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  • Picture This - Drawing in a Language that Customers Really Understand

    Nothing inspires confidence in a bride-to-be like a sample of your artistic handiwork - proof positive of your skill and creativity. It also helps communication with the bride if you can offer her a visual reference for your ideas.

    But while most florists rely on photographs of someone else's wedding for visual aids, or on generic silk bouquets, Cydne Pidgeon, AIFD, simply picks up her pencil and brings her design concepts to life on paper. It's a strategy that potential customers find reassuring and impressive.

    Six years ago, the owner of Fabulous Wedding Flowers in Portland, Ore., says she liked to sketch but felt she didn't have enough skill or self-confidence to use drawing successfully as a way to communicate her ideas to customers. So she enrolled in a drawing class. The lessons didn't turn her into a Rembrandt or Picasso, she modestly states, but they did give her the ability to quickly depict a design.

    "You have to learn a kind of drawing shorthand," Pidgeon says. "That's what I found the classes to be really helpful with. They help you develop a style. Maybe what you do isn't flawless, but it's not necessary to be great at sketching everything."

    Worth a Thousand Words

    The classes helped Pidgeon with perspective and taught her how to fill a page. Now, as a client describes a flower- and vine-covered cake, she almost covertly pencils along. Then she can ask, "Is this what you mean?"

    "I often get compliments from customers," says Pidgeon. "They tell me, 'You are really good at this.' But I think they say that mainly because I'm able to do it quickly."

    Certainly, her ability to illustrate her floral ideas gives her a marketing edge. "Anything you can do to set yourself apart can help," Pidgeon says. "It makes you seem more interested in their wedding and in making it special."

    Even when you're not dealing with customers, drawing can be helpful in the creative process. Learning to draw is a great way to train the eye and the visual imagination. Some experts believe that drawing can be used to release creativity. (The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards.)

    Certainly, it is easier to envision the floral decorations on a wedding cake, for instance, after first making an outline that shows its overall shape and whether the layers are stacked or separated by columns. The same is true of a bride's bouquet and the silhouette of her gown. And again, in the consultation room, a drawing of the bouquet allows you to translate such subjective phrases as "long and flowy" or "not too long and wider" into easily understood concepts.

    On the Record

    Learning to draw also has practical benefits that go beyond design and marketing, says Pidgeon. When she is getting ready to actually create a wedding arrangement, the drawings help her remember exactly what it was that she discussed with the bride, perhaps months ago. Plus, they make it easier to instruct other floral designers who weren't in on the initial consultation. "The larger your staff, the more the sketches will help," she says.

    The idea of drawing right in front of customers may seem intimidating, but it shouldn't be, believes Pidgeon. "Few of us may ever be able to realistically render a perfect rose, but you can get the idea of it, express the feeling of it," she says. "And that's really all you need."


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