Interview: Beth O’Reilly AIFD, TMF

 

A brand new mother to a darling little boy, an amazing floral artist, and one of our Mayesh Design Star Finalists this year, Beth O’Reilly AIFD, TMF really shines!  I’m excited to give an insider scoop into another one of our finalists.  I always learn something new with each interview, and this one does not disappoint.

If you are #TeamBeth, please be sure to watch this month’s video and stay tuned for her final installment in September!

 

When did you realize this was the career for you?

I realized this was my calling when I went back to school in 1999 for my art degree. I had been working in a shop for about seven years, taking a break from school here and there…but when I went back to finish my degree, I was very serious and still a little undecided as to what discipline in art that I wanted to focus on. It only took one sculpture class for me to realize that what I had been doing with flowers all along was just another form of sculpture. In fact, I often used floral mechanics on many of my pieces and still do. I fell in love with mixed media sculpture and even had a few professional showings, but in the end I always went back to flowers as my media of choice. I became very passionate about bringing floral design to the high art status and set out to do a series of sculptural floral works that brought me a lot of joy and satisfaction. My goal with these fine art sculptures was to bring to the viewer a new experience of the natural world. I wanted them to experience flowers in a way that they had never imagined and in doing so I wanted the public to see floral art as a viable form of high art, albeit ephemeral. The fact that it withers and dies and is only a temporary installation makes it all the more meaningful. The most notable sculptural installation that I have done is entitled the “Circle of Life” and I believe it captures the essence of what I believe my mission is as a floral artist. It was created as part of a national AIFD stage program and is what I like to call Floral Street Art. It’s a short documentary film. The concept was to create a floral sculpture and install it at various locations around the city of Austin and capture people’s reactions to it. My team and I had no idea what we would encounter and the end result is something that is quite dear to my heart (watch video below). I hope to bring more installations like this to the public, it is where my true artistic passion lies.

 

Why do you want to be the next Mayesh Design Star?

I think that now, more than ever, it is important to share professional knowledge about floristry to fellow florists. Being the next Mayesh Design Star will provide me with the opportunity to not only expose others to the amazing products and services Mayesh has to offer, but it would be a journey that I would love to embark on for the sake of other floral designers. I see so many trends in our industry and some of them can be pretty scary. From grocery store competition, to the ever so popular loosely gathered and poorly designed Pinterest inspired designs, and the young designers that come into the industry not knowing what to expect….. I think I have a great deal of creativity and knowledge to offer in the hopes of elevating our stature from mere tradesman to professional, accredited, highly skilled designers. It is so important for the future of floristry. We learn from each other and it’s important to share it with others. I love developing new ideas, tips and tricks, re-discovering varieties, and putting together projects that others can take bits and pieces of to make it their own. Should I be chosen as the next Mayesh Design Star, sparking new ideas and giving other designers the confidence to take these ideas and run with them is my ultimate goal.

 

Tell us a little about your floral extracurricular activities?

On a local, grassroots level I have spent a lot of time volunteering in the community exposing people to the joy and positive impact that flowers and design can have on individuals. I have always seen my job as a florist as a very important one, after all…we get to touch people’s lives at some of the most important times and sharing that gift with others has always been very fulfilling to me. I have given design workshops to the local Boys and Girls Club, which was awesome to watch children take to floristry with such enthusiasm. I have also presented and taught classes to local garden clubs and I am always impressed with their organization and dedication to the botanical world. I am an active member of The Texas State Florists’ Association, a past Teleflora Unit Treasurer, and I served on the American Institute of Floral Designer’s South Central Board for many years, eventually becoming President of the region. I garden at home and I also love to get involved in social media with other florists. I belong to several social media groups that talk publicly and privately about our industry and help each other in business, design and other related issues. It’s great to have a community of individuals to call upon for professional advice and there are so many florists out there willing to help and share with each other.

 

How would you describe your design style?

My design style varies from architectural, soft and romantic, contemporary and edgy, to organic and rustic. I think it’s important to have a well-rounded repertoire of design styles but above all the most important thing in any design style is that it follow the principles and elements of design. As long a composition follows these rules (and yes you can break the rules once you have mastered them) than any design style becomes inarguably masterful…..but if I had to pick just one style that I couldn’t live without it would be sculptural design, of course!

 

What or who inspires you?

Nature is my biggest teacher and inspiration. I get inspired by things like double headed mutant tulips or the changing colors of the leaves in the fall. I love to watch how things grow and I try mimic Mother Nature in unexpected ways. As far as people that inspire me….Andy Goldsworthy, a British Sculptor who became known for his environmental site specific sculptures using only natural materials. His work made a huge impression on me in my 20’s. Daniel Ost, an amazing floral artist whose work is also very site specific and totally amazing gave me a vision of what it meant to be a master of floristry. Hitomi Gilliam for providing not only wonderful floral design inspiration but for starting a dialogue about floral artistry in the U.S. on an unprecedented level. She is the first modern designer I ever heard speak about flowers as if she were a museum curator or art historian, a much needed dialogue, especially for young florists to hear. I am always inspired when she talks! My mentor and teacher Coby Neal who I worked with side by side for almost 20 years, learning a great deal from being pushed to my limits by as well as Michelle Perry-White who has taught me how to survive in the world of product development and trend development working in China. Without these influences, I would definitely not be the person I am today.

 

What floral tool can you not live without?

Definitely my knife. A good, sharp floral knife. It not only provides protection and peace of mind when tossed at the bottom of my purse, I can do so many things with it on the fly if I need to make an impromptu design. I can carve foam, cut stems, and even use it to curl floral wire. I am not so much a clipper/cutter designer because I love the feel of my knife in my hand. It’s quicker, easier and more precise than any other tool I have ever tried. Love my knife.

 

If you had to pick just one (I know it is nearly impossible) what would be your favorite flower and why?

Orchids, hands down! It is hard to pick just one…but since orchids come in so many varieties and colors it is one flower I would always choose to work with. Phalo’s, Dendrob’s, Vanda’s, Mokara’s, Lady Slipper’s, Cymbid’s, Butterfly’s, Oncidiums…yummy….it doesn’t get much better than that! They are the Queen of flowers, no doubt. They usually have a long life span once cut, they are great for gluing and hold up really well, and there are so many ways they can be used in a design….it’s endless. I have much love for the orchid.

 

Tell us a short floral story. Have you ever had a strange floral request? Created something wonderful out of a sticky situation? Have you ever felt like MacGyver and used your mad floral skills in a non-floral situation?

In my career I have had many strange requests. We used to joke at the shop that you never knew what you were going to get when you opened the doors and started answering the phone! A few situations that come to mind would be creating an impromptu floral display (just minutes before guests started arriving) at a super upscale wedding reception where the towering 8 tier cake fell right before our eyes. We saved the day with flowers and no one knew the better. The chef was still able to serve the cake. Another time we carved a 5 foot fish and covered it with lush blooms for a sushi station at the McNay Museum of Art in San Antonio. I can also remember many occasions riding in the bed of my pick-up truck precariously holding on to some monstrous floral creation to an install. What we must have looked like riding down the road? And then there’s the client who always wanted floating pool arrangements in the middle of winter and I would have to brave the frigid waters to install them properly. It never ceases to amaze me the lengths that we go to…all for the LOVE of floral design!

 

What trends do you see emerging within our industry?

I see a trend, especially in event work of florists taking on larger roles and becoming “event designers”. This is an important difference between just being the florist and actually creating the design and flow of the event alongside the event planners. Many event designer florists are even starting to carry their own collection of props and rental items…above and beyond what is needed for just the floral décor. I think this is a smart step for anyone basing the majority of their business on weddings and events. I feel like “event designers” are important shoes for us to step into, especially in demanding more respect for our knowledge and craft. If we do not step up to the plate and fill this need, someone else will and the florist will be left at the bottom of the totem pole just following directions and making arrangements instead of actually taking part in important design decisions that we are perfectly capable of. As far as specific floral trends…..this year the trends are already in full swing. Romantic styles with French influences, muted blush tones, gold accented vessels, the continuation of the emergence of the Steampunk trend that has been growing in popularity over the last few years and the Radiant Orchid color palette (Patone’s color of the year), as well as a trend I call Salvaged Elegance where everyday items are repurposed in new ways to display floral and other decor. One of the biggest trends that I am eager to see take hold is a movement away from gold accents to Rose Gold. I think we will begin to see this in vessels, paint colors, and accents of all kinds. It’s a very soft metallic that is in between the champagne gold and soft coppers. The most exciting thing about trends is looking forward to the future and not only forecasting trends but creating them. We are all capable of creating trends within our communities, shops and clientele. The challenge is having the courage to come up with clever ideas and promote them in ways that the general public can relate to. My hope is that florists take more of an active role in actually creating trends instead of following the ones pinned on Pinterest. While DIY has it’s place in the heart and minds of the public, it is up to us to come up with options where they need to hire professional to execute them….again elevating design and upping the bar.

 

What is your best piece of advice for new comers into the floral industry?

Just be a sponge and absorb all the knowledge you can. Take advantage of educational opportunities, head the advice of elders in the floral community, become a great business person as well as a designer and always try to uphold high standards in floral design. Don’t give your services away or sell than for lower than market value….this hurts the industry as a whole and it will also give the designer a name for being inexpensive and that is a category you don’t want to be stuck in. I think it is important for them to realize that there are many ways to accomplish their goals and that learning is an endless process. They will never and should never come to a point in their career where they feel they “know it all”. Being able to take constructive criticism and use it to their advantage is important. Also, if they find a community of like-minded florists, there is strength in numbers…so embrace those communities and don’t be afraid to add your knowledge and ideas into the melting pot.

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