Mariela was the winner of our 2021 Valentine’s Day Contest.
FR: How did you get your start in the florist industry?
MM: I’m from Venezuela, so I grew up in all surrounded by very large, beautiful nature—rain forests, beaches inside rainforests, etc. I studied law, but I never worked as a lawyer. I’ve always loved design, especially interior design. After I came to the United States, COVID hit, and I was at home alone. I saw an opportunity for an online workshop, which I registered for. I have always loved flowers, and I have always had flowers in my homes, in Venezuela and here. When the online workshop flowers came, I had so much fun creating a centerpiece with a florist. It felt effortless, and I knew that I had found my passion. After the workshop, I started creating arrangements, photographing them and posting the photos on my personal Instagram. Family and friends said, “It looks like you’ve always done this! Why haven’t you done this before?” So, in July 2020, I started my business, Madonna Lily, which is based in my home. I primarily do freelance work for floral friends and event companies, but I also do arrangements for my growing list of clients. In the future, I would love to do some traveling with freelance, which would be great for me because I love to travel, and it’s one of my main sources of inspiration.
FR: What kind of floral design training have you had?
MM: During the pandemic, I attended a lot of various types of online workshops, including those by Tulipina, Ponderosa & Thyme, Willow Crossley, Fleursociety, Masks of the Moon, Floret, New York Botanical Garden and FlowerSchool New York. I’ve also attended in-person classes and workshops at Aniska Creations, Sophie Felts Floral Design and La Musa de las Flores, and I look forward to attending workshops in England and South Korea.
FR: What floral designers inspire you most?
MM: Kianna Underwood, from Tulipina, is my No. 1 source of inspiration. I really admire her. I also love the work and styles of Ashley Fox, of Ashley Fox Designs, and Brynna Levine, of Masks of the Moon.
FR: How do you describe your style?
MM: My arrangements are dramatic and very abundant. I like a lot of flowers, but I don’t use a lot of greenery; instead, I use flowers to work as greenery. I don’t want to disturb the color combinations in my arrangements with a lot of green. I love the Baroque period of the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe, Italy. The palaces and their manicured gardens and the jewelry of that period inspire me a lot, but I also always try to add my signature modern touch. I love vintage containers with classic but modern designs.
FR: How do you envision your career in the florist industry progressing?
MM: I want to continue what I’m doing but also freelance internationally. I also do a lot of styling, so I would like to do more of that; it inspires me a lot. I really love fine papers, so I’m thinking about creating a Madonna Lily stationery line—cards, notebooks, etc.—with photographs of my designs.
FR: Do you have any interest in owning a retail shop?
MM: Someday, but not right now. I’m having fun doing what I’m doing, and it’s very rewarding. It also gives me the freedom to travel. My family doesn’t live here, so I travel. In the future, however, I would like to have a beautiful small retail store, like some of the flower shops in Europe that are so stunning. Just beautiful flowers in the window and someone inside selling beautiful arrangements. That would be a dream for me one day—maybe with a little garden in the back and a little coffee shop.
FR: You have great photography. What are some your tricks for creating such clear, crisp imagery?
MM: I take all my photos with my phone—all of them. Images are very important to me, and I want them to be accurate to my colors. I took a FlowerSchool New York workshop on photography where I learned really interesting techniques: which filters to use, lighting and backdrops. Beautiful backdrops are very important to me. Really, it’s very simple.