Jenny Diaz_botanical couture

Hope and new growth emerge from the devastation of California’s Creek Fire

            Jenny Moore Diaz is a graphic artist, illustrator, and photographer whose talents have supported many past Slow Flowers Society projects. She has designed visuals for fashion and flower farming clients, and, by virtue of being married to a California firefighter, Jenny has produced dozens of logos and branding for fire stations up and down the state.

California Dreaming, 1960s-inspired, for American Flowers Week (c) Jenny M. Diaz

Since 2016, she’s also brought her drawing, branding, and typography skills to American Flowers Week, so when Jenny expressed interest in creating a floral garment for the botanical couture collection, we jumped at the offer. The result was a 1960s-inspired mini-dress clad in orange and hot pink gerbera daisies, part of the 2019 collection and published in both Florists’ Review and Slow Flowers Journal – Volume One.
            In 2020, Jenny faced the challenge of working with a child at home during the COVID pandemic, mostly all by herself, since her husband Joe was away for days on end fighting fires. She sought to create something beautiful as an artist’s response to chaos.

Jenny M Diaz sketch for botanical couturefloral palette
Jenny’s concept sketch (left) and floral palette selection (right)

“I had an idea of a fire-goddess, a warrior woman who symbolized the strength of fire that leads to new growth,” she explains. “I sketched a flowing gown to look like fire was actually climbing up everything she touched or stepped over — like fire does. I placed this powerful story at Shaver Lake where the Creek Fire happened last summer. My husband was first on the scene for the fire, just 40 minutes from where we live. He was fighting that fire for 45 days straight.”

After the fire portrait
After the Fire, dramatically created and captured by Jenny M. Diaz (c) Jenny M. Diaz photography

            Laura Markle agreed to model Jenny’s fiery floral gown. A friend, competitive bodybuilder, and spouse of a firefighter in Joe’s company, Laura shares Jenny’s complex emotions about living in California confronting the near-constant threat of wildfires and knowing your spouse is on the front lines fighting that fire. “I couldn’t think of a better person to be my model,” Jenny enthuses.
            Jenny designed a two-piece garment: a draping, eight-foot-long skirt and a body suit with a structured, one-shoulder ruffle. She worked with Carlos Cardoza at CamFlor Inc. in Watsonville, California, generous donor of all the flowers for this project, to specify a flame-inspired spectrum of flowers — from yellow pincushion protea, Asiatic lilies, kangaroo paw, and craspedia, to dark orange-red sunflowers and gerberas to red ranunculus.
Jenny worked with her mother-in-law to design and sew the asymmetrical, wraparound cotton denim skirt. She dip-dyed the fabric in a yellow-to-red gradation, which the flowers eventually covered. Jenny dyed the knit bodysuit bright yellow and then reinforced the shoulder ruffle with a layer of stiff cardboard so it wouldn’t hang flat once flowers were attached using Oasis cold glue.

Jenny M. Diaz botanical couture
Another scene capturing the devastation of the Creek Fire in 2020

            Finding the desired background nearby to photograph her floral gown wasn’t hard. More than 375,000 acres burned in the Creek Fire, which sadly made a charred and ash-strewn setting against which to photograph the garment easily accessible. Joe Diaz, a firefighter since 2004, helped her scout a location not far beyond a fire access road where crews were using heavy equipment to remove dangerous trees and clear debris. Jenny, Laura, and Joe hiked down a steep ravine and climbed large boulders to photograph the flame dress against the scorched and raw landscape, still covered in ash. As far as the eye could see, stood charred stumps of pine trees. “The location had all the elements I was looking for,” Jenny explains. “And I thought it would be more impactful for Laura to be barefoot, emphasizing the lack of vegetation.”

I wanted to show that there’s hope, even after fire. It was amazing to see little sprouts of green already coming up through the earth. There is devastation, but also hope and beauty.

jenny m. diaz

            As creative director, Jenny designed and fabricated the garment, turning her idea into a gown flowered with all-California-grown botanicals. Multi-talented, she also served as photographer. The final expression achieves all she hoped for. “I wanted to show that there’s hope, even after fire. It was amazing to see little sprouts of green already coming up through the earth. There is devastation, but also hope and beauty.”

Creative Team:

Floral Palette: California-grown flowers and foliages donated by CamFlor Inc.,, @camflorinc
Design: Jenny Diaz, Jenny M. Diaz Design,, @jennymdiaz
Seamstress: Hortensia Lopez
Model: Laura Markle, @mrsthemarkle
Hair: Jenny Diaz
Makeup: Alyson Wolfe, @alysonwolfe
Photographer: Jenny Diaz
Venue:  Shaver Lake, Shaver, California