“So why do I need to continue with my studies now that I have all the skills required for the day-to-day running of a floristry business?”

By Tina Parkes

A question I am generally asked a lot. I’m not sure where the idea of the higher levels being unnecessary comes from, but this, in my opinion, is an outdated perspective. More and more articles are indicating that successful companies can retain staff by keeping them learning and creatively challenged and then utilising their newly gained skills to help keep the business moving, thus making the employee engaged in shaping the company.

It is widely acknowledged that education leads to higher productivity, better prospects and opportunities. There are many quotes about how the best gift you can give to yourself is education. So let’s explore how it can change you, your business and our industry.

I  appreciate that the education can come in many valuable forms from reading periodical magazines, attending workshops, seminars, lectures or demonstrations, product development or spending time on research, peer development, entering competitions, mentoring, judging or teaching, working with a mentor and so on.

So as a passionate educator, I thought I would share with you a little experiment to enable us to see the visual difference between the different levels of study.

I decided to start with the same selection of flowers and foliage for each design.

Design 1

The first design is a simple hand-tied that demonstrates the sort of basic underpinning techniques and shape that you would learn as a beginner/level 1 course using a simple colour palette and a pretty collection of spring flowers and foliages. This design includes basic construction spiralling skills, creating a neat doom, tying technique and working on even distribution of the flowers. Underpinning skills would consist of handling and conditioning of flowers, flower identification and design purposes.

Design 2

Design two is a level up in design and skills and may be the sort of design taught at level 2. It is a grouped, tied design supported by a frame. The frame aids the designer to hold materials in place and adds interest and contrast with the grouped flowers. The skills gained include a more significant understanding of the principles of design such as visual balance and the impact of different flowers and creating an even dome with uneven placements of flowers. It involves improved understanding of conditioning and handling the material, the suitability of the design for customers, lasting qualities and how individual flowers react to our handling. At the same time, the florist will be learning to cost up and buying skills.

Design 3

Design three is something you would start to see being produced at Level 3. The frame has become more complicated, and the design requires more understanding and knowledge. The principles of design or design schemas need to be understood and applied, and we start to see the individual’s style expressed. There are more problem-solving skills being used to help create designs, understanding of construction, stability, longevity and symbolism of the materials.

Designs 4 & 5

Designs four and five start to see the creative use of the flowers by using the technique of wiring and taping which reduces weight for the customer and enables the designer to have more control over the flowers. These designs also express more information to the viewer because they have been designed and therefore they have a story to tell.

I have created two designs for Level 4 to show the development of ideas that is practised at this level. Designs are explored and taken on beyond your initial idea to see where they can be taken (this is the exciting bit!). The empowering designer can create new trends, new design, new methods and new constructions.

A designer at Level 4 is exploring and using design processes to find new ways and methods that identify their style. The first design shows the developed understanding of the plant habits, longevity and structure. The frame is covered in lichen creating a harmonious feeling through the connected seasonal environmental theme of late winter contrasting with the early spring floral materials. In the first design, the curving shape is repeated in the dense mound of ranunculus, in the curving flow of the spray of flowers resting over the top and in the circular shape of the frame containing the design. The coveted suitability is for a winter early spring wedding: formal but with a laid back overtone. There is a simple contrast between seasons, an elegant feeling with colour and the focus of a new beginning nestled into a clear framework of support.

The second design explores the use of the same frame, but in this design, it is used more as a support to give the massed ranunculus impact, the circle is strengthened around the outside, creating a stronger dense and loose contrast.

Design 6

Design six is employing all the skills, knowledge, techniques and exploration of previous experiences. In this design, I have used an understanding of the plant material. The source of inspiration for this creation was the technique of layering, and it inspired me to deconstruct and re-present the focal flowers to create a more dominant, challenging new look, also used on the frame. The second part of the inspiration was Form (circles in the shape of rings, circular flowers and flowers with curving stems). The structure has developed into rings and is supported by the muscari which, in turn, creates a further outer ring. The contrast is now subtle between the proportion of green and white in the design.

To balance the visual impact of the central flower, I have used strong radial lines to help the viewer identify with the feeling of a posy design. The colours also convey further a more traditional wedding bouquet and bring a sense of elegance and serenity.

The industry’s future

In many cases, our customers want to convey a strong message when buying a floral design and sometimes this is forgotten in repetitive work, where the focus becomes a copy.

I believe that we need to move with more current thinking when it comes to development. Let’s invest in ourselves, our staff and our industry’s future with real integrity. Let’s make our focus be what we can do to enhance the quality of our work, and how we can maximise the benefits from our investment to create a sustainable industry that is robust, adaptable and profitable.

Let’s give them better design – a design which says more and creates more of a feeling. Let’s exceed the customers’ expectations and delight them with our skills, wouldn’t this be more fun and personally rewarding? And most importantly, wouldn’t this reward us with more sales? When customer experiences count towards gaining repeat and regular patrons, being able to create cleverly designed works that exceed expectations and are profitable is undoubtedly an excellent reason to invest in yourself, your employees, your business and your industry.

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