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by Rachel Evans Heath

Picking up where we left off a couple weeks ago, you may have seen our recent post about one of the floral communities that is here in Seattle.

You may recall some of the benefits of a community I expressed in my enthusiastic retelling of how I found such a wonderful group. But just to refresh your memory, here are a few:

  1. Floral groups foster a sense of local community rather than competition. When you’re bidding against a genuine friend for a wedding, you take the loss a lot easier. Even though you feel disappointed, you know they’ll do a good job, and they often will inspire you to work harder for the next one.
  2. It’s nice to have floral friends who understand what you do all day: your frustrations your joys, your love of the flowers, the pain in your back and feet… relatability means a lot. And you sometimes don’t realize how much you need it until you have it. I love my family and friends, but they simply don’t empathize to the panic you may experience when your roses aren’t opening fast enough.
  3. A floral community is a huge resource to utilize. Whether is finding a last-minute freelancer, or asking for ideas on new rose varieties to try, having a group of experienced professionals to bounce ideas off of is invaluable. Most groups will have a Facebook Group page for this reason, using it as a discussion board to ask for tips on getting your hydrangeas to bounce back.

Now that I’ve jogged your memory on why I love floral communities so much, perhaps you’re looking to have a floral community of your own.

Well…

Step 1: Start reaching out to other designers in your area

One of the best places you can go to meet other, local florists are your local workshops. Start searching for them in your area. Check Facebook, Google, Eventbrite… and you will likely see something popping up not too far from you.

Workshops are great for both established designers and those who are brand new, because they give you opportunity to slow down and really think about your designs, learn a new mechanic, take all the time you need to make that arrangement a piece of art.

But they’re also wonderful for networking. If you’re new you may meet other new florists, or you may meet some well-established designers, (like the person teaching the workshop!) Don’t be afraid to start chatting. Get to know them. Ask them how long they’ve been doing what they do. Then you drop the big question: Do you know of any floral groups in the area? If not one of the other attendees know, I’ll bet your bottom dollar the instructor does.

This is where your options split into two directions:

  1. Either someone knows of a group you may be interested in learning more about.
  2. There isn’t anything established in your area, and maybe this is the perfect opportunity to start saying, “would you like to be a part of one?” and get the ball rolling.

Step 2a: You’ve found a group. Now how do you join?

Some groups are relatively open and easy to join. Others can be a closed group requiring an invitation. Once you’ve established the nature of the one you’re interested in, ask someone directly what the joining process is. Some groups have a set of standards your business may need to fit into first. Some require dues. Network with those who you know are already active participants and let them give you the scoop on what may be required of you. If your company is not up to par, don’t sweat it. Keep working to establish yourself until you qualify. Or go ahead and start meeting with others in the same situation as you.

Step 2b: How do I help in getting one started?

Start small. After finding a few names of others who’ve been likewise wanting a community to connect with, schedule a regular meeting. Establish how regularly you meet and what those meetings will entail. Treat it seriously. Take notes like you would at a business meeting and then email them out to everyone afterward. My friend Maura from Casablanca Floral got the ball rolling on Flower Power by taking that initiative to collect everyone’s emails, schedule and host the first meeting and follow up afterward. Following up is essential. It tells others you’re serious and sets a tone for how serious they should treat it as well. The last thing you want is to let this dissipate into something no one commits to attending or participating in.

Once those guidelines are established, the group will organically snowball from there. As friends meet new floral friends your group will grow and grow. Soon you’ll be wondering how many people should be involved at a time, or if there should be any limits at all. I think you’ll be amazed at how much power a positive, collaborative, and welcoming group can have on an entire floral community.

I do hope everyone has the opportunity to enjoy a floral community of their own. Seattle is not unique. There are already floral groups established in most major cities. I happen to be a part of a second in my home state. And though I’m not able to enjoy it in person as much as I’d like, It makes the weddings I travel there for much easier.

Imagine a world where all florists are webbed together by their communities and those who know someone who knows someone who know someone, spanning regions across the world. What a beautiful worldwide community that would be for those who work with beautiful things.

Tell us about your floral community! Leave a comment and share your stories here. We’d love to hear them!

Artist Unknown

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Farm to Vase Rose Workshop: designing roses on a flower farm
Mount Vernon, Washington
June 12, 2018

Join Alicia Schwede of Flirty Fleurs Blog & Bella Fiori Design and Dawn Severin of All My Thyme for a day filled with exploration of fine-art floristry and boutique rose farming in Washington’s beautiful Skagit Valley.

The day will begin by gathering at the barn on All My Thyme farm; take a peek out the back door and you’ll see the roses beckoning us to come out to the field. Get ready to stroll down row after row of blooming rose bushes as Dawn shares her experiences and knowledge of the 100 plus varieties of heirloom and contemporary roses she grows exclusively for floral design work. You’ll learn care and maintenance, proper cutting techniques, post harvest handling, and other tips to keep your shrubs producing stems throughout the season. After our walkabout, we’ll utilize a ‘hands on’ approach (with gloves, of course!) and encourage you to clip some stems that may have caught your eye and imagination. Awaiting us at the barn will be a beautifully curated collection of roses and complementary seasonal flowers and foliages to use in our designs; this is simply an opportunity to hand-select some stems you’ll use for your own design, and practice proper harvesting techniques.

A leisurely lunch will be followed by our afternoon design session, in which Alicia will demonstrate the art of the lush, garden-inspired compote centerpiece. Following her demonstration, each attendee will create their own floral still life overflowing with garden roses. We will encourage you to take your time – as the saying goes, stop and smell the roses! This is your time to fully appreciate all the beauty freshly cut from the rose farm, to explore the natural placement and movement of the flowers as they are incorporated into the design.
To preserve the day and the floral artistry of each designer, a photographer will then capture your arrangement for your portfolio.

We look forward to welcoming you to the farm, and are thrilled to be able to share our love of roses with you!
This class is open to all skill levels in floristry.

The Schedule of the Day

8:45
Arrive on the Farm

9:00

Welcome
Discussion of Antique and Contemporary Roses
Followed by Farm Walkabout and Clipping Stems

11:30
Break for a Leisurely Lunch on the Farm

1:00
Fine Art Floristry Demonstration
Portfolio Shoot

We anticipate the day to conclude around 4:00 p.m., but welcome participants to work at their own pace.
A time to visit and relax while enjoying refreshments and taking one more stroll thru the rows of roses will be encouraged.

The Details:
Date: Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Location: All My Thyme Farm, Mt Vernon, Wa. (address will be sent to registered attendees)
Time: 8:45am until approximately 4/5pm
Investment: $750.00 per person
Registration: Click Here

Listen to Dawn’s podcast interview with Debra Prinzing here.

FAQs:
We anticipate attendees will be traveling to the area for the workshop. Please do let us know if you need information on accommodations as we have suggestions on area hotels.
Payment in full is required to hold your spot, there will be NO refunds or transfers given for cancellations or no shows.
Alicia and the team at Flirty Fleurs invests a lot of time and work into planning and preparing for our workshops prior to the event even taking place. Please respect our investment of time and supplies by only registering for classes you know you will be able to attend, please do not ask us for a refund.
If you are unable to attend a class you have registered for you may sell your ticket to another student – just let us know so that we may update our registration notes. Thank you for your understanding.

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By Rachel Evans Heath

Toward the end of my first year as a business owner I stumbled into one of the best things that has ever happened to my floral life: I found a floral community.

What is a floral community, you ask? Well for me it’s a group of floral designers who all live in the same general area. They network with each other, hire each other for freelance work, get together regularly, and best of all, offer an array of friendship opportunities with individuals who know exactly what you’re going through as you all navigate the floral-business world.

We call our group “Flower Power”, for lack of a better name. Literally. When naming the group they were struggling to think of something and jokingly offered Flower Power. And, of course, it stuck.

But I personally love the name. Because, despite its retro connotations, it’s empowering to be a part of a group like this!

So how did our amazing group come to be?

Well once upon a time, in June of 2016, a group of early floral business owners all happened to take one of Alicia’s Flirty Fleur Arch and Chuppah workshops together, here in Washington State where they all lived. Afterward these ladies got to chatting, and realized they all had something in common: they were craving a floral network to be a part of.

The Flirty Fleurs Arch and Chuppah Class where it all started, (not all participants are pictured here): Shannon Hagen, Erin Shackelford, Alicia, Keita Horn, Sandy Figel

So they organized their own. They invited Alicia and she joined in as well!

Three months later, while I was attending a separate Flirty Fleurs Arch and Chuppah Workshop, I asked another lady in attendance if she knew of any organized floral groups in the area. And guess what: SHE DID! She explained to me that she was part of a group that had just formed a few months prior, they met every month, had an email list, and a Facebook group.

Within a week I was emailing my hellos to a handful of designers and getting all the information for their next monthly meeting, (I had just missed the last meeting by 4 days! <sad face>).

But three weeks later I was excitedly attending my first meeting, and everyone was awesome! There were only about 8 of us there, and about 3 who couldn’t attend that night.

Their numbers were small, and had started even smaller, but it’s been almost two years now and we have upwards of 30 members on our email list.

These ladies, (so far we only have female members), have been a game changer for me. I’m a transplant to WA state, so networking was having a lot of shortcomings for me.

But networking aside, these ladies created a large community for me. We’re not just fellow flower power members. We’re friends!

Images include: Elaine Naness, Rachel Evans Heath (me), Alicia Schwede (Flirty Fleurs), Sandy Figel, Tammy Myers, Maura Whalen, Shannon Hagen, Kim Richards, Erin Shackelford, Keita Horn, Carey Wendel, and Katie Clary. (Please note we have many more wonderful members not pictured here.)

We meet monthly at each other’s homes, which creates a greater sense of friendship and connection between us. We chat and share what’s going on in our individual businesses, what we hope to do better, what has worked well for us, our business goals, our love of flowers…. All the things we can’t connect on in quite the same way with our own families and friends. We often plan meetings with business or floral themes to help keep our businesses on track. We offer encouragement to one another. We hire one another.

We take the competition out of the Greater Seattle floral industry.

And it’s a wonderful way to live and do business. It certainly makes shopping at the market more fun—wondering who I might run into while picking up my flowers. Or when I lose a wedding bid to a fellow member, it stings a little less, knowing how hard a worker that friend is and that they also deserved it. It’s a little easier to turn that negative dismay into a positive encouragement for working harder and getting the next one.

I feel positivity is always more productive, more helpful, and healthier than negativity. And a floral community is an excellent way to generate those positive relationships within your local floral industry.

Whenever I start to feel dismayed our insecure about my own floral business, my Flower Power friends are always ready to cheer me on and inspire me to keep on working, dreaming and creating.

Some of our group members as of January 2018. It’s tricky to squish us all in!

*Think you need floral community of your own? Keep an eye out next month for The Power of a Floral Community, Part 2: Finding and Creating your own Floral Community

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By Rachel Evans Heath

Sheri Jentsch of Sheri J Floral Design

This is Sheri or Sheri J Floral Design in New Braunfels, Texas. And she is a woman who knows tools.

Her favorite tool is the electric drill. “It’s my favorite because that is the tool I started with. It is sentimental for me, and I use it all the time.”

She’s referring to the first project she incorporated the use of power tools in with her floral design. It was 1999 and she’d been commissioned to create a 50th wedding anniversary piece that celebrated Y2K while also reflecting the customer’s electrical co-op and internet career.

The arrangement was to be freestanding and sit in front of the podium, but because the podium was attached to an elevated stage she needed a piece that was 7 feet tall in order to reach the top of the podium from the floor.

What she designed was a 7-foot-tall structure made of birch branch, screwed together with a power drill to make it self-standing. Cutting sheet metal into long strips, she wound it around all the birch throughout before using a heavy gauge silver wire purchased at a feed store to secure it and compliment the sheet metal. Lastly, she made self-contained flower-foam balls and incorporated the flowers.

Sheri’s Y2k floral structures

In addition to the 7-foot-tall structure, she made enough miniature versions to place on the buffet tables.

After that she knew she wanted to continue advancing her own designs with the help of power tools. So she started taking some classes.

“I first learned how to weld at a local community college in my area. Community Colleges are a great resource. I would recommend to anyone who is interested in becoming familiar with  power tools to contact a community college in their area to discover any courses being offered in construction. Or welding if you’re interested in that.”

From there, she says, you grow comfortable from constantly using those tools and incorporating them into your creations and projects.

But being a woman and working with tools has its hurdles.

“It took me hours to even get help from the men at the hardware store” she says. “It took time after time for them to take me seriously there. [It was when] I didn’t go away that they finally had to see me.”

By 2011 her comfort with tools gave her the foundation she needed to elevate her creativity and enable her designs to be something more than what the average florist might produce. And the city of New Braunfels had noticed.

When the New Braunfels’ Civic and Convention Center went through a 16 million dollar renovation, they were asking local artists to create pieces in various mediums to hang throughout the newly renovated building. They approached Sheri and asked her to create a piece.

So she created this: a 350 pound, 9 foot by 11 foot wall hanging structure made of native elements collected in New Braunfels. Those native elements included:  River Rock, Limestone, Pecans, Cedar Wood Slices, Pecan Wood Slices, Driftwood, Burr Oak Pods, Mountain Laurel Tree Pods, Wisteria Pods, Lichen Branches and Acorns.

“I started the project by having 9-foot tall cedar trees milled into 2.5 inch thick pieces.  After that I cut panels in the shape of a wave out of half inch plywood. Those panels were placed on top of the milled cedar to reflect the 2 rivers that run through New Braunfels. On each of the flow panels I created patterns with the native elements I collected throughout New Braunfels. The final step was to weld a frame for all the structures to mount and hang on a Limestone wall.”

The tools she used to create this wall hanging included:

Mig Welder, Jigsaw, Electric Drill, Skill Saw, Clamps, Adhesive, 1/4 inch steel pipe, 1/2 inch metal plates, and a scissor lift to get it installed.

“I had moments of elation and moments of crying following the installation of my Wall Sculpture at the Civic Center. There are no words to describe how I felt when the plaque with my name and the name of my art went on the wall next to my Sculpture. I still get emotional thinking about it.”

When I asked her if she had anything she wanted to say to other women regarding power tools she sent me this:

“I want to tell other women not to limit themselves on what they can create and accomplish by being too fearful of using power tools. Yes these tools are intimidating, powerful and deserve respect. But they can also be very empowering. If you become used to working with power tools, your options become limitless.”

A special thanks to Sheri for sharing the beautiful images.
Find Sheri J Floral Design online

YOU COULD BE FEATURED ON THE FLIRTY FLEURS BLOG! KNOW SOMEONE (YOU?) WHO SHOULD BE FEATURED ON OUR WOMEN WITH TOOLS SERIES? HAVE THEM EMAIL US AT INFO@FLIRTYFLEURS.COM,
SUBJECT LINE: WOMEN WITH TOOLS APPLICANT. TELL US WHO YOU ARE, A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR DESIGN WORK, AND YOUR FAVORITE POWER TOOL TO USE. INCLUDE AT LEAST 2 PICTURES OF RECENT PROJECTS YOU’VE DONE THAT REQUIRED POWER TOOLS AND TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT EACH.
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