Guest article by Bruce Wright, Editor of Flowers& Magazine:

If you are a high-end floral designer, and especially if you are a wedding and event specialist, it’s a given that you are selling, not just a beautiful product, but also impeccable service and—most important—your own professional skill, talent, and vision.

But how do you keep your skills honed, your talent inspired, your vision well-informed? Of course, you might want to subscribe to a great monthly floral design magazine like Flowers&! But apart from that, the best resource I know is the American Institute of Floral Designers, and in particular, the annual AIFD Symposium.

At this summer’s Symposium (July 3-7 in Chicago), one message permeated the 11 main-stage design programs—not to mention the many “sidebar” learning opportunities, from meal functions (like the glamorous final banquet, seen above, in the grand ballroom of the Chicago Hilton, with décor by Kevin Coble AIFD and Kevin Hinton AIFD) to early-morning workshops:

If you want to succeed in this highly competitive business, you can never get enough new ideas and techniques. You must be willing to invest and believe in yourself as a floral artist. You must also be ready to show customers what you do and place a high market value on that service. This is how you do just that:

How-To Can-Do

The message is great to hear, but this summer’s AIFD presenters went one better: they followed up with details of construction, event marketing and money-saving advice for one stunning, innovative design after another. The combination is what gets Symposium participants fired up and ready to go out and conquer the world.

Having just come from Symposium and written a report on the event for the September issue of Flowers& magazine (now on its way to the printer), I feel humbly aware that a few photos and notes can never equal the impact of actually attending Symposium programs. Nonetheless, I will share just a few examples of the ideas shared from the Symposium stage.

Profit in Props

Special-event experts Rudy Grant AIFD and David Siders AIFD devoted a whole program to the topic of making money with rentable props—many of them custom-made or custom-embellished, so they can be yours alone and offer a way to stand out from your competition.

  • Do you already customize vases and votives with decorative covers? Attach them to elastic netting (like the netting that comes on fuji mums or certain fruits) so the cover slips on, then comes off and stores flat.
  • Use strong, sturdy ceiling wire from the hardware store as a wand for a flower girl to carry a long flower garland on high.
  • Many weddings have printed programs, but no attractive place to keep them or way to distribute them; offer a decorated basket with flower petals in the bottom.
  • When you arrange flowers to sit on top of a candelabrum or tall vase, make the design in a removable clear plastic design tray for easy transport—and hang the tray with crystals to enhance the design.

Re-Use and Re-Purpose

The idea that floral designs used in the ceremony can be re-purposed for the reception is not new—but Walter Fedyshyn AIFD, PFCI and Lottie Nys AIFD took that concept and ran with it.

  • How about pomanders with jeweled bracelets as handles? The removable bracelets become presents for the flower girls or bridesmaids, and the pomanders become simply flower-filled orbs that add to the table décor.
  • Bouquets can be displayed at the reception in custom-made bouquet stands, some tall enough to sit on a sturdy base on the floor; Lottie made the stands with PVC pipe covered with decorative wire, diamond wrap, or silk leaves.

Transparency

Transparency was a trend at this Symposium, with various presenters showing innovative uses of plexiglass or monofilament to create a floating effect. (see comments here Hitomi Gilliam AIFD) showed how to glue acrylic tubes together with special glue that melts the tubes together and sets clear. She used the joined tubes to elevate flowers in water tubes, which fit perfectly inside them. In a similar vein, Russian-born designer Lana Bates showed a design in a custom-crafted transparent container that she made by applying a heat gun to various items of clear acrylic. “Be careful, use gloves, you will still want to use your hands later,” she warned—but the result is your own artistic creation.

Conclusion

Maybe Hitomi said it best: “The real floral professionals are people who believe in education. We need to share our knowledge with each other, and with the public.” This is how floral professionals can earn the respect—and get the remuneration—they deserve. Invest in your own professionalism by seeking out inspirational and educational opportunities, and you will find the investment well rewarded.

For more information about AIFD, visit www.aifd.org. To learn more about Flowers& Magazine, visit www.flowersandmagazine.com.

 

Where have you found opportunities for professional inspiration and education?