Reader Dianne commented on this blog yesterday that she always wondered how people installed holiday decorations that would stay put. We wonder that same thing on occasion. Few buildings come outfitted with hooks and screws especially installed to make a holiday decorating scheme easy to install. We had but the most sketchy plan to install garland on this giant metal awning at the First National Building in downtown Detroit. We had never been up there, and had no idea what to expect. We knew the length of garland that we needed, and had a design and fabrication plan in place. How would we hang it? We brought giant metal hooks, concrete wire, long bamboo poles, florist’s wire, a bucket of tools, and some big ladders.
The roof over the doors was almost 40 feet long, and better than 14 feet off the ground. The building goes up many stories. This meant that everything about this garland had to be overscaled. A extra lush and thick fir garland was not enough. We wired two garlands together. Then we added 100 feet of grapevine garland, and lots of big sugar pine cones. We had an incredibly heavy 50 foot long garland that needed to get up on that roof. The saving grace of the day? The roof was strong enough to walk on.
What a relief. Handling a very heavy garland high in the air on a ladder takes lots of physical strength and just as much nerve. My crew handles it with aplomb. But everyone was happy that they could be up on the roof.
Once the garland was on the roof, it had to be positioned such that the decoration attached in the shop was facing front and center. We usually attach materials to garland with zip ties or florists wire that is loose-in the shop. It is easy tighten up elements in a garland-it is time consuming and tough to loosen them up. A garland with all of the other elements pasted to its surface looks clumsy. Making a big heavy and cumbersome thing look airy and natural-that would entail a great installation. Though we do as much as we can in the shop, the installation may require some changes in the field. Changes in the field need to be handled with simple tools, and quickly. As in pliers and spring loaded wire cutters. It was 41 degrees today. A beautiful installation is a strong and sturdy installation that appears graceful and light.
We had three people on the roof, and three people on the ground. Securing the garland was one job. Advising about what made it appear natural and beautiful came from me- from my view across the street. The fact that we could walk on the roof-what a relief. It took hours off the installation time.
Every person who works on my crews is talented and gifted in their own right. They know that every plant has a face. They can plant a hedge that is straight within inches. They know how to fluff a holiday look. They know how to properly plant trees. They can plant a container from a plan in no time-perfectly. They make the work of hauling many pounds of garland to a roof, and installing it an art form.
One on the roof, and one on the ground-talking about what to move this way or that. This is a moment I treasure-whether we are installing a garden, installing a landscape, or creating a seasonal garden. Watching them work out the final details is a pleasure.
Our first sinamay bow was way too small. There was much discussion about the scale and proportion. I like that discussion. If I don’t get it right the first time around, I have a crew which is happy to go back, and make it right. At 7:30 this morning I was making another one – three times larger. In my hand, it seemed impossibly large. Up on the roof, it seemed just fine.