I attended a big exciting class! Held at the Floral Design Institute in Portland, Oregon, and taught by the husband and wife team who founded the school, I took the class in hopes of gaining a new level of confidence in creating (and delivering, and installing) large scale designs. We’re talking fully flower covered arches and arbors, tent decor, and the kids of massive table / pedestal arrangements you see on escort card tables, in hotel lobbies, and on altars. My goals were to lay the groundwork for all stages of these designs, so that if clients request something grander, I’m ready to deliver – from estimating the flower quantity needed without agony, to having the correct production timeline, to having the tools and support I need to set up on site safely and efficiently.
I had a great experience! Portland, though it was soggy and cold as is to be expected in February, is a great floral city, and a great all around design and culture city too (also, it has delicious breakfast corndogs with molasses syrup! to die for). I knew that one of my all time floral idols Ink & Peat was based there, and visited the shop, but I walked by countless other storefronts – like that of Obliation Paper & Press– and said out loud “wow, I didn’t realize they were based in Portland!” The city also features the largest book store West of the Mississippi- Powells was just 2 blocks from my hotel, and spans an entire city block (with multiple stories). I picked up some absolute gems in the used floral design book section- which must have had over 150 books to choose from. Pretty impressive!
I’m going to blog about the class in 3 parts, because it was 3 days, and of course I took *tons* of pictures!
First, the ambiance… we were in the school’s offices / warehouse / studio space (as opposed to the classroom space down the street). It was very Portlandish – the first things I saw when I walked in were giant trees “growing” through the floor of the loft, and about 2 dozen bikes. ; )
The trees are so cool – Leanne (the owner of the school and our primary instructor for this class) is the type of florist who really goes the extra mile. From getting a Forestry Permit to chop down trees (that were going to be chopped down anyhow) for decor like this, to sitting on Dutch and South American live floral auction sites for hours to get the best prices on huge box lots for the school, she is really bold when it comes to getting the best materials, at the best prices. I was very inspired by that!
There were examples of large scale design mechanics all over their space. Even though this was not part of the course, the aircraft wire used to anchor these trees is a prime example of what we learned in class!
Another example – the giant raffia orb that Leanne salvaged, suspended over the schools *very* enviable floral design library. I think they have a bigger selection than Powells!
Again, it’s suspended using aircraft wire. It’s far stronger than the clear fishing line, and only slightly more noticeable:
Our flowers await us! The hundreds of blooms that we played with in this class were purchased on auction, and so they came in massive multi box lot quantities (like 300 carnations). Oh, did I mention that there were only three of us in this three day class?
And in case you’re wondering how that massive iron grid (also salvaged) is hung – s hooks from Ikea’s kitchen section – which we quickly learned were a staple of large scale mechanics!
Behind the design space, there were rows upon rows of container and supply storage – it really was like a wonderland! Oh, and also, on a very cool side note, Blume Box is based in this same warehouse and office space, so I got to see all of their products, eavesdrop on one of their staff meetings ; ) and meet the super cool married couple behind the brand. More on that later!
When the actual instruction first started, the class was looking like something my husband would love. It was all about cables, clamps, hooks, saws, and the like! David, Leanne’s husband, led this portion and gave us a great entre into this mysterious Ace Hardware world. (By the way, those purses on the shelf are from the dollar store, and they’re being used as cheap, DIY sandbags to weight down large scale designs- brilliant, no?)
That antique looking machine (and it is actually antique) is a Pick Machine. I’d never heard of them!
Here’s what they do to any stem- very handy for making soft, thin stems sharp enough to insert into foam, extending them, etc. These are frequently used for the types of all carnation or rose designs that go into styrofoam – such as parade floats. I’ve been bidding on a used one on E Bay this week – I really want one!
And here’s how our massive urn arrangement began- simply enough, in a paper container with chicken wire and zip ties! The chicken wire supports stems in case the foam starts getting a little chewed up from reinsertions or just weight during transport.
Here was what (to me) was the big reveal – designs this large use extenders – they’re not all based on one level block of foam…a ha! The extender can be a foam cage like this, or any kind of cone, or structure really. Leanne and David use tiki torches as extenders often!
Curly willow branches added height:
And we also hid some water tubes in the tall part of the designs – to elevate some of the dendrobiums and give them a great water source:
Thanks to our foam cage extender, by the time the arrangement is greened, it’s very full and tall!
We had fun using glue dots to affix the dendrobium blossoms on the branches – I liked it more than hot glue personally (though the glue dots stick to your fingers, which is annoying, I hate dealing with the little hot glue trails)
Aren’t these esperance roses lovely?
We added a cluster of callas last – all in one bunch, to make them more important (Leanne teaches lots of bunching / clustering, vs “polka dotting” designs). These were placed in a plastic cone – I think these are designed for grave site flowers actually – for height and water source:
Next time, we set up a tent, hand make a garland to decorate it, completely cover a wood arbor in flowers, pour concrete, and more! Please stay tuned!