How Detroit-Based Flower Press Elevates + Grows Artists

Meet a few of the artists behind Flower Press, a Detroit-based equitable publishing practice that features artists to elevate important issues.

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Photos by Ali Yaqubian

The opinions and viewpoints expressed in this interview are those of the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and viewpoints of The Sill.

We had the chance to chat with three incredible women who are using their art to elevate issues that are important to them and the world around us. They all share their work through Flower Press, an Detroit-based equitable publishing practice that centers womxn, femme, queer and trans writers, artists and practitioners. In this interview, you’ll hear from three people:

Zoe Minikes

How did Flower Press come to life?

I started the press about a year and a half ago. I reached out to friends like Corbin LaMont, Mary Welcome, and Nicole Lavelle to carry their self-published work. Katelyn Rivas reached out to Flower Press early on to produce her stunning collection, Radical Self-Care for Black Women. Our community grew slowly from there. I’m so grateful for the trust of this early group.

How have you found and connected with the Detroit-based artists that Flower Press works with?

Detroit’s contemporary arts and literary scene continues a long, radical, Black legacy. Today, the literary scene is fostered by spaces and projects like Room Project, Nandi’s Knowledge Cafe, Source Booksellers, ARTS.BLACK, Detroit Narrative Agency, the Free Black Women’s Library of Detroit, Paper Street Press Co., and annual events like Kumbuka. So it’s not so much about finding people - they’ve been here!

When I started Flower Press, I reached out to people I admire to connect and learn about their publishing needs. I continue to do that kind of outreach. More recently, many artists have found the press through word of mouth, both in Detroit and beyond. It’s been a slow, natural process, which I think is important. Building relationships of any kind takes time and care.

Flower Press is an Allied Media Projects Sponsored project (exciting!) - can you share what it means to be a part of their sponsored projects program?

It is exciting! It’s humbling to be sponsored and in community alongside people and projects who have been working in Detroit for many years. What it means in practice is that Flower Press and the other projects represented have the ability to apply for grants or receive individual donations without having to carry a cumbersome, expensive non-profit status. Allied Media takes on the institutional burden, removing barriers for many grassroots organizers. It’s one (totally legal, sanctioned) way to mess with a philanthropy system that places an inordinate burden on cultural workers.

What inspired you to bring Plant Jokes to life?

I originally made Plant + Fungus Jokes for friends and family, and I’ve sold it through Flower Press since we started. The jokes are corny, but it’s a good reminder that in addition to the work we do, we need space for joy and laughter. And time with plants!

I used to go on a walk in the woods with my dad every day, and he’d teach me the plants he knew. He taught me how to be a respectful citizen of the natural world. Plants remind us that there is a long history on the land before us and an inherited responsibility for stewardship that we all share. We are all part of this big, very old rhythm - all part of the “nature body” as Nicole puts it!

What’s next for Flower Press and how can we support you and the artists you feature? Are you on the hunt for new artists and creators?

The best way to support artists is to buy their work! Every Tuesday through election day, we’ll donate the press’s share of profits to grassroots organizations fighting voter disenfranchisement. Every Friday through the end of the year, we’ll forego our profit share with artists and give them 100% of profits.

You can donate to the press directly through Allied Media Projects. We’ll use these funds to subsidize printing costs and hope to hire designers and editors in the near future.

If you are a writer, maker, editor, or designer, please reach out and connect - we can’t wait to be in community with you!

Check out Flower Press’ website, Instagram, and donate here.

Nicole Lavelle

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I’m an artist and writer and graphic designer who lives in the rural Bay Area in California. I work in a little upstairs studio in an old post office that’s full of books, boxes, binding machines, and stacks of paper. More recently I suppose I also identify as a local historian and an archivist.

Who are some artists that inspire you?

I’m inspired by people who live artfully, inhaling poetics and exhaling intention. I’m inspired by vernacular artists, folk artists, anonymous artists who are unconcerned with credentials or accolades. I’m inspired by my friends: painters, poets, singers, radio DJs, farmers…

What inspired you to create nature and earth-focused stickers?

I started making stickers that reflect my politics and opinions in 2016 after we elected a fascist president. The first sticker was PUBLIC LANDS, made in response to the president’s using public lands for fracking, drilling, mining, and coal-fired power plants. The rest unfolded as individual responses to specific moments of grief or celebration. These stickers invite me to think about what’s important to me. I think the bumper sticker is a most excellent form.

It’s funny, I generally don’t love the word “nature” because it has this feeling of separating humans from the earth, even though we’re absolutely integrated with the earth’s ecosystems. But I really love the phrase “nature body,” kind of a twist on “body politic.” It came to me from somewhere, was a fragment from my notes, and just made absolute sense. At this point I feel more excited to be part of a nature body than a body politic!

Can you tell us a little bit about pivoting to donate funds from your stickers to Black grassroots organizations? Where have you donated so far?

I didn’t grow up thinking I was privileged, but I now understand that I am. I felt discomfort and shame during the uprisings in the first week of June after George Floyd was killed by police,and I felt compelled to act. I realized I had a resource that I could use to raise funds. I promised myself I’d give only to Black-run grassroots organizations. I wanted to support community-level work.

So far the sticker store has supported: People's Breakfast Oakland, San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper, Play Marin, Black Earth Farms, The Okra Project, TGI Justice Project, The East Oakland Collective, Moments Co-Op, and Walk the Walk 2020. Please look all of those up and donate where you can!

From now until the election, all profits will go to grassroots orgs working to mobilize Black, Latinx, immigrant, and women voters.

What are some of the most important topics you are processing through art?

I think I’m just trying to figure out how to survive in this time and place, find moments of meaning, and facilitate connection and joy and collective feeling.

Does nature impact your art or inspire you? What inspires you to get creative?

I need to be outside often in order to be ok. Lately very little has been inspiring creativity or complex thought, and I’m trying to be ok with that and allow myself to indulge in reading pop-fiction, spooning with my sweetheart and watching tv, talking to the dog in a baby voice, and swimming as often as I can. Some days I feel very bad about it, but in general I trust there will be time for art making later.

What are you working on currently and how can we support you?

It's difficult to work on anything lately! A lot of my work is collaborative and based in my community so that feels impossible right now. Thankfully I work very slowly and long-term and have a bunch of years-long projects that I can pick up later!

But stickers are now! Stickers are exciting. Buy stickers! The sticker store supports my efforts to pay reparations for the privileges I experience.

Check out Nicole’s project Plant Family, follow her on Instagram and check out her stickers & more here.

Maxine McCrann

Tell us a bit about yourself!

Sure! I’m an illustrator, florist, plant adorer and dog mom. I grew up in New York City and moved to Detroit almost six years ago in the hopes of learning to farm flowers and become a floral designer. The change in pace from New York to Detroit has been such a blessing - not only am I able to grow flowers and food, (a lifelong journey, but slowly improving each season) I have more space in my mind for illustrating, which has been a lifelong love and integral part of me that I have always wanted to pursue more seriously.

When did plants and flowers become a part of your life and work?

I think growing up in a city as populated and congested as New York can create a sort of obsession with nature for some people. Collecting plants and buying flowers always felt so precious and important to me, and being without them at different points in my life always made me feel so disconnected from the “real” world.

How did Houseplants for All come to life?

I worked at a beautiful plant store and florist here in Detroit (that has sadly since closed). I had amazing regular customers who would come in with a million questions about each of the plants, so I decided to start making “plant care cards” to help them remember how to treat their plants when they got home. Everyone was so supportive and excited about the cards that I decided to create a tidy compilation of the cards that could be easily brought to the plant store or nursery. When Zoe was interested in creating it with me, it was a done deal!

What was the first plant you’ve ever had? Do you have a favorite plant?

The first plant I had was a giant Bird of Paradise I got at a bodega in New York when I was 17. I brought it into my apartment and could not believe what a difference it made in the feeling of my minimalist childhood home. It was truly a turning point for me! My favorite plant right now (it changes so often!) is probably my monkey mask philodendron. I think most philodendrons are perfect for new plant parents, and give even the most seasoned plant owners so much satisfaction and joy!

What are some of the most important topics you are processing through art?

I think I’m just trying to figure out how to survive in this time and place, find moments of meaning, and facilitate connection and joy and collective feeling.

What are you working on currently and how can we support you?

Right now, I’m doing a ton of illustration work and enjoying connecting with new clients and friends to create custom pieces, logos, and branding. Zoe and I are in the midst of working on another zine and hope to create another volume of Houseplants in the near future. As awkward as I feel on social media, it has been incredible to reach so many new people and get incentive to start an Etsy shop selling prints and enamel pins. Getting feedback on new work and connecting with new folks is definitely my favorite form of support right now!

Check out Maxine’s Houseplants for All book, follow her on Instagram, and check out her Etsy.

Words By The Sill

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