A magazine built for you … out of flowers

>>PARADE

So we had this crazy notion to reproduce a digitally-designed Rose Magazine page using flowers and organic material — just the way the real float builders do, in large-scale, every year.

It seemed like a tangible way of translating this year’s Rose Parade theme — “A Cut Above the Rest” — onto paper (or floral foam, as it were).

It was a harebrained idea, thrown out casually one day in the newsroom, but it was fueled on by unexpected community support. Co-workers in other parts of the office started hearing about it, and they offered up encouragement. Some even volunteered to take up a decorating shift or to cut flowers or to bring us coffee.

The coffee ended up being absolutely indispensable to our team. As our editor Pia Abelgas Orense put it in her editor’s note: “It took days of planning, two visits to the flower district in downtown Los Angeles, 15 solid hours of cutting and gluing flowers, several iPod playlists, and moments of intense labor tempered by bouts of giddiness brought on by exhaustion.”

We also learned about the glory of Styrofoam hot-wire cutters; the absurdity of trying to keep in place hundreds of tiny, round onion seeds; and that some of our colleagues could have a second career as dazzling pro florists.

And we learned still more about the blowing of deadlines — something we thought we knew plenty about after many combined years in the newspaper and magazine biz.

At the end of it all, we produced something that seemed worth celebrating; We had breathed life into a concept. There was cheering and jumping and high-fives. It was even hard to say good-bye. The shriveling remains of our once-living Rose Magazine “float” sat for days afterward in the conference room where it had been born.

The process really shocked us into a whole new level of respect for float builders and decorators, particularly the self-built teams that operate with little to no professional assistance.

What you see here is our finished product, photographed and published on Page 12 of our winter issue as part of the magazine’s index. So as to be more readable, our logo and text got a little digital assistance, but this is pretty much exactly as it looked when we wrapped our own Decoration Day.

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