This past weekend I got a message from my friend Mike asking “Were you a judge in the flower competition at the [New York] State Fair? Some of the judges’ comments sounded like they were written by you:
‘Crowded arrangement on candle sticks distracts from centerpiece.’
‘Purple flowers do not work with theme of ‘Going Green’.’
‘Stem lengths reflect dimension amazingly; Rock on!’ ”
Mike’s message made me laugh for several reasons, one being the fact that each statement was very similar to my vernacular, but also because they reminded me of the hyper-critical comments I had received on my junior floral designs for the State Fair back in the late 90’s. Twice I had entered designs, one for the container competition and another for the centerpiece challenge the next year. I can distinctively remember the centerpiece competition, as the theme was “Dance the Night Away” and being in my 12th year of dance classes I was certain I could come up with a design that would blow the judges off their feet (pun oh so intended).
Being the NYS Fair, there are rules and regulations a designer must follow when putting together their design. Generally a theme is given, with a description that is everything but forthcoming, and one must incorporate a background to display your design. For “Dance the Night Away” used star gazer lilies (star gazer… night… get it?) as my main flowers with lily-of-the-valley and some greens as fillers, all of which were placed into a pair of old pointe shoes (dance shoes… dance… get it?) filled with Oasis. It was ingenious! Who would ever put flowers into pointe shoes? Certainly not Salvatore Capezio or Hans Christian Anderson’s Karen.
The day of judging I can remember seeing women in their 50s and 60s setting up their designs that were full dining rooms, all matching the floral pieces they displayed. Seeing the exotic flowers, colors, and interesting pairings excited me as I thought “I wish I could be those ladies.” The judges’ comments for my design were just as a mixed bag as Mike’s relayed comments; some enjoyed the use of star gazers and others found my pointe shoes to be “distracting from the overall design and theme.” After that day I always felt the judges were confined by rules and vague theme descriptions rather than being open to creativity, and traded my days of NYS Fair floral competitions for days assistant teaching dance sessions to younger summer classes. Every year I go to OFA in Columbus, OH however, I relive my short days as a young floral designer with the design competitions and smile when I see comment cards that read “Excellent portrayal of the theme; uses of Oasis wire adds depth and whimsy. Rock on!”
Plant on and rock on,
Song for the Garden: Daylight - Matt & Kim
Photo Credits: SEW 2008 - "Joey" in container at OFA 2008