Workshop On Creative Design

Creative Design, Workshop II, January 20, 2015

Creative Design, Workshop II, January 20, 2015

Tuesday I attended the second session of a Workshop II floral design class offered through my garden club. We began the class by practicing leaf manipulation, then used the altered leaves to develop a Creative Design.

As a novice student in the area of floral design it is difficult to know, much less explain, exactly what creative floral design is. The goal I believe is to fabricate a design no one else has ever done (conceptual originality), using basic design principles that apply to any artistic endeavor (foundational standards), and exhibiting consummate craftsmanship. None of these criteria are met by the arrangement I created on Tuesday, but after having been throughout the exercise I do believe I am beginning to internalize the goals.

Our teacher, Betsy, has a network of floral suppliers and for a small fee she provides each student the flowers and foliage to complete the design. This is helpful so that we all start out with the appropriate materials each time. Betsy is a garden club member, an experienced floral designer and a flower show judge. Two other members assist with the class, both of whom are also flower designers, and one is also a judge. I really appreciate that these women volunteer their time and expertise to help educate club members in floral design.

For class this week we were asked to bring an interesting branch, 1-2 inches thick and at least 20 inches high. Yesterday my husband helped me prune an outlier branch from a Lagerstroemia (Crape Myrtle) to use for this project. Unfortunately choosing a 20-inch section that had interesting curves proved challenging, but I sectioned a piece from the top that seemed to meet the criteria. I saved some of the wood for another project.

Branch pruned from Lagerstroemia (Crape Myrtle)

I cut a portion from this large branch pruned from Lagerstroemia (Crape Myrtle)

Once in class the base of the branch had to be scored or split to allow the branch to be inserted into a 3-inch florist pin holder. The lines of the branch established the line of the design. What I learned as I moved through the course was that the branch I chose proved to be too wispy and busy, not really strong or hefty enough to compete with the weight of the leaves and flowers we used. Thankfully the teachers gave lots of helpful comments, explanations and hands-on assistance, so I probably learned more by having to compensate for the size of the branch.

With the branch in place we turned our attention to leaf manipulation. We began trimming, folding, cutting, braiding, weaving and looping our leaves. This activity could have consumed the entire two hours of the class. My teacher Betsy demonstrated an interesting technique using an aspidistra leaf. She applied peel-off UGlu adhesive patches along the back spine of the leaf and lay medium weight florist wire down the spine. Next she trimmed an inch-wide strip from the length of a second aspidistra leaf and used it to cover the wire. With the wire in place the leaf can be then be folded, scrunched, twisted or otherwise manipulated and the shape will hold.

Wired and folded aspidistra leaf

Wired and folded aspidistra leaf

Without a clear design idea in mind it took me a while to get started with the alterations I was so afraid of “messing up” which is always something I must always overcome when learning a new activity. By nature I am usually very reflective and like to weigh all the possibilities, but the class time was extremely limited of course. I finally conquered my timidity and began preparing the leaves.

Eventually I inserted an Fatsia leaf (without manipulating it), added an accordion-folded, wired Aspidistra leaf and add a couple of other rolled Aspidistras. I also made a loose loop using half-dozen strands of beargrass and used a quarter section of a fan palm to complete the foliage.

Fatsia and Fan Palm Leaves

The looped beargrass did not survive the car ride home so I learned a valuable lesson. The leaves have to be stapled, glued, wired or otherwise securely fastened.

Looped Bear Grass

Looped and Wrapped Beargrass

Manipulated leaves in Creative Design

Manipulated leaves and Asiatic lily in Creative Design

I really liked working with aspidistra leaves. Each one has a unique pattern.

Bicolored Aspidistra was trimmed to make it narrower, then rolled and glued.

Bicolored Aspidistra was trimmed to make it narrower, then rolled and glued.

By this time I became more decisive and ended up trimming away quite a lot of the wispy branches and several major ones. Less is more in creative design. With a great deal of conversation and guidance from the instructors the arrangement began to take shape. Betsy helped me place three tightly closed Asiatic lilies, the only flowers used in the design. Each lily was cut to be a different height. Two were placed in front and one was added in back near the base. It will be interesting to see how the design changes as the lilies open. After two days they have opened only slightly.

Creative Design

Creative Design

I brought home some leftover flowers and leaves so I can experiment with creative design some more this week. (The leaves were featured for January Garden Bloggers Foliage Day.)

Some of the materials had shifted around during the car ride so I reworked them before photographing the arrangement once I got home. The angle I worked from is hard to recapture in the photographs. Slight shifts in the camera angle really change the effect so the design integrity needs to be strong from all frontal and side points of view.

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Aspidistra (Cast Iron Plant)
Fatsia japonica
Arecaceae (Fan Palm)
Xerophyllum tenax (Beargrass)
Lilium (Asiatic lily)
Lagerstroemia (Crape Myrtle) branch, 1-2 inches thick, at least 20 inches high
3-inch florist pin holder
Oasis Lomey 11″ Round Designer Dish – Black
UGlu Adhesive Strips

Having gone through the class this week I realize I have a lot of work to do to prepare for an upcoming Floral Design Guild event. For this I have to come up with a concept, select a container and appropriate background, devise necessary mechanics to ensure the arrangement stands up properly and select the flowers and foliage. February will be here soon. Hoping to come up with a bold and dynamic design, I also have to keep reminding myself to relax and enjoy the journey.


29 thoughts on “Workshop On Creative Design

  1. Christina

    Fantastic Susie, I think I am enjoying your class as much as you are! I would love to be able to produce a sophisticated design like this. When we spoke about Aspidistra plants I was thinking of just green not beautifully variegated as the ones you have used. I really will have to try to find one for a pot on the terrace during summer, and think of somewhere it could go in winter. I think you underestimate your talent, you always produce arrangements that any professional florist would be proud of. Thank you so much for the detailed description; there are no classes like this here so I am dependent on books and you tube but hearing your personal experience is worth even more than those.

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Thanks Christina–I appreciate your nice comments. Wish you could be in the class too–I know you would love it. Glad you found this useful. It helps me organized my thoughts to write about it afterwards. I came across a large pot of green cast iron plant (at the gym of all places) and felt the leaves. Those were much thicker and stiffer than these we used in class.

  2. Pauline

    Stunning arrangement Susie with the different methods you have chosen. I have a variegated Fatshedera in the garden, I will look at it in a new light!

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Thanks Pauline. I just learned about Fatshedera yesterday and will be on the lookout for one. The foliage would probably be wonderful for indoor use.

  3. Cathy

    This is amazing Susie, what creativity! And I’m so glad you are sharing your classes with us. The different angles and light in your photos really do show how the resulting impression can be altered and also how effective foliage can be when highlighted. I wish you lots of luck and especially lots of fun with the planning for the upcoming event!

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Hey Cathy, thanks for your words of support. I’m glad you enjoyed the class notes–I know it got rather long. It’s always a challenge to get some photos that work. (The sun was out that day for a change but we’re back to rain now.) I’ll try to remember to take your advice and have fun. Thanks.

  4. Carolyn Rose-Seed

    Susie, thanks so much for sharing these posts. I find them fascinating. As you know, I enjoy growing lots of flowers, but recently have decided that it is in my best interest to pay more attention to design as well. I appreciate you sharing your efforts!

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Hi Carolyn, so nice to hear from you. Glad you are enjoying reading about my floral adventures. As much as I love flowers I find the floral design techniques kind of challenging, but it’s so fun working with the materials. Your photos of the buckets of beautiful flowers ready to head to market each week always make me swoon. Have fun with your seeds and thanks for commenting.

  5. Libby Wilkie

    It all seems so amazingly complicated! I am in total admiration; and I can’t imagine the patience involved. Thank you so much for showing us the process…and look forward to seeing your next steps. Beautiful….

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Libby, there are certainly a lot more components to keep in mind that I would have guessed. Still feels all very mysterious. Glad you enjoyed seeing how this one went together.

  6. P&B

    I like the way you manipulate the aspidistra leaf. It gives the leaf a much more interesting look than it already has. Thank you for the ‘how to’ tip as well.


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