Hi flower friends! Field to Vase Editor Kendra Aronson here! Last night I attended an amazing workshop hosted by the lovely Katie Noonan of Noonan’s Wine Country Designs in San Luis Obispo, California. For this class we created a beautiful Earth Day–inspired arrangement using all locally grown flowers and foliages sourced from Eufloria (Nipomo, CA) and Skyline (Nipomo, CA). Utilizing earth-friendly techniques, we created our designs in an upcycled vase provided by Katie. Her industrial chic studio was brimming with buckets of anemones, ranunculus, dahlias, jasmine, and more. The scents were absolutely heavenly and truly embraced the freshness of spring—in fact, the flowers had been cut at 2 p.m. that afternoon! To kick off the evening we had local cheese and honey from the farmers’ market paired with local wine (made by her husband!) from Claiborne & Churchill Winery, located just down the road in Edna Valley. Since 2013, Katie’s Petal Club has hosted a workshop every month; she is extremely passionate about educating the public about flower seasonality and floral design. Below are some snapshots from our evening, an interview with Katie, and a DIY for some inspiration. Enjoy!
Let’s start from the beginning. How did you start your floral career? What kind of formal training do you have under your belt? How long have you been a florist?
First of all, my parents have a great garden up in Northern California, so I grew up in the garden picking flowers. In 2002, I took a class at Cal Poly—which was basically a floral design class—and that’s where I really got a passion for floral design. I became part of the student chapter of AIFD (American Institute of Floral Designers) and we competed in national competitions. [The American Institute of Floral Designers, established in 1965, is the oldest and largest non-profit organization dedicated to recognizing and promoting the art of floral design as a professional career.] I competed in New York and St. Louis, I got third overall in New York! We were competing against other schools that had the same program. This really fueled me.
That’s amazing! I bet that was an exciting moment for you! So when did you start Noonan’s Wine Country Designs?
I graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in Ag Business in 2004; that same year I started Noonan’s Wine Country Designs. I started my business but I was also working for a local winery. I was being pulled in both directions trying to figure out my path—and then I got sucked into the winery, I became their Marketing & Events Planner. But after some time I re-evaluated what I wanted to do—I’m such a creative person and I knew I didn’t want to be at a desk. In 2013 I took the AIFD test which is basically an “Iron Chef” for florists.
Oh wow, please tell me more!
They put you in a room, you don’t know what designs you have to do but you have to complete five designs in four hours. There are categories of designs and you know the categories prior to taking the exam, however, you do not know what flowers you are going to get and you don’t know what you have to make specifically. It was the most intimidating thing I’ve ever done—and I got married a month later and I think this exam was more nerve-racking, ha! You have a bridal design, mine was a non-traditional bridal bouquet, and a sympathy arrangement using an urn. Then you have to duplicate an exact photo—you don’t even see an actual arrangement, only a photo—you must re-create the arrangement exactly from the photo, even the mechanics of how they intertwine branches. I also had to create a Mother’s flowers (a shoulder corsage)…the whole experience was so nerve-racking, but the good news is that I passed! There is only 1,500 of us worldwide. That number increases every year because people take the test every year. Every year a different chapter hosts a symposium, this year it is taking place in Denver.
Besides the AIFD, are you involved in any other groups?
Yes, about a year and half ago I got involved with the Chapel Designers Group which has been so awesome. Holly of Holly Heider Chapple started the group 5 years ago in New York and about 2 years ago she brought it to California. Last year I attended a conference in Santa Barbara. Basically the group is a network of florists that are event and wedding-driven. We just help each other out—we share tips and techniques, and we rely on each other. For example, if I had a wedding in Palm Springs, I could call someone from the group in that region. When we travel we help each other out, it’s really a group that is striving to better the floral and wedding industry to elevate the industry to higher standards. This allows clients to receive the highest quality of work and it allows the designers to work with like-minded, dependable, talented florists. We aren’t fighting for the same business, we are all trying to make each other better. There is a Facebook forum and it goes off all day. You post a question in the forum and you get an answer within a minute.
Tonight you are teaching a workshop. What workshops have you attended in the past that really inspired you?
I went over to Holland for a 3-day workshop, there was only 4 of us, with a guy named Pim van den Akker. He is an extremely innovative floral designer, I learned so many cool techniques from him. That was really crazy and fun!
What other workshops have you taught in the past? Do you have themes for each class?
We’ve done “Sticks & Stems”, we used a lot of branches and created very earthy designs. Last month was bring-your-own-vase. The one before that was woodland-themed—we used a lot of bark, moss, and air plants. In December I hosted a wreath-making class, everyone made a fresh green wreath for the holidays. November was Thanksgiving, so a few days before before we created table centerpieces. I like to teach classes with a different theme each month that is related to the seasons and/or holidays. Next month I will be teaching a class on peonies! Every month is different, I get a lot of regulars that like to attend every month. This space has allowed me to open my doors to the community, hosting industry parties, I also rent it out for bridal showers and baby showers. This spot is so amazing because it has this bar that is perfect for hosting. I like to keep it intimate so I limit the class size to 8-10 people. It’s a lot more fun and hands-on to have everyone sit around the bar.
What advice do you have for florists that would like to hosts workshops in their local communities?
If you are going to start teaching workshops, I suggest doing it simple, going with what you know, and using what is seasonal/local around you. I like to do workshops that I love to do—designing arrangements that I love creating and that I love teaching. With my workshops I don’t give attendees an exact direction, instead I give them the flower ingredients and I show them the technique. Everyone creates a unique arrangement—everyone gets the same product but they all have a different arrangement at the end of the night. I think it shows uniqueness and that’s really important for a florist.
Do you have a favorite season when it comes to floral design?
Spring! I love the smell of spring. I love the the small of jasmine blooming—it’s one of my all-time favorite smells. I also love the smell of Sweet Peas because they remind me of my childhood. I love the abundance of what grows in spring, the smells, and the colors.
Earth Day Workshop—All CA Grown Spring Flowers!
ANEMONES x 1 stem
DAHLIAS (CAFE AU LAIT) x 1 stem
DAHLIAS (WHITE) x 2 stems
SCABIOSA WHITE x 2 stems
GREEN TRICK x 2 stems
STOCK (WHITE & PEACH) x 3 stems
RANUNCULUS x 3 stems
HANGING AMARANTHUS x 2 stems
VERONICA (WHITE) x 3 stems
FOLIAGE: assorted ferns, lemon leaf, jasmine
(1) Based on the vase chosen and the place/table it will be placed on, decide on the design style that would match the setting. Use the best technique for the vase—chicken wire, frog, and/or floral tape.
(2) Start by adding greens and cut them along the lip of the vase to create a nice base for the design. Even the amaranths is good to add at the beginning to hang down off the lip of the vase, along with green trick as well….
(3) Then add in your flocal flower, in this case the Cafe au Lait Dahlia and stock are you bigger and heavier flowers that will create the impact and line for this design. If you wanted to add any sticks or branches this would also be a good time to create the line with those.
(4) Add your delicate blooms last, like the scabiosa, veronica, and ranunculus to create a whimsical look.
(5) Most of all, have fun and enjoy playing with flowers!
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