Breaking the Rules
I recently was invited to give my first Design Demonstration hosted by a local garden club. I, myself, have never attended anything of the sort and was both excited and anxious about the experience. Naturally, as many things do, this opportunity came up rather impromptu but I was happy to jump on the occasion. After speaking with the events and education coordinator for the club committee I learned a great deal about what all goes on during this monthly gathering. They started the meeting with general announcements and then went straight into business with lots of lingo like; "I motion to move...", "I second the motion...", "Discussion is on the table...", etc. At one point I realized I no longer had any clue what was being discussed or if even they were able to reach a decision. Then came the anticipated Blue Ribbon award for both design and horticulture. All of the designs had to be a line-design representing a "winter vortex". These designs were judged based on a certain 'book of rules' and the Blue Ribbon winner scored a 98/100. I immediately realized as the judge was providing feedback about the work that my lecture was the antithesis of everything she was advising. She mostly talked about the rules and how to 'win' while my demonstration was exclusively focused on how to gracefully break all those very rules. So, I knew right of the bat, that I would need to fuse in some humor and crack a coupe jokes along the way.
As I was introduced and shared a bit of my background they were all surprised (as am I) that this entire journey all started from stacking apples in a grocery store. Sharing with them that I accidentally fell into this passion opened up a sense of camaraderie with the group. It allowed the discussion to be more personable and casual. Which is a good thing because my nervous personality sometimes gives way to some ridiculous gestures. Needless to say we had a great time and the lecture was off to a great start.
I decided to share the importance of Movement and Depth when approaching original design. Especially when working with monochromatic elements. This was great material to share given the fact that the design competition was required to use all white flowers with winter foliage. During the demonstration, while designing, I was able to discuss my approach to mechanics and how they differ from traditional methods while incorporating interesting elements of tone and texture. Emphasizing the importance of creating a sense of depth that evokes an individual story out of each design. To my surprise, they kept up gracefully despite my rambling and even started throwing out questions left and right while I was working. I was proud to know that they were both engaged and interested in the material. Especially when considering that many of these topics discussed are unique to my style. Most of which is not necessarily defined in a certain vocabulary or established teaching. It was nice to simply share my approach in my own words from my own intentions. That involved my many lessons in accepting mistakes, and embracing the impermanence of the work, as well as letting go as the story evolves without controlling the natural elements.
In the end I managed to successfully fill a 45 minute lecture while demonstrating my approach to design and adding in a little bit of personal inspiration along the way. This particular demonstration resulted in the completion of a 'simple' centerpiece and the club enjoyed every minute of it. They were all so very kind following the lecture as they rushed the stage for a closer look and the chance to ask more questions. Having that opportunity to meet everyone individually and hear their inspirations as well as challenges is exactly why we were there. To share my own struggles along the way as well as everyday seemed to fill the room with excitement. I hope at the next competition that at least one designer dares to 'break the rules' and learns something new and beautiful about themselves. I furthermore hope that my demonstration also gives them the confidence to share that very beauty with everyone around them every chance they get.
We were only there for a couple hours but in that time we made a lot of new friends and hopefully a lot more opportunities to share our work. Being in the company of both gardeners and designers all at once is truly genuine and inspiring. Hope to see you at the next one!!!