Today I was on the phone for some time with a lady who called to ask about our floral design classes. Her question: Are your classes leading to a certificate? My answer: No, they are simply floral yoga classes, a place to find inner peace. A hobby, as you may be inclined to call it. For a real certificate, you should go to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, I said. Her answer: But that is so expensive! Obviously, she thought, becoming a floral designer would cost her $8000 and she was in the process of finding a less expensive deal. My answer: Just don’t go then, it will be of no use anyway!
In the mids of this very informative conversation, I have decided to share this with everyone. So ladies and gentlemen, here is how you become a Floral Designer. Of, course, the whole subject of the difference between a florist and a floral designer remains to be explained and exemplified somewhere else.
School or Apprenticeship
If you ever thought that going to Floral Design School will turn you into a Floral Designer in three or six months, please stop right there. Paying your $8000 on Floral Design School will only turn you into a glorified bucket washer. The joke in the industry has been for a while: I am a Pearsons graduate and I won’t wash buckets. From my personal experience, all NJ-NY florists will sneer when reading a Resume with a flower school on it. They will sometimes end up hiring that person to start at the bottom of the chain, along with the flower cleaners and bucket washers. Your floral design school will probably never be mentioned again.
The most usual and popular way to start in Floral Design is through apprenticeship, working next to a veteran florist for a couple of years, volunteer ork or getting paid $7/hour. It is minimum pay and hard work, but you have your foot in the door. (Disclaimer: there are a couple of state in the US requiring a license to profess this career, but those are the exception to the rule) Also, I would like to add that seasoned floral designers also go to school or floral design classes in order to better and further their already existing careers. So flower schools are really a good, constructive place to learn addition techniques, store management and business development for a veteran designer.
Bleach, Gloves and Buckets
So you have answered that craigslist or newspaper ad and you found yourself in a proper flower shop back room, high end boutique or dingy warehouse studio. This is where your Floral Design Career starts, back room, some Spanish men and women listening to regaeton, lots of very fragile glass that keeps falling off shelves without any obvious reason, bleaching and washing buckets, 2000 roses a person to be dethorned and deleafed in two hours (sounds like Valentine’s Day). On top of that, flower debris to your knees (true story: do not show up on your first day of work in flip-flops or sandals) and tons of blades, clippers and knifes to leave glorious and memorable scars and possibly missing fingertips. You will probably leave your first day of work in tears. But they will be glory tears.
Where are the Flowers?
Flowers, yes, you will probably touch your first flower in that ginger, floral designer way a little bit later, after the flowers are cleaned. But not on your first day, because designers are very specific, sometimes completely insane about how their flowers are handled and cared for.
Now that you were given a vase and a pair of clippers, you are almost there. You will soon be expected to do the following: replicate an arrangement to microscopic details. Do this in standard time of 7 minutes. Take the arrangement apart and make it again, because the first time you failed to listen to the master or follow the instructions. By now, you are probably in tears. You can not feel your fingers, you probably cut yourself in three places and you can not grasp the whole technique or the meaning of it. You only have two hands and you have been on your feet for six hours. Then there is wiring boutonnieres, glueing corsages, funeral work, wedding work, prom work, weeklies, tropicals, planting, and all this at $7/pe hour.
Note: Do not bother learning the names of flowers by heart. We, florists, usually make them up any way, and there is no real need to know the flowers if you never encounter them in person. I once met a self proclaimed designer who learned the flowers alpabetically, could recite page and pages of botany, yet he could not recognise them in person.
When can you call yourself a Floral Designer?
I guess you can call yourself a floral designer for the first time when you are asked to make a $50 arrangement which looks like $75 by using $25 worth of flowers. Also, when you have worked with 3 or 4 different store, FTD, wedding studios, corporate and funeral florists, a couple of great freelancing gigs. After three or four years of this, you are a Floral Designer. You might be making $25-$30 /hour, worked in some high end hotels, maybe designed a couple of weddings on your own. You also know that you have reached the top when the wholesalers give you 10% discount because you show up at 5.00 AM.
Congratuations! You are now ready to open your business!
The old fashion way.