Amy Streeter is not your typical floral designer — she is is actually an artist who works with flowers as her medium. Though the name on the door still says Susan’s Florist, a revered Louisville institution since 1942, Amy has owned it for twelve years. The work is all hers too, and some of her creative creations include the annual Rose Dress during Derby and floral sculptures, such as the ten foot floral peacock at the Speed Ball. This is a pretty far reach for someone who started her career selling paper!
When did you discover that you had a talent for this?
I began working at a florist in Lexington after graduating from University of Kentucky in Business Administration and Biology. I was saving money to travel in Europe and my first day on the job was Valentine’s Day! I did not design at that point, but I met a friend there who taught me some basic skills. Later, I married, moved to Atlanta, and was selling paper for Georgia-Pacific. I started visiting the fabulous farmers market in Atlanta as I loved the flowers at those markets and I began enjoying making arrangements, especially for holidays and dinner parties. We moved back to Louisville after our first son, Stuart, was born. I did the wedding florals for my sister and Virginia Rankin from Mert’s Cakes began giving out my name to brides. I started “playing” with flowers and helping friends with flowers out of my house and my business grew by word of mouth to about 50 weddings/events yearly.
Your work is art with flowers, rather than typical floral design. When did you start experimenting with different design?
My Kentucky Master Florist certification classes gave me an opportunity to learn different design styles. Working with Bittner’s designer Ron Wolz in my position as floral chair of the Speed Art Museum Ball has afforded me a platform to go beyond everyday designs. Each year, the theme is different and the fabulous flowers have been a long standing expectation at the event. The ten foot floral peacock I created a few years ago was truly a piece of “floral art.”
Tell us about the Rose Dress for Derby.
The inspiration came as a result of a request from Andre Wilson of Style Icon. He asked me to help create something with fresh roses for a Churchill Downs style show three years ago. The result was a red rose full floral skirt and garland top worn by Rachel Wagoner. It was a huge hit and I repeated the outfit for Unbridled Eve at Derby. It was featured in the Wall Street Journal that year.
I was asked to create a dress again the next year for Shannon Voss Burton. I worked with Andre on my idea to do something totally different and thus the “rose train” was designed.
Last year, Shannon wore the dress again which I wanted to portray a “swirl of roses”.
In 2013 and 2014, the Rose Dress was on the Red Carpet at Churchill Downs on Derby Day. The dress has been highlighted on Great Day Live and shown on NBC. All three dresses are a pave design with tightly packed roses, over 600 in each dress. It takes two to three days to hand-wire, weave and design the dress. Because they are each hand-wired there are very few roses that fall off the dress. I have added several dozen roses on Saturday morning before Shannon and I walk the Red Carpet to ensure the dress is spectacular. There are many hours before that to develop the concept, prepare the roses and fit the model. It then goes into the cooler whenever it is not being worn. As crazy and stressful as it is, I adore the challenge and have already put mental sketches together for next year.
With four children, and a business that is weekend and event-based, how do you balance your job and your personal life?
I am blessed my wonderful husband, JR, who not only helps with carpool, homework and dishes but also comes to Susan’s on Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day to join the “organized chaos”! Our children also help at home and at the shop. We try to have family dinners together and JR and I enjoy date night when we can. I also take daily walks with my sister, Paula, and I have wonderful girlfriends who laugh and listen and love.
What is your favorite flower?
It is impossible for me to say just ONE flower: freesia, scabiosa, runnuculus, tulips and of course hydrangeas.
What is the biggest mistake people make when ordering flowers?
When you place an order thru an on-line service, you miss the personal touch of local shop. Unless someone has a specific request, I suggest our designers use what looks beautiful for that occasion since we have fresh flowers in every day.
What is the biggest life lesson you have ever learned?
That attitude is so very important. I have to come to understand that I only have control of my own actions AND how I react to the actions of someone else.
What is best advice you have received in business?
If there is problem, get to them with the information before they get to you. Customer service is key.
If you were not in your current job, what would you secretly love to do?
I would travel by train to Istanbul.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I met my husband on a blind date to Doug and Anne Proffitt’s wedding 23 years ago!
What is your favorite place to go eat?
Where do you like to shop?
With so many great local boutiques and consignment shops, I look first on Frankfort Avenue or Bardstown Road before I head to the mall.
What is a treat or a luxury you do for yourself?
The perfect hairstyle from Todd at Vertu salon for a black tie event and a pedicure.
What is your weakness?
I enjoy being involved in charitable events, but sometimes overcommit myself given that we have so many great causes.
What is your favorite thing to do in Louisville?
Three things you cannot live without (besides God, family and friends):
- Walking or yoga
- Relaxing by pool on weekend
- Coffee and a positive attitude to start the day
What are you reading right now?
The Poisonwood Bible, by Kentucky native Barbara Kingsolver.
What are three of your “favorite” things right now:
- Time with my niece Eloise (3yrs) and nephew Everett (1yr) who are so adorable!
- Girls margarita night at El Mundo
- Bike rides with my daughter Margaret
We loved visiting Amy at Susan’s Florist and watching her in action. We saw her designing flowers for a wedding and putting together flowers for 21c Museum Hotel. For more information about Susan’s Florist, click here: www.susansflorist.com
As always, much gratitude to my FACES photographer Adele Reding and her fantastic work. See her profile here: www.facebook.com