The beautiful side of death

Published: Sunday | March 29, 2009

Photos by Paul Williams
This crossed-shaped wreath welcomes customers to Ann-Marie Mowatt's (right) flower shop.

Paul H. Williams, Gleaner Writer

Wreaths are always taken to funerals, even when there are instructions not to take them along. For, what is a funeral without floral arrangements? One thing's for sure: Laying them is a tradition that will not be dying anytime soon.

They are a pretty relief to the sorrow and gloom that surround funerals. One woman who helps to alleviate the sadness at these solemn events is Ann-Marie Mowatt.

Wreath shop

She operates a little wreath shop near the cluster of funeral homes in western Kingston. The business used to be owned by her father, who died about 15 years ago. It was from his dying bed that he told Ann-Marie to carry on what he had started. She didn't think twice.

"I believe that a woman should work ... . I didn't hesitate or anything," she said beaming. By then, she had already learnt the art of floral arrangement from him.

However, there was to be a change in the types of flowers used. In her father's time, natural flowers were used. Oftentimes, the creations were done on the day of the funeral, or just before, as freshness of the flowers was desired. On a trip to Canada, Ann-Marie saw that artificial flowers were used for similar purposes, and upon her return adopted the concept.

Flowers and ribbons

The foam, which forms the base of the wreaths, is made locally, but the flowers and ribbons are mostly imported. While patrons can walk in and choose ready-made arrangements, Ann-Marie also satisfies special orders, from colour-coded and gender-specific ones to those shaped like guns, cars, bikes, etc.

Though wreaths are always in demand, Ann-Marie conceded that business can be slow. But she has got a solution for that.

"When you get the money, you have to learn to save, and if you not saving, you not gonna reach anywhere, and you have to learn to budget. Saving is the key to the business," explained the entrepreneur, who uses her vehicle to transport the dead to earn extra cash. Collaborating with the funeral homes is also central to her operations.

Ann-Marie Mowatt is the sole proprietor of her wreath-making business and does everything from acquiring materials to enclosing her works of art in transparent plastic wrappings. It is an occupation which she loves dearly, for many reasons.

"Mi love my work. I'll die for it. I love it. It give me my house. It give me my vehicle. It give me anything I want.