Our workshop with fantastic French Master Florist Didier Gilles May 2017
by Tina Parkes MDPF, AIFD, Dutch Master
My first impression of Didier Gilles was a cheeky Frenchman who winked a lot and was very kind to me at my first International Tutors workshop in Montpellier, France in 2009. Surrounded by mostly French floristry tutors, the language barrier stunted the connectivity for me at the beginning. But these exceptionally talented French master florists communicated their ideas through exquisite floral design, and I knew that we needed to bring them over to the Academy to share their rich understanding of design, artistry and craft knowledge.
So now we have known Didier Gilles for over seven years, he is part of the French Floriform federation of teachers and is instrumental in organising the international tutor workshop in Montpellier, France. Which is a fantastic opportunity for floristry tutors from all over the world to get together to discuss, explore and create ideas for the future, looking at teaching methods and schemes of education.
We wanted to create a two-day event with different input and focus, to give our students a bonus of a free workshop day with a French master and excellent tutor. Our plan was to create two separate days with one to bring back together our previous level 5 students and secondly to create a day for our past and current level 4’s to come together. Both days designed to be inspirational and give original input from a French Master Florist. Give the students time out to be experimental and re-inspired by design concepts.
Didier and I had several discussions on topics he could cover and numbers of works we could achieve in a day. From our discussions, he planned two key design concepts for each day, a morning and afternoon focus with added development potential and additional ideas to explore if we had the time or the group wanted to explore more.
After arriving in the evening on Sunday, the following day was spent in the studio making up the structures and samples for the students for the first day and part of the second day. For students, this is always a good day to volunteer for if the designers need help as you get to see behind the scenes on construction.
Tuesday- Level 4
The first design created was a low-level table design on a short narrow block of wood which was painted. Strong 1.5mm wires were inserted, and then Willow attached to create a horizontal design with added interest of cut leaves threaded to play with the horizontal direction. Callas, Gloriosa, Lisianthus and Typhia were the floral components of this design. Didier then showed a development of conception where the wires were folded out to increase the central space in the design allowing everyone present to choose the concept they like to create. These would be perfect for table runners, mantle pieces/window ledges or narrow spaces.
The second design for the day was a large tall screen using willow. For these we drilled holes in the wooden block bases and firmly insert the willow whips, Didier then showed two concepts for the design development with either a curving formation or a parallel pattern. Then we attached test tubes to enable us to add fresh florals including Longiflorum Lilies, Roses, Alliums, small Anthuriums and grasses.
Wednesday- Level 5
First, we looked at the previous day’s work, and Didier did a quick recap on the design ideas and concepts used. We also discussed how we could use them and develop for future use.
We started with a square plinth design. The inspiration for this design was a diagonal flowing line with a downward movement. The construction and balance are especially crucial. Using wires secured into the wood block and then bent over allowed a solid frame from which the willow could be bound extended the form. Plastic clear test tubes attached added the water source. Flowing vines, Callas, Scabious blackberry scoop and orchids added the floral components to the deign.
Tall free standing design using decorative tubes covered in dried leaves and the structure of the flowers to create the base. This design was all about the vertical and cylindrical form. It would be fantastic for a corporate design or somewhere you wanted to build impact with limited flowers. We use beautiful Amaryllis, Alliums, Orchids and grass.
I enjoyed these two days and catching up with everyone, and I very much enjoyed Didier’s teaching style. He is a fantastic tutor, and his English language is excellent and especially good when considering his detailed explanation of his design concepts. It is so refreshing to listen to a designer explain their design process and reasoning. I feel it’s a real shame we don’t see more of the French Masters in the same light as many of their contemporaries in Europe but with Facebook and designers like Frederic Dupre, they are beginning to shine through. I would like to invite Didier back, and several others from the international group to come to the Academy in the near future.
So thank you to all who came and a huge thank you to Didier and if you are considering taking the next step to re-inspire, enthuse and work on the higher plane of floristry we are offering the City& Guilds Professional level 5 starting this September or level 4 starting in January.
Take the next step, how about booking one unit to see what it can do for you. For more details, please see our home page here.