Herman Blume: What’s the secret, Max?
Max Fischer: The secret?
Herman Blume: Yeah, you seem to have it pretty figured out.
Max Fischer: The secret, I don’t know…I guess you’ve just gotta find something you love to do and then do it for the rest of your life. For me, it’s going to Rushmore. From Wes Anderson’s Rushmore
My close friends and staff (they are really one and the same) know I am a bit of a Max Fischer. If you aren’t familiar with Max from the amazing Wes Anderson film Rushmore, he is an Energizer bunny of a character afflicted with a pretty serious case of ADHD and an even more acute bout of the “Carpe Diems.” Max loves doing so many things that he just does all of them; some with better success than others. But there is one thing that Max does with pure perfection and complete conviction-he goes to Rushmore. In his school, he has found his home, his kinfolk, his purpose. Driving along I-95 to a weekend conference of florist colleagues, I couldn’t help but think of Max and how we relate to each other.
Road trips are little windows of time that allow us to indulge in forbidden foods, listen to music too loud, push the pedal to the metal and chart our own course. You might venture off the GPS projected route to find the perfect scenic highway like Georgia’s coastal Highway 17. You might scratch an item off of your bucket list. (For me this is memorizing and successfully rapping the lyrics to my favorite Naughty by Nature songs. It’s going to take a cross country trip for that one.) You might have a moment of deja vu conjured by childhood memories of eating Christmas dinner in a Denny’s and sleeping in a velvet clad Knight’s Inn. But road trips can also offer solitary time for reflection and contemplation.
On this trip heading Southward to a conclave of design colleagues, I had one thing on my mind-is owning a florist the right thing for me? I’ve been truly lucky to have worked in many other fields besides the florist business-as a fundraiser, grant writer, drama teacher, actor, singer, job recruiter, ad salesperson for Over Fifty magazine, professional scotch taster (oops, that is in my next life). But during all these pursuits, the idea, or better yet, dream, of having my own florist sat on my shoulder whispering to me-a little bit angel, a little bit devil. Entering my seventh year of being a florist owner and progressing deeper into my 40′s, I often think about whether or not this is the right path for me. This weekend’s conference of the Southern Chapter of the American Institute of Floral Designers gave me a chance to answer that question.
The first day of any florist gathering is filled with stories from the front. Owning a florist is not an easy job. Florists compare wounds and battle scars with the zeal and largesse of WWII veterans. After the stories and one-up-manship settles down though, florists get around to the real heart of the matter-why we do what we do.
No floral designer kids themselves into thinking that being a florist is rocket science. We are not going to save the world with an artfully crafted bouquet of daisies. But in sharing our art, our craftmanship, we can make the world a little bit better. We can make a bride feel more beautiful and confident walking down the aisle. We can help a husband in the doghouse avoid a night on the sofa. And we can help a family find comfort and solace as they say goodbye to a loved one. We are there for the good times and the bad times and at the end of the day no one else can do what we do, regardless of how many grocery stores try.
That message, that we as florists are drawn to this work for the art and the artifice, for the rewards AND the sacrifice, resonated with my Max Fischer side. Rene Van Rems, AIFD, CFD, challenged us to connect to our customers with the full hi-test strength of our creativity. He reminded us that if we don’t, someone else will. People can buy flowers from a variety of sources-online, grocery stores, vending machines, gas stations. They are going to buy from a professional florist because they feel a connection to us-to what we do with flowers, to how we share our talents and ideas, to how we listen to their needs.
Surrounded by kindred spirits, I was able to put aside the demands of owning a growing company in the fast paced, numbers laden, profit driven world of retail to find renewed purpose in my work. The EG is more than a business; it is my family, my home away from home. And my customers, who are more aptly called my friends, know that. People know that I have the most talented team, i.e. family, around. They entrust us with their wedding day wish lists, their secret anniversary surprises, their most cherished memories during a time of loss. They come to us because we are quirky and energetic and saucy and passionate. They let us into their lives because they know that just as Max we have found that one thing that we truly, deeply, madly love to do and we wake up every day ready to do it bigger and better and maybe with an exploding helicopter (you have to watch the movie now!). So to my talented team, my amazing florist colleagues, and my valued customers and friends, thank you for helping me know that my little corner of the world, my English Garden, is and will always be my Rushmore.
Hope you enjoy these snapshots of the 2014 Southern AIFD Chapter’s Conference and the fun I-95 journey that got me there. And, I hope you too find your Rushmore!
Southern Bound. A weekend in St. Simon’s Island exploring with fellow floral designers the tie between nature and creativity offered endless inspiration and time for reflection.
What Happens with Pedro Stays with Pedro. Outside of Vegas, South of the Border has to be one of the most electric spots in the country. It’s an unofficial gateway to the South and a Disney bound rite of passage. Sinfully Southern, you can’t help but love a place with such a divine sense of humor.
Bright lights. Big Blooms. Stunning French tulips in a rainbow of colors showcase the amazing product coming from the California market. These tulip used in designs throughout the weekend were provided by Sun Valley are available year-round now due to their expanded growing cycle.
Moons Over My Hammyness. No road trip is complete without a stop at Denny’s. My new Savannah buddies had fun stories to tell me of the prom dresses and corsages from their shift the previous night.
Fluffy Ruffles. Layer upon layer of petals in these gorgeous magenta gerberas bring a more formal feel to this playful flower. Featured in a simply chic Bridesmaid’s bouquet in Rene Van Rems program and provided by Sun Valley Growers from CA.
It’s been a long time since the Palmer welcomed guests on Hwy 301 but the beauty of its aging facade extends an invitation to think of days gone by.
The Music of the Spheres. Gray orbs contrast with a pave of orange Santana roses. Chihuly inspired glass platters by Womar Glass, roses by Royal Growers; flocked orbs by Knud Nielsen. From the presentation of Brooke Raulerson AIFD CFD
Striking designs of yellow and white flowers displayed in awesome elevated stands from Accent Decor. The room glowed with warm, inviting florals and candlelight.
Banana-rama. The invitation said black tie, but we dressed to match the flowers! My fellow florist Carol Dowd, owner and lead designer of Botanicals Fabulous Florals in Southern Pines, NC. Carol is an AIFD board member and has big plans for how NC will play a role in future events for the organization.
The Waterfall Effect-Greg Lumm, AIFD, CFD created a design of orchids & callas from Mayesh with dried materials from Gerry Gregg capturing the line and movement that are the hallmark of an AIFD designer.
Sticks & Stones & Great Bones.-Greg Lumm AIFD, CFD, created this floral mobile from stacked driftwood that could easily have come from a neighboring beach (it came from Gerry Gregg). A palette of graduated pinks and greens peek through hinting at the rebirth of spring.
Need a little trim. The quirky name of this salon made me think of one of the design principles repeated throughout the weekend- “Give it a trim” meaning in design less is generally more. A design can be lush and full without being stuffed. A perfectly edited blending of materials and colors is a work of art.
Southern Culture on the Grids-This triptych created by Brooke Raulser, AIFD, CFD, integrates the warm colors of a Southern sky with unique textural touches speaking to the South’s rugged agrarian past. A perfect modern design rooted in the deeper story of our region. Featuring gorgeous florals from Royal Growers and super cool flocked lotus pods, branches and boards from Knud Nielsen.
If These Walls Could Talk-St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church along Georgia’s coastal highway. Its weathered tabby walls and patinated metals speak to the rich history of the African American community it was built to serve.
Gotta love the B-side. Sometimes the flipside is the real gem. These battered shells I picked up on St. Simon’s beach revealed glistening layers of color on the reverse evoking thoughts of fluid glass art.
The Shell Seekers. The Mother-of-Pearl rose from Royal Growers is the perfect blending of “blush & bashful.” Softly peach with a color graduation that hints at antique lace.
An amazing design that truly captured the concept of the design conference-Where Nature and Creativity Collide. The driftwood contrasted with vibrant flowers evoke thoughts of the South-a well-worn tobacco barn against an explosive summer sky; an aging tabby church with brick and stone details; an ancient forest dappled with vivid rhododendrons. Wood elements from Gerry Gregg
Not what Lynn Anderson had in mind. You can’t drive through SC without satisfying your pyro-cravings. This seemed like the perfect option for a florist. Pretty sure you will see this paired with the Lynn Anderson tune on a future FB post.
Blast Off. Speaking of explosive color…Rene created an incredible orange and purple bridal design in a faux (in the South that’s fox) hand-tied style.
Gorgeous azaleas and dogwoods were in full bloom all along I-95 from Florence, SC on down south. It’s impossible for a Southern designer not to incorporate the vivid colors of our region into design.
The marvelous Brooke Raulerson, AIFD, CFD, showcasing an ombre presentation of amazing roses from Royal Growers designed in hip aqua ceramics from Accent Decor. The design was featured during her presentation on current trends and selling to a younger market.
A tablescape features a blending of vintage touches with a bit of bling inspired by a “David Tutera-esque” palette of blush and pinks. Designed by Brooke Raulerson AIFD CFD and featuring florals from Royal Growers, dried accessories from Knud Nielsen and glassware from Accent Decor.
Pick Up Sticks. A whimsical design of branches and cheery yellows shows the avant garde approach of the conference’s design sessions.
Blooming Buddies-It was great to work one-on-one with Rene Van Rems, AIFD, CFD, and Carol Inskeep, AIFD, CFD in a workshop on advanced techniques and mechanics. They are wunderkind of design!
A Rushmore Moment: