With the posting of our interview with Beth O’Reilly today means that the debut of our first video is nearing! If you remember Beth O’Reilly came in second place to Mandy Majerik for our Mayesh Design Star contest, which is no small feat! She created an amazing video and when we called upon her to help us do some designs to help promote our upcoming National Design Contest, she did not disappoint (you can see her amazing designs for “The Art of Flowers” here), nor does her interview! Read on, be inspired, and enjoy!
Connect with Beth:
When did you realize this was the career for you?
I “fell” into floral design my first year of college as a way to help support myself. I have a BA in Art and through my experience with floral design I ended up specializing in Fine Art Sculpture. The floral arts definitely influenced my decision to work in the 3rd dimension- something we do every day as floral artists. Much of what I create on an artistic level stems from the study of nature and my experience with the natural world. Floral design provides me with a very practical avenue of exploration. The textures, the scents, the whole experience of being able to work with such divine materials is an inspiration; I want the floral design to be elevated to the floral arts/high art. I want people to experience flowers in a way that they never imagined and to interact and react to them on a level that has not been fully explored as of yet. If you look back at the history of man- flowers are constant- they are symbols, they are subjects of still life paintings, they are a part of our culture throughout the ages and they most importantly are a metaphor for the human condition. We can look at a flower and see ourselves, relate the life of a flower to our own existence. They are the perfect metaphor for the human condition really. Prone to degradation, yet maintaining strength, sustenance and livelihood. When I found my love for flowers- I was hooked. It’s a passion, a way a life, an expression and a tool to teach others.
How did you start your business?
At the age of 19 I went to work for a wonderful, inspiring man by the name of Coby Neal. His progressive vision for the industry and approach to design has been a driving force in my career and the careers of many designers in Central Texas. His philosophy has made his shop one of the most progressive in the nation. His 40 plus years of experience combined with his own art background shaped his vision for the future of the small flower shop in America. After studying floral design with Coby for many years, we joined forces to take the flower studio to new levels. We participated in leadership positions with AIFD, SAF, Teleflora. We have produced jaw dropping events in Texas and neighboring states and we have nurtured a staff of award winning designers.
I would describe my design style as Sculptural – architectural at times. I love to work with materials and enjoy the process exploring new mechanics. I love it when I put together a piece and someone says “how did you make that”? To me part of the beauty is in the mystery of how it was put together, designed, and assembled. I really love to play with armatures and materials that most people wouldn’t normally think of putting together. Sometime a simple juxtaposition of putting 2 completely different materials together can create so much interest.
What or who inspires you?
2 things really inspire me. 1) Breaking the rules of floral design & 2) Touching people lives through flowers
1) I had a teacher that told me “you can break the rules (he was talking about the principles and elements of design- a basic building block of any art form) but if you break the rules make sure you do a damn good job at it. To me rules are meant to be broken- yes we need them, we need to learn them and memorize them and know why they are important, but the fun part is getting to a point where you can break them and be successful at it. I look at the principles and elements of design as a complete necessity that I am always trying to figure out how I can turn it upside down and make it work.
2) I am really inspired by site specific art and floral installations. I want to provide people with an experience that they were not prepared for or never pondered before. When they see a piece of floral art I want to see them react- in whatever way is appropriate for that individual. The reaction is part of the beauty as well. That’s why flowers are such a wonderful gift- because they express a sentiment that words cannot. It’s part of the reason why we have been giving flowers to each other for centuries. I don’t really care HOW they react- I just want them to react, to be moved in some way- whether they instinctually go to smell the flowers, whether they squawk about it or scowl, whether they laugh or cry- I want them to feel something and find something about that floral sculpture that touched their soul or opens a window of new possibilities for them.
What floral tool can you not live without?
Hmmm…there are a lot of tools I cannot live without. If I HAD to pick only 1 (as if I was stranded on a dessert island and could only bring 1 tool with me)…it would have to be wire. Wire is versatile, you can create armatures with it, you can create mechanics with it, you can hide it or leave it showing and there are so many great metallic wires available now. Hopefully I would be allowed to take some wire cutters with me on this island but if not I am sure I could figure out how to cut the wire…I’d rather have the wire than the tool to cut the wire!
If had to pick just one (I know it is nearly impossible) what would be your favorite flower and why?
My favorite flower if I had to pick 1 (again, I am stranded on an island with my wire and I can only pick 1 kind of flower to play with….) it would have to be orchids- the “queen of the flowers”. Again, there are so many varieties… just when I think I have seen them all I find another one. They are great for any and all kinds of designs and what a fabulous, classy flower!
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?
I remember sitting in my first sculpture class in college and the teacher asked us to make a mock up (a small practice sculpture) I immediately pulled out my floral wire and started bending and creating a small floral wire sculpture. It seemed natural to me to use the tools that I had become accustomed to and comfortable with. I use floral supplies in a lot of my work regardless of whether its floral related or not. I have had many great moments in the industry but I have to say the highlight of my floral career was presenting a stage program for a national AIFD Symposium in 2009. Mayesh underwrote the program and provided awesome product while I got to share my design philosophy with my peers in the industry. It’s a moment I will never forget.
My fave combo right now…I just did a really gorgeous shabby sheik wedding with herbs, Echinacea pods and allium. Fresh mint, basil, and rosemary…oh it smelled so good and it was really a very beautiful combo. One of the challenges we are having as small florists is that people are not coming to us with the budgets they once had for weddings. I think part of our challenge as of late is to revamp some of the old standard floral staples and make them exciting and new again. I am finding a newfound love of rich carnations, beautiful alstromeria, and cushion mums. Sometimes the key to making your client happy is finding a happy medium between couture flowers and your basics. Combining the 2 can be quite exciting.
I could go on and on here but I will try to keep it simple…. Look at nature and watch how things grow, learn the principles and elements of design forward and backward, get educated about everything and never stop the quest for knowledge, seek accreditation within the industry – state or local associations and organizations like AIFD (American Institute of Floral Designers) where likeminded, talented designers mentor and devote themselves to bettering the industry and keeping professional standards and practices in the minds of designers and consumers. Follow your passion and don’t be afraid to work hard. Floral designers work VERY hard. Any of us will tell you, it’s not glamorous, our back hurts, our feet hurt, we cut ourselves, we have to clean and wash buckets too! It’s a labor intensive job! If you think it’s about just playing and smelling flowers…think twice!