more than three dozen floral collaborators from around the country created on the site. Their goal is to cast a new light on the Detroit metropolitan area’s infamous blight, and on their own trade.

The dwelling’s empty rooms — with their peeling wallpaper, exposed wooden beams and a few items of abandoned furniture left intact — have been turned into a series of still-life tableaus. All of the plants and flowers filling them are American-grown, a rarity in an industry that imports a majority of its wares from Colombia and elsewhere.

Branches and foliage in the main room of the Flower House. Laura McDermott for The New York Times 

Ms. Waud is the owner of Pot & Box, a floral design business. Like most independent florists, she earns her living almost entirely from weddings and work for corporate clients, but she lights up when she talks about the beauty that plants can add to daily life.

The inspiration for Flower House struck in 2012, when she saw images from that season’s Christian Dior couture show, held in a Parisian mansion filled with flowers in a rainbow of colors.

“It was stunning, and I knew immediately that I wanted to do that — but living in Detroit, I pictured it in an abandoned house,” she said. “I’m trying to rebrand abandoned houses as a resource.”

Hamtramck, Michigan - Florist Turns Old Abandoned House into Floral Art Installation

Her vision began to become real last November, when she paid $500 at auction, sight unseen, for the house that was to become Flower House and its next-door neighbor. As she told other designers about her plan, seeking ideas and volunteers, what started as an artistic daydream became a formal project with budgets, permits, complicated logistics and deadlines.

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Ms. Waud estimated that she would need to raise $150,000 to cover the installation’s floral costs, but when she contacted her usual wholesalers, the California Cut Flower CommissionMayesh and Nordlie, all three offered to donate their flowers. The 36 other florists designing rooms in Flower House were equally eager to contribute materials and their time.

Helen Daley, a volunteer, working with potted flowers on Tuesday. Laura McDermott for The New York Times 

Sally Vander Wyst, the owner of Milwaukee Flower Company, heard about the project through a podcast and immediately contacted Ms. Waud to volunteer. She is designing a kitchen, covering the decaying cupboards and a salvaged table with artichokes, moss, hanging vines, ferns and a profusion of dahlias, gladiolas and foxglove.

“Our concept is post-apocalyptic spooky,” she said. “We want it to look like the world ended and nature took things back within seconds.”

To make Flower House stable enough for her installation, Ms. Waud hired Reclaim Detroit, a nonprofit that specializes in deconstruction, a more expensive but environmentally minded alternative to demolition. Reclaim Detroit’s crews recycle and salvage whatever they can, reselling the materials to woodworkers and artisans.

Like Ms. Waud, Craig Varterian, the executive director of Reclaim Detroit, views the area’s derelict buildings as an economic resource. “These structures range from horrible to an absolute disaster, but there’s still worth in them in terms of fixtures and lumber,” he said. “Pre-1930s, there’s a different type of wood. It has real value, and it doesn’t exist anymore.”

Reclaim Detroit’s workers cleared the garbage from Ms. Waud’s house and stripped away its layers of filth. Mixed in with the debris, they found some hints of its past life. A thick stack of calendar pages tacked to a wall ends with January 1999 displayed on top. Photos of the former owners, identified by a neighbor, turned up in the attic. On a bedroom wall, Ms. Waud hung a china plate with a message that seemed tailor-made for her project: “This Is My House And I’ll Do As I Darn Please.”

After a weekend of display, the Flower House will be demolished. Laura McDermott for The New York Times 

Flower House will be opened to ticketed visitors from Friday until Sunday. When the installation is finished, Reclaim Detroit’s crew will take down the house, leaving an empty field. The wood will be repurposed into new objects like tables, guitars and cutting boards.

“These materials will carry on the story of Flower House in a tangible way,” said Jeremy Haines, the Reclaim Detroit employee who coordinated the project. “It creates a legacy that people will have in their hands.”

The house itself is not salvageable. Like so many of the derelict Detroit homes that sell for rock-bottom prices, this one would cost more to rehabilitate than it is ever likely to be worth. A construction engineer whom Ms. Waud spoke with estimated the repair costs at $1 million. Paying this year’s property taxes on Flower House and its neighbor cost Ms. Waud three times what she spent to actually buy them.

When the lot is cleared, Ms. Waud plans to turn it into a seasonal farm to help supply flowers like peonies and dahlias for her business.

Susan McLeary, the owner of Passionflower in Ann Arbor, Mich., and one of Flower House’s designers, said that was one aspect that drew her to the venture. Urban agriculture is gaining attention, but few people think of flowers as a cash crop.

A floral artist gazing at the ceiling in the Flower House, which will be open to the public Friday through Sunday. Laura McDermott for The New York Times 

“Per square foot, flowers are one of the more profitable things you can do with dirt,” she said. “This might be an interesting idea to get into the consciousness, that you can be an urban flower farmer and bring money into your community.”

Other cities have experimented with that idea, most notably Baltimore, which recently commissioned a study on the economic viability of turning some of the city’s 14,000 vacant lots into leased land for small-scale flower farms.

Those in the industry say they see rising demand for locally sourced flowers. Ms. Vander Wyst, who specializes in domestic plants, said an increasing number of her clients specifically seek her out for that reason.

“We’re obsessed with the farmer, the maker, the organic grower, but for the longest time, flowers somehow got skipped in that dialogue,” said Debra Prinzing, a writer and lecturer who spearheads what she calls Slow Flowers, a parallel to the Slow Food movement.

Last year, she created a directory of farmers and florists who specialize in American-grown foliage. It now has 600 members, a few dozen of whom are involved in Flower House.

Ms. Waud said she hoped Flower House would inspire those who encounter it to think more critically about where the flowers they buy come from and about the diversity of American blooms. She was also excited about the pure fun of coating an entire site in flowers by the truckload.

“Wedding work is fun, translating the vision into flowers, but to have this kind of creative freedom is really rare for florists,” she said. “The sheer scale of it is incredible, and I’m blown away by the community that came together for this. I’m going to be in happy, emotional tears the whole weekend.”

Ms. McLeary, who recently toured the empty house to plan her room’s installation — succulents will be a prominent feature — said she couldn’t wait to see the structure brought back for its last, ephemeral bit of life.

“It’s a beautiful ruin,” she said. “It’s charming, kind of scary and eerie, and beautiful in a dark way. To step into it is going to be surreal, and unforgettable.”

Source [NY TIMES]

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Padma Lakshmi’s Viral Fourth of July Pie Featured a Political Message



Padma Lakshmi's Viral Fourth of July Pie Featured a Political Message

Padma Lakshmi used pie to make a political statement during her Fourth of July celebrations this year.

Lakshmi made a berry pie with the phrase “close the camps” written with dough on the top for Thursday’s holiday. The “Top Chef” host and author seemed to be referring to the controversial immigration detention facilities at the US border, which many have compared to concentration camps.

The host, who describes herself as an “immigrant” in her Twitter bio, shared a photo of her dessert with followers on social media, calling it a “truly American pie.”

In a subsequent tweet, Lakshmi urged her followers to contact their local representatives and “demand they #CloseTheCamps.” She also shared an image of herself holding the pie.

Lakshmi’s political dessert got a lot of users talking on Twitter.

Some were even inspired to create their own politically-inspired treats for the Fourth of July.

Other users were less enthusiastic, and some even “fixed” Lakshmi’s pie to better align with their own political views to say “close the borders.”

Lakshmi’s baking project also gained the support of celebrities like Busy Philipps and Amy Schumer, who shared their support on social media.


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Thanks for posting this @padmalakshmi @laurabenanti #closethecamps

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The “Top Chef” host and author is the latest celebrity to speak out in support of immigrant rights. Stars like Mindy Kaling, Chrissy Teigen, and John Legend have donated their time or money to pro-immigration organizations while condemning anti-immigrant sentiments.

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‘Crazy’ Raccoon Dog Terrorizes Villagers in the UK

A wild raccoon dog has been terrorizing a U.K. village, terrifying locals and attacking pets.

SWNS reports that police were called to Clarborough in Nottinghamshire this week after some residents were subjected to a two-hour standoff with the strange-looking animal.



'Crazy' Raccoon Dog Terrorizes Villagers in the UK

A wild raccoon dog has been terrorizing a U.K. village, terrifying locals and attacking pets.

SWNS reports that police were called to Clarborough in Nottinghamshire this week after some residents were subjected to a two-hour standoff with the strange-looking animal.

Villager Mandy Marsh was woken by a “blood-curdling scream” early on Tuesday morning and her husband Dale ran outside to see a raccoon dog confronting the couple’s pet goat and pony. “He came back and he said to me ‘you are going to have to come and see this, there is something in the field attacking the pony and I have absolutely no idea what it is’,” she told SWNS.

“This raccoon was absolutely crazy. It was hissing and screaming and snarling,” Marsh added. “It was going absolutely mad.”

Armed with planks of wood, it took the couple two hours to chase the angry raccoon dog away, although their pet goat was left with a sore shoulder and scratches following the animal’s attack.

The raccoon dog returned moments later to confront a dog walker outside the March’s home, according to SWNS.

Police have warned local residents to be vigilant.

'Crazy' Raccoon Dog Terrorizes Villagers in the UK

Two raccoon dogs went missing from a nearby enclosure on the morning of May 28, according to Nottinghamshire Police. “The animals, which are described as being the same size of a medium-to-small-sized dog, are potentially dangerous if approached as they are not domesticated,” it added, in a statement.

Marsh said that a local wildlife tracker offered to help track the raccoon dogs and had told her that something had been attacking local animals recently.

'Crazy' Raccoon Dog Terrorizes Villagers in the UK

Raccoon dogs are not raccoons, but are members of the canid, or dog family, according to the U.K.’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). They are related to foxes and wolves.

“Raccoon dogs are wild animals – rather than domesticated pets,” it explains, on its website, noting that the animals pose “a highly invasive risk” to native species in Europe.

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Creator of Viral Twitter Heroin Hoax Shane Morris Starts GoFundMe to Hide From MS-13

Nashville web developer Shane Morris sat down at his computer Monday night, opened Twitter, and tried to go viral.

“Y’all wanna hear a story about the…



reator of Viral Twitter Heroin Hoax Shane Morris Starts GoFundMe to Hide From MS-13

Nashville web developer Shane Morris sat down at his computer Monday night, opened Twitter, and tried to go viral.

“Y’all wanna hear a story about the time I accidentally transported a brick of heroin from Los Angeles to Seattle?” Morris tweeted. “I bet. Alright, let’s do this…”

The story, according to Morris, went as follows: A few years back, he discovered a package of heroin in a van he had purchased. Instead of turning the drugs in, he quickly sold them—making him an admitted to drug trafficker. For a year or so, nothing important happened. But then, the son of the van’s previous owner tried to buy back the van, ostensibly in an attempt to reclaim the heroin. According to Morris, he fooled the son into thinking that the heroin was still there by packaging a copy of John Grisham’s The Pelican Brief and putting it where the drugs had been.

If this wasn’t crazy enough, Morris—still on Twitter—then taunted Salvadoran gang MS-13, claiming that he had tricked one of the gang’s members out of the money with a John Grisham book.

Morris’ tweets were a hit, garnering more than 67,000 retweets and getting aggregated across the Internet. The heroin escapades offered the rare chance Twitter users to share in an experience that wasn’t about a disaster or politics, with one declaring it “the greatest fucking story I’ve ever read.”

“THIS IS ABSOLUTELY WILD,” tweeted New York Times reporter Sopan Deb.

A few days later, though, Morris is reconsidering whether his viral fame was such a good idea. Having taunted a deadly gang, he is now saying the thread was not true.

“I realized, because of my lie, that it’s not fun to fuck with MS-13,” Morris told The Daily Beast.

Morris said that his Twitter thread, which he stresses was a fabrication, has prompted real threats against his life. And so he’s embarked on a separate internet campaign to clean up the mess he created. In a Medium post on Friday, Morris insisted the story was fake.

“Most importantly, I definitely didn’t rob an MS-13 gang member,” Morris wrote. “In retrospect, that’s probably the dumbest thing you can write and put on the internet.”

Morris isn’t the first person to fabricate a Twitter story for internet clout and almost assuredly won’t be the last. In 2013, a Bachelor producer went viral for tweets about passive aggressive notes passed on an airplane, but later admitted it was all fake.

But Morris may be the first to face death threats over his Twitter story, presuming that those threats are actually true themselves. Morris is supposedly in such risk, he said, that he made a GoFundMe page to pay for his disappearance along with his wife. The fundraising pitch is pretty straightforward: “I Need To Go Into Hiding.”

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