Fresh Outdoor Floral Exhibit Magic? 10 Designers Show How.

Why did a dozen leading Midwestern floral artists head for historic woods outside Detroit carrying flowers, knives and electric drills? “To create floral magic for all those who wandered through the Mountain woods,” says Laura Daluga AIFD.

Outdoor floral design | OASIS Floral Products Photo credit:

Specifically, these volunteers from the North Central Chapter of the American Institute of Floral Designers designed outdoor exhibits for a September fundraiser at Cranbrook House & Gardens, part of a National Historic Landmark site with 14 buildings.

Some brought floral mechanics and decorative accessories with them: hanging glass tubes, mesh, ribbon spools, wire, fabric and floral cages. One committed to creating her design using only what she had already in her shop. Several incorporated items they found on-site. The result: a walk-through Moongate, a MoonshadowForest Jellyfish, a Lava Flow and more delightfully fresh outdoor designs. The more than 700 people attending Art in the Elements: A Plein Air Floral Exhibit 2017 enjoyed one-of-kind floral art, mingling with the designers and exploring the site.

Freedom in the outdoors

En plein air is a French term meaning to paint outdoors, with practitioners often freeing themselves from studio or academic conventions. These floral designers proceeded in a similar spirit, creating magical and innovative designs in the Bloomfield Hills woods in a section of the site known as The Mountain at Cranbrook. Here are 10 of the designs, with several of the designers sharing with us their thoughts on creating their designs and the energizing and bonding volunteer experience.

Carolyn Kurek AIFD

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Sheryl Timmerman AIFD: Patina - Tears from Zeus

[rev_slider alias="fresh-magic-2"] Sheryl’s inspiration to see things in a different light came from the site’s Weeping Zeus Bust. “If you walk up the Mountain to the bust of Zeus, there is a loose footstone. Step onto that stone and tears shoot out of the Zeus bust. It gave me an idea I couldn't get out of my head,” Sheryl explains. She wanted a look of Zeus crying and shooting lightning from the heavens above. The base of the design featured multiple sizes of hanging glass tubes holding zig zags of copper flat wire to capture the light. “As the breeze softly moved the glass tubes, it looked as if giant tears of Zeus were dispersing from the heavens and the lightning bolts of Zeus were coming down from above.”

Debi Dawson AIFD

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Carolyn Kurek AIFD, Mary Linda Horne AIFD, Sue Huelsman AIFD and Garrett Skupinski

[rev_slider alias="fresh-magic-4"] “Carolyn created the design concept. Mary Linda and Sue procured product but were unable to attend,” explains Garrett Skupinski. “I was the last-minute stand-in for completing the collaborative piece. I just jumped in the car with Sheryl (Timmermann) to go on a floral adventure with my best friend.”

Trisha Haislar AIFD: Moonshadow

[rev_slider alias="fresh-magic-5"] Drawing inspiration from the vertical lines of the pine trees, Trisha felt the space needed round forms. “I wanted my design to float over the forest floor creating a sense of calm and intrigue using shades of green with pops of bright colors and intricate details,” explains Trisha. “I envisioned two separate designs that would appear as one with the front hanging tree creating a shadow on the moon or back disk.” “I challenged myself to repurpose the majority of my design from items on hand,” says Trisha. “Success! 85 percent of the design elements were items on hand or found and free.”

Lisa Belisle AIFD

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Laura Daluga AIFD: Torrent

[rev_slider alias="fresh-magic-7"] My floral take on the copious, conflicting and confusing amount of information out there each day,” says Laura. “I love to showcase floral art for the public. We need to show them how our craft can move into the realm of art.” Even redesigned art. “One of the free-standing hand-tied bouquets I made with a wire armature for the exhibition entrance was blown over by the wind and run over by a bus! Floral art, flat as a pancake!” laughs Laura.

Deborah Strand AIFD: Lava Flow

Outdoor floral design | OASIS Floral Products Debbie’s goal was to use the concept of fire in her design. “I hung flowers from the mesh with the stems inserted into water tubes to create pave – uniformed surfaced clusters.”

Stacey Carlton AIFD: Moongate

[rev_slider alias="fresh-magic-8"] “I was inspired by the concept of how nature can transport energy and awareness. I created a visual representation of this passage; an entryway to infinite possibilities,” shares Stacey. In addition to the enjoyment of creating for art's sake, Stacey uses these artistic endeavors to develop and test new techniques and design applications. She discovered that locating the appropriate space in nature to frame your art is key. “I relocated from the space that I initially chose to an area of the property that better showcased my art regarding scale and lighting.”

Brent Leech AIFD

Outdoor floral design | OASIS Floral Products AIFD North Central President Brent Leech allowed his structure to evolve. “As I was creating the design on-site, it became more of mirror imaging of the green spider mums.” “I love using metal, especially discarded pieces that I find like this table from the side of the road.” It became the catalyst for his design.

An artful message

The goal of the event was that each attendee might enjoy the day and leave with a new appreciation for floral art. For the designers, it meant enjoying the comradery and ingenuity of their floral peers. Proceeds from the fundraising event support the preservation of Cranbrook House & Gardens and the AIFD North Central Chapter scholarship fund. How can you introduce your love of floral art to the public in your area?

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