Yearning for Learning: Floral Workshop with Designer Max Gill

It’s Spring in Seattle. Flowers are popping up everywhere. Every morning I check on the sweet green fans unfurling from our vine maple trees that go out as rentals. Wedding season is just about to explode, and I want to be prepared. Paperwork, staffing, inventory — sure. But the real preparation I’m looking for is in the form of inspiration. I want to see people working with flowers in ways that spark my creativity, that teach me new ways of building and designing. Stuff that keeps me fresh as I enter my 15th wedding season.

This yearning for learning happens every Spring. Last year I found inspiration in a daylong workshop taught by Berkeley designer Max Gill, hosted by the Seattle Wholesale Growers’ Market. That guy. Wow. I found a new floral hero that day! Beyond his brilliant approach of relating floral design to theater arts, and his way with color and texture, he is a most generous, kind, and funny teacher. All the things you want in a day of inspiration.

Drawing from a ridiculously abundant selection of locally grown flowers, we spent the morning making a compote arrangement in lovely ceramic vessels. After lunch on the loading dock (how florists do), we each made a bridal bouquet. The greatest gift that day was time. Time to work slowly, to really look at the materials and let the shapes and colors speak to me. That luxury doesn’t come our way during the summer months, but the lessons learned from it do.

I’ll be taking another workshop with Max up at Jello Mold Farm this June (also hosted by the Market). I’m looking forward to another day of artistic recharge and regeneration, and to sharing what I learned. In the meantime, here are my finished products from that lovely day, photographed by Jenn Tai and styled by Gather Design Company.

Other Players:

Hair & Makeup: Yessie Libby

Gown: Alexandra Grecco from The Dress Theory

Bride: @mckenziedrew of Seattle Models Guild

Rentals: Cort Party Rental

Jewelry: Nordstrom

A Uniquely Splendid wedding at Guemes Island Resort

They say that a little rain on your wedding day bodes well for the future. How about a LOT of rain, wild winds, and a ginormous rainbow? Given that these were the exact conditions at Elana’s and Nathan’s uniquely splendid wedding at Guemes Island Resort, I’d say that the couple is set for a fabulously happy life together.

At the end of September 2017, the Floressence crew happily traveled up to Guemes Island for a wedding we had all eagerly anticipated. Design details were dreamed up in part by the super creative bride (who has a thriving career as a performance artist; see Cabin Fever to be inspired by her group’s work) and the always innovative Katie Aweida of Wonderstruck Event Design, and in part by Floressence. We are fueled by creative collaborations, and this was a dream team. When Elana told me that there would be a “surprise” dance performance down the aisle, we all knew we’d have to find a way to spy on it. (Spoiler alert: it was amazing and joyful and beautiful.)

Original plans for the outdoor ceremony were scrapped as wind and rain tore across the charmingly low-key resort, and the ceremony took place in the tent instead. The couple commissioned an architect friend to build their chuppah, which we ornamented with rose canes, apple branches, beautiful fairy roses, and other seasonal blooms climbing up the four legs. I took it as a high compliment that the Father of the Bride really loved it; he said he’s seen a lot of chuppahs in his day, and he loved that this one felt grounded, and tied to the earth.

Overlapping rugs of various colors and sizes gave warmth and interest to the aisle — and made a great backdrop for showers of post-ceremony confetti. All vendor hands were on deck for a massive tent flip from Ceremony to Reception after the vows were exchanged. Sweet centerpieces in stoneware urns, laid on lace table runners, featured seasonal dahlias with ferns, roses, lisianthus, stock, and other favorite elements. Candlelight flickered against the storm outside, and the music and laughter carried on.

As for me and the crew, we parlayed our adventure into a mini-work retreat, celebrating the almost-end of wedding season with dinner out in Anacortes and an overnight stay in town. (Slow motion videos of jumping on the beds might have been made.) At dinner we talked about what makes a wedding romantic. Pretty hard to argue that Elana’s and Nathan’s was indeed just that.

Gorgeous photos from Hannah Arista Photography, with many thanks from us!

Other vendors helped bring this wedding to life:

Catering: Ciao Thyme

Hair and Makeup:  Off-White Makeup and Beauty

Tent and Farm Tables: Pacific Party Canopies

Videography: Cabfare Productions

Band: Holy Pistola

Photo Booth: Hello There You

Stationer/Baker:  Alexandra Beveridge

Lush Garden Wedding at Rock Creek Gardens

On a gorgeously sunny day last August, my team bustled down to Rock Creek Gardens in Puyallup for what would become one of our favorite weddings of the season. With a box truck and a van both loaded to the gills, and a setup crew of eight people, this one was a biggie. If you haven’t been to Rock Creek before, let me tell you, it is splendid. The grounds are vast, the ceremony arbor is about 5 times wider than most, the tent is generous, and the landscaping goes on for what feels like miles. (I made a mental note a few times that day to invest in walkie-talkies for the crew.)

Rebecca Grant of New Creations Weddings enlisted us to design a whole host of fun floral installations, including a floral wall which served as a photo backdrop. We filled it with smilax vine, ruscus foliage, blowsy hybrid tea roses in muted peach and ivory tones, delicate spray roses, hydrangea, and Creola dianthus — all without using floral foam. We also built a custom Frenchie, shabby-chic frame to encase the 5′ x 8′ wall. The pneumatic nail gun saw a lot of action at the studio that week! Seeing the beautiful bride, Joy, standing in front of the wall was the ultimate payoff. She and the flowers were at one!

We also loved working with a new (to us) material in the tall centerpieces. To get the right height and graceful reach to the elevated designs, we ordered rose canes from local grower Janet Foss and Oregon-based Crowley House. (Gotta love those fabulous farmers who just say “yes!”). I love the way they arch out of the arrangements and contrast against the white tent. (These, too, were floral foam free.)

Enjoy The O’Malleys gorgeous photography below…. I know when I’m in need of a dopamine hit, I will still take a peek now and then!

A whole host of other vendors brought this day to life, including Vintage Ambiance, The Sweetside, KLS Makeup Artistry, Pacific Grill, Nicole Spose, Bel Aire Bridal, and CORT Party Rental.

Floral Eclipse: Get Hitched Give Hope 2017

Did you watch the solar eclipse of 2017? Remember how the sky got so much darker for those strange, cold minutes? I never want to forget that particularly rich shade of periwinkle blue over the roof of our house as I sat out in the yard and marveled with my husband and two kids. And the golden crescents all over every surface — a sliver of the sun making that unusual shape.

When the fantastic charity auction Get Hitched Give Hope asked us to design the flowers for the main ballroom at the Four Seasons last November, and when we learned that the theme was “Under the Light of a Thousand Stars,” my team and I thought of the eclipse. We wanted to capture that lovely merging of night and day, of purple and caramel, fog and sun. We wanted the dreamy textures of the sky and all that passes through it.

And we wanted to build clouds! Designing for a group of wedding industry colleagues is always a fun challenge. I wanted to show my friends something different. With GHGH landing at the end of wedding season, everyone is ready for some unique visual candy. My team and I built cloud structures out of freestanding plywood panels, covered on the front with chicken wire and moss, and on the back with dark grey shantung silk (yay, no foam!). We filled the clouds with roses, miscanthus, carnations, football mums, dusty miller, pampas grass, and other materials that captured the colors and textures we were going for. These panels sat on the front edge of the stage where the live auction took place. And how AMAZING is that gorgeous backdrop created by Water and Chalk? Wow. Swoon.

It was a fabulous night for coming together in community — and for us, recapturing a little bit of that celestial magic from August 2017.

Huge thanks to La Vie Photography for being there to capture it all!

Citrus and Sage Shazam at Chihuly Garden and Glass

Events at Chihuly Garden and Glass present a designer with two paths: understatement or shazam. I’ve taken the understated approach before, with subdued, all-white floral designs that tried in no way to compete with the incredible glass installation hanging from the venue’s ceiling. But for Emily and Ken’s wedding in August 2016, we got to dive fully into the wow factor, with bold, bright, textural, joyful creations that reflected the spirit of the artwork.

Rebecca Grant of New Creations Weddings created a gorgeous overall design scheme that blended whimsy and formality, bright color with moments of subdued grace. Our floral designs pulled in large silver cardoon leaves, cheerful pops of craspedia, seasonal juicy dahlias, and the ever luscious “Juliet” David Austin rose. Tall centerpieces were poised on glass pedestals flanking the altar during the ceremony, then moved to tables for the reception. Curly willow reached upwards and mimicked the twisting, organic lines of the glass. Specialty linens and wood chargers by Pedersens and CORT  provided a gorgeous base for the tablescape.

One of my favorite elements of the day was the bridesmaids’ custom signs. Instead of bouquets, they carried the sweetest hand-lettered wooden signs down the aisle (created by Wonderstruck), festooned with floral across the top. Altogether, the maids carried a message: “I have found the one whom my soul loves” for the processional and during the ceremony, then flipped around to read “And they lived happily ever after” for the recessional. Also, how cool are the floral print bridesmaid dresses? We never see that!

The Manchiks were on hand to capture all the lovely moments seen below– and of course, the shazam.