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  • Design Room: Thinking Outside the Box
    By Rich Salvaggio, AAF, AIFD, PFCI
    Teleflora Vice President of Floral Publications

    The ever-present need to create unique floral arrangements on a daily basis can stifle a designer's thought processes. Pumping out design after design often leads to creative burn-out. Often, time and escape is needed for rejuvenating the imagination.

    As florists, we often fall prey to using products from floral wholesale companies as our only design components. In our development as floral designers, we lean toward using products with which we have become familiar. However, developing a unique or signature style is achieved by thinking outside the box - thinking beyond the obvious.

    An excellent way to add interest and originality to floral designs is by experimenting with alternate media. A host of easily accessible materials outside of the floral industry can stimulate concepts, develop distinctive style, and act as creative props for floral shop displays.

    Using Alternative Media

    Non-traditional materials incorporated with floral products to create designs, props, and displays are referred to as "alternative media." Using alternative media requires experimentation and an understanding and appreciation of the avant-garde in order to achieve desired effects.

    Experimentation with uncommon media increases design enthusiasm, yields signature products to excite and entice your customers, and creates opportunities for increased profitability.

    Search for the Unusual

    Access to uncommon design materials is unlimited and new applications are constantly emerging. As designers we need only to look at standard products with an imaginative eye as to how they might enhance or aid a floral design.

    Your search can take you to some surprising places. Fabric stores, art supply stores, junkyards, auto and commercial glass companies, home decorating stores, paint stores, flea markets, department stores, tile and ceramic stores, and auctions and antiques sales all can yield interesting design materials. The various markets are frequently inundated with incoming new materials.

    Plan field trips to various places to stimulate your creativity and challenge yourself to break out of your self-imposed design "box."

    Design "Hardware"

    Home improvement stores are good for opening your mind to using unusual items in floral designs, props, and displays. Almost every department has challenging materials to develop into designs. The plumbing section, for example, has many different types of piping, tubing, clamps, and even the ordinary drain plunger with a rubber cup!

    A drain plunger can be a riser or even a topiary mechanic in design. By securing the plunger upside down in a foam base, the handle serves as a rod or riser. On top, the rubber cup serves as a natural floral container to hold Oasis foam and flowers. You can enhance the plunger's wooden handle by rubbing shoe polish on it with a paper towel. You can also cover it by winding curly willow around it.

    Copper tubing with its curving properties can be used to create visual movement in a design by swirling or curving it through or around floral material. The color tone of the copper can enhance the design with a rich metallic texture. Mesh wires and aluminum piping can be used to give an industrial and contemporary flair to corporate and party work.

    Paint departments offer innumerable methods of enhancing finishes from paints to faux finish, or even stucco and grouts to give textured finishes to containers and props. Resin, polyurethane, varnish, and shellac can alter finishes.

    Electrical departments usually encompass a multitude of different wires. Metallic wires in copper, silver, and color-coated wires can bind floral materials. Unusual illumination concepts are only a few steps away in the lighting department.

    Other Products and Ideas

    Textiles and fabrics are great for draping props, covering containers, and making runners and tablecloths. Different fabric blends have characteristic properties. Lamé has a shimmer and catches light. Polyester double knits are more wrinkle resistant. Chiffons and nylons are supple and have draping characteristics useful for weddings. Tulle has a soft, romantic look.

    Fur, suede, and feathers can add texture to arrangements by covering containers or incorporating pelts and pieces for accents.

    Screening, aluminum piping, and PVC piping create structures for floral designs, as well as add visual motion with their shapes.

    Mastering Alternative Media

    When experimenting with new concepts and materials, you'll always get better success by beginning with smaller projects and becoming familiar with the use of the products. Learn about the products you plan to use, particularly if chemicals, heat treatments, or power tools.

    Breaking out of your box is exhilarating. Once you're "out there," inspiration is everywhere - and plumber's helpers become designer's helpers.


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