It’s 6:30 am on a Thursday morning, and after hitting the snooze button one too many times, I finally open my eyes and fumble for my iPhone. Two missed calls and a text from Dad – “Ali, call me ASAP.” Oh god, what happened? After wiping the sleep from my eyes, I nervously dial his number. “Oh, hey Al, sorry did I wake ya? I have a proposal for you…” Phew. Everything is okay. What followed was a unique and spontaneous offer from my dad to fly me down the following night to Riverside, CA, to participate in the California State Floral Association – Calif Flora 2014 Convention, which Mayesh was hosting this year. Following a few recent heart to hearts with my old man, and having come to the decision that I want to pursue a career in floral design, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get my feet wet and learn a few things. I didn’t really know what to expect; all I knew is that I would be participating in a few hands-on workshops and meeting some designers from Southern California.
Two bumpy flights and one long car ride later (thank goodness for Siri), I was in Riverside with my cousin, who is part of Mayesh’s marketing team. We woke up early Saturday morning to head to the convention, where I was greeted with a nametag and an urgent voicemail that I was late for my first class. Hmm, well this is off to a great start. Everything seemed to work itself out, though, and within minutes I was seated in an intimate workshop entitled “Vintage Chic Weddings,” with Shasta College professor Darlene Montgomery. So many thoughts were running through my head – am I the only first-timer here? Are there thorns on the roses? I’m totally going to make the ugliest bouquet of the group, aren’t I? But as we got started, and Darlene started talking about Pinterest, an app I am all too familiar with, I began to feel right at home. We learned about current trends in weddings, and some unique ways to understand what the bride is looking for, such as asking to see her wedding gown. And then… drumroll please! It was design time.
I had three vases in front of me, and a bucket of flowers on the floor. Cool, now what? First, we focused on a super quick and easy design featuring moss, succulents, and raffia, which would make a simple yet lovely table setting. Thirty bucks for five minutes of work? Sold. Arrangement number two was just as simple, yet unique in it’s own way. A small vase, one stem of hydrangea, a few stems of eryngium and a touch of dusty miller. That’s all you need. In the wise words of my cousin, time is money, baby! And lastly, for the grand finale, a hand tied bouquet… Hold up, WHAT? I’m creating my first arrangement EVER in the palm of my hand? No, stop. You can do this. So, I did. We started with the greenery – some eucalyptus and New Zealand Pittosporum – and continued to add layers of hydrangea and other focal flowers (roses, lavender stock, Queen Anne’s lace and lisianthus), while rotating the bouquet in a clockwise fashion. I struggled with remembering that there is more than one side to a bouquet, and ended up clumping many of the flowers in the front. After getting frustrated and starting over a couple times, I finally started to get the hang of it. Once the flowers were in place, we completed the look with the finishing details; we bound the stems with wire, wrapped a cream, satin ribbon around the base, and secured with a simple, rhinestone pin. Tada! My first hand-tied bouquet. I opted not to add a couple of the flowers from my bucket in favor of giving my bouquet my own, unique style, and I was happy with the overall outcome. It was definitely vintage, to say the least, and is now sitting in a vase on my mom’s kitchen counter. Success.
My next and final class of the weekend was with well-known designer Rene Van Rems, and was called “European High Design.” I must admit, I was a bit anxious about this class. The description in the brochure read, “Some experience required. Bring your own tools.” Wellllll, shoot. Already behind and the class hasn’t even started. Much to my relief Rene started the class going over some of the basics. He explained that European design equals vegetative design, where the goal is to make the arrangement appear like it is growing out of the container, just as it would in nature. Some key elements include the use of negative space, vertical lines, height, and grouping the different flowers and plants in their own family, as if they were growing in groups in nature. Rene also educated us on the different types of flowers: mass flowers, line material, filler flowers, form flowers, and botanicals. Then, once again, it was time to design. For both arrangements, we worked with wet foam, which we carved away to form a base. The first design was very natural and green, utilizing tall, vertical leafy flowers and greenery (a few included Bells of Ireland, stock, and hydrangea). The second arrangement was similar, but included more color, with the use of pink lilies, pink gerbera daisies, and a few other flowers (cut me some slack, I’m still learning names!) While this style of flower arrangement is not necessarily what I would gravitate towards, I have a new appreciation for vegetative design, and enjoyed learning to work with foam and a variety of materials in one arrangement.
And with that, my first experience in the world of flowers was complete. I learned the basics, gained some knowledge about flowers, and got some great hands on experience. The good news? I’m still here, and have no plans on leaving. Yes, I still want to join this crazy business and find out how I fit into this world. The bad news? Well, I wouldn’t call it bad. I just know I have a lot of work ahead of me, and I’ll have to sacrifice a lot. But, who needs weekends anyways, right? From event planning to teaching workshops to owning a retail shop, there are so many different options, and now it’s my job to dabble in a bit of everything, and find my flower calling. I can’t wait to start this journey, and see where I end up in a year from now!