Is anyone else completely vulnerable to any and all learning opportunities when it comes to flowers and design work in the winter? I’m starved for flowers. That’s my excuse. Perfectly logical, no? I have a very difficult time saying, “no” to opportunities to learn - online or in person during the winter, or just over a cup of tea.
I could buy flowers in and sometimes I do when it’s really dreary. I’m hoping that the continued growth of my bulb forcing operation lessens that desire some. I have tulips now- in January/February - so that is something!
Anyhow- here are reviews and previews of the winter learning opportunities I caved to recently:
First, I headed down to the Capital Region Cut Flower Growers Conference in Troy, NY. As a smaller conference, the thing I look forward to most each year at this program is connecting with some of my favorite in-state growers. I always really admire learning about the things happening down at Tiny Hearts Farm and over at Jayflora Designs. As with many conferences, you have to learn to be a bit choosy about the ideas that you let settle in and those that you leave on the table. I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll walk away satisfied if I’m successful in getting my burning questions answered — even if it means that I’m sitting next to a friend and passing notes when someone else is talking. You gotta do what you gotta do!
Next, I slipped in some bouquet tutorial work with Soil and Stem’s new online bouquet intensive course. I appreciate Nicole Land’s approach to building bouquets. If anyone is nervous about bouquet work or just interested in learning a really clean, simple method - I’m comfortable recommending this class. I’ll admit, I dug deep into my dried flower stock to practice her ideas. It isn’t the same, but I just had to put some stems in my hands! What I love about Nicole’s technique is that she eliminates awkward holds and twisting and crossing of stems. Her methods are easy to apply. In terms of production quality of the course itself, it isn’t the most polished online course I’ve taken, but I feel the Soil and Stem course communicated what it needed to communicate well and clearly. And - I will definitely refer to it often.
Then I was off to Portland, Maine for the second Flowering in the North conference coordinated by Broadturn Farm, Snell Family Farm, and the University of Southern Maine. This meet-up is quite a bit larger than our Capital Region program, and featured a full day pre-conference centered on wedding business and design with some folks you might have heard of - Nicolette Owen and Jill Rizzo. And yes, it was awesome. While most of the crowd in the room seemed new to design work, I didn’t at all feel shorted in the amount of information I was able to glean from the day and from the chance to see these two great flower artists at work.
And lastly, I committed to a program in April in Ontario with another flower designing hero. Christin Geaull (@cultivatedbyChristin on Instagram) and photographer Kristin Sjaarda will lead a day of lessons in art history, design, and Dutch still life photography. The focus of this program is on working with flowers and on capturing their fleeting beauty in photographs for publication. When I’m sitting down to design for myself photography is a huge part of my release. I work away in my little studio on light and shadow in the style and manner of the Dutch master painters when I can. I’m starting to feel really good about the images I can pull, but I have a lot of questions about preparing to share them with the outside world. This will be fun.
I feel like I’ve set quite a nice foundation for myself as we head into our 3rd design and designing and growing season in New York. That foundation is important to me each season. I’m one of those “forever a learner” types. If I don’t have a program to go to that seems interesting, I’m going to make something for myself at home, or build something, or try to grow something or….or… you get the idea. It’s the part of me that just has to figure stuff out. I love that part.
In the last several years, I’ve managed to learn from a pretty impressive list of designers. It’s been so important to soak up inspiration from them. Do you have a favorite “flower teacher”? I’m often seeing requests for design courses float through the Facebook groups. Whose classes do you love?
Sue McCleary (online program)
Reuben Mark Stewart
Nicole Land (online program)