How a "Chopped" Floral Design Can Help You Win Too
She was on stage in front of a large audience earlier this month at the AIFD National Symposium in Washington DC. With the clock running. In one of the most important floral competitions of her life. She’d never heard of or seen the key mechanic before. Yet she “chopped” it and a wooden crate into pieces and used them in completely unintended ways. The result? Katharina Stuart AIFD created an innovative design to win the FTD America’s Cup and the right to represent the US at the FTD World Cup in 2019. All because she has a favorite TV show. Understanding her approach to materials and her guidelines for preparing for and performing in competition can benefit you when you need to create floral designs on short notice or don’t have the perfect materials on hand. Which might be almost any day!
About that show
Photo: Jorge Uribe PhotographySo how did watching a television show influence the El Cerrito, California, designer's winning America’s Cup design? “I love the cooking show Chopped and I remembered that they always stress transforming the basket ingredients,” says Katherina. “So that's what I tried to achieve.” The ingredients for the four America’s Cup finalists included an OASIS Floral Foam Tile and a required wooden crate. Katharina knew she needed to create structural height for the design she wanted to construct. She cut the tile into individual rectangles and dismantled her crate into thin wooden slats. When asked after the event if she used that tile technique often, Katherina laughed, “I had never used that product before. What is it called?”
Katharina’s spontaneous plan worked!
Photo: Jorge Uribe PhotographyKatharina quickly stacked the cut rectangular tiles into a vertical design and strengthened the design with the wooden slats to create the winning design of the America’s Cup finals! The most interesting detail of Katharina’s design was the unusual floral foam mechanic it was fashioned from. The audience watched with interest and whispers of “What is she doing?” as she cut apart the sheet of floral foam tiles and began stacking them. Katharina’s gamble paid off. The vertical tower of tiles held securely and the judges chose it as the winning design.
Thinking outside the crate
Photo: Jorge Uribe PhotographyWhile the other three finalists designed beautiful arrangements using their required wooden crate as a container, Katharine took a different approach. “I took my crates apart and drilled holes in each piece, pulled the bind wire through and secured the wire into the oasis (on the other side) to cover the sides,” She then added textural materials like scabiosa pods, reindeer moss and bells of Ireland on the sides for visual interest.
Working with what you have
Photo: David Kesler AIFDAs retailers working with fresh flower supplies, we know the challenge of asking for what we want, but using what we get! Katharina and the other contestants had to work with what they were given just as florists often do in the flower shop or on-site while setting up events. “Usually, I would have staked the tiles with really strong wire or wooden stakes, but I didn't have any of those handy and the weight of the tiles were heavy enough to support themselves,” says Katharina.
Photo: Jorge Uribe PhotographyIf creating this design in your shop, you can experiment with applying heavy wire or wooden stakes or try adding a grid of waterproof floral tape or a tight layer of florist netting around the stack of tiles for extra support. This vertical form could more easily be fashioned from blocks of floral foam stacked atop each other.
Why create a different form?
Photo: Jorge Uribe PhotographyFor Katharina, using the materials provided to her in an innovative, if more difficult, way helped her to win the competition. Why was Katharina intent on creating a different form of design? “We can all buy pretty flowers and put them in a vase but only a skilled floral designer can create a one of a kind floral art piece,” she explains.