My article in the December 2012 Valentine's Day Design Issue of
Canadian Florist Magazine
Floral designers know just how to make design features from what would otherwise end up in the waste basket.
Sometimes we even treasure things that others would call garden refuge or trash. In fact, we appreciate a great clump of moss a lot more than the average person. We collect odd shapes of driftwood, seedpods and find uses for even the smallest snippets of ribbon. We can get rather animated about a big chunk of bark. We also use extreme words like "love" and "adore" and "mine forever" when referring to pre-loved ball jars or empty perfume bottles or a few odd vintage glasses.
Recycling in floral design is, of course nothing new.
No one can claim being the first designer who looked at an empty bottle and thought of placing a flower in it. We don't even see our recycling as being part of a movement or being trendy anymore. It really is just a part of every floral designer's life.
But because we are not just designers, but great designers, we don't simply recycle, we up-cycle.
We recognize the potential in used old oddities and turn it into things that are even more valuable than what they were when new. Our unique skills and abilities as designers start to shine through the moment we take this design leap from simply wanting to re-use (recycle.) to wanting to create value from what is used (up-cycle).
Successful up-cycling should never be treated as an afterthought or purely a low budget design solution.
The days are long gone when customers were willing to accept slight shabbiness and awkward craftsmanship in design work, just because it was recycled and environmentally friendly. Today's shoppers are a lot smarter than that. They know and expect better. Up-cycled design work requires an ongoing passion for improving your skill-set and the ability to ruthlessly measure quality.
As we stretch ourselves to create something new and develop our skills, we also start to see our projects as stepping stones on the path to becoming an expert in our craft.
That is what craftsmanship is all about. It is about the love of our craft and respecting it enough to do what we do right. It is creating things that make you feel proud. It is about knowing that what you design matters, and will matter to the people whose life your work touches.
It is also taking responsibility for the things we use and create, and being mindful of what will become of our creations at the end of their life.
Here are a few items that are rather odd and quite unexpected to see in "pride of place" in a floral design room, and the equally unexpected reasons why I treasure it:
Bricks: Yes, I mean the things you build with. I drill a hole in the brick and glue a stick or wire into the hole. An average brick is just heavy enough to be a great stand. Not only are they handy to secure a bouquet to, to keep it stable while working, but it is also an inexpensive and rather effective way to display flowers. You can also use a smooth river rock or piece of wood if a brick is a too bit edgy (or industrial) for your taste or design style
Styrofoam: It is not easy to find a place that can recycle Polystyrene, mostly because it is almost impossible to re-make it into high quality Polystyrene. But it is really easy to find uses for the sheets or blocks that you receive as packaging. Don't trash it. Re-purpose it!
Fantastic to glue and carve into any desired form.
Great to cover (pin or glue) with plant material or wool for a lightweight shape that floats.
Emboss with patterns (read: draw pictures on it with a blunt object) and use as a stamp.
Small pieces also make handy pin holders Pins neatly stuck into foam will not prick you when you rummage through your bag, nor will they spill out at the worst possible moment. Best of all: Simply pull out the pins to stand on end to form a great drying rack for clay or spray painted items, or to keep tiny blossoms in place when gluing them.
All twigs and stems: I have a big bin for all the stems that I cut and I end up using every last little twig in some armature, basket or design structure . I specially love rose stems. They are great to work with so keep and use the thorns! .
Candle wax: I always keep all the small stumps of burned out candles. Clean wax can be melted down to create more candles or can be used as an antibacterial layer for the fruit or autumn leaves that we add to designs. Wax that is less than perfect can be used to create a water proof layer inside Papier Mache containers, husks, pods and dried leaves.
Tissue and Newsprint paper: un-waxed paper can be pulped and recycled into paper or Papier Mache . Add a few seeds to make plant-able note cards.
Anti-static foam: It is the thin white foam sheet that protects new electronic equipment. It is also the perfect anti-scratch, spongy, waterproof coaster for glass vases and containers . Simply cut the size required and smooth it on to the bottom of the container. It will temporarily adhere to the container but is completely invisible through the glass and water.
Cardboard: I love boxes. It is impossible for me to throw out a box. Smaller boxes can be covered with Paper Mache to be used as packaging for deliveries. When I receive a large box I immediately "process" it by cutting it up into shapes for later use. A circle is the most versatile and great to have on hand to decorate as a floral collar or make composite flowers. Heart shapes and squares are also useful. Cover the cardboard with dried foliage, moss or bark, as I did for my Valentine's heart box.