The First Post: Easter Doors

For my first blog post I couldn't resist sharing a job I did for client who wanted something special for Good Friday and Easter at her church. Taking a peek behind the doors (forgive the pun...) gives you the opportunity to learn how I work with clients and to see my design process.
It all started when my client emailed me and asked if I was interested in decorating some "doors" that were meant to reflect an image/logo on cards and pamphlets that were being used by her church to promote their Good Friday and Easter services.  All she told me this was on her dime and she wanted it to be really pretty and Easter-y.  And, oh, it has to last three days so she wanted silks...
If you're in the floral business, you know silks are second class-at best!  Most florists don't want to deal with them.  They can be stiff, hard to cut, cheap looking, horrible colors: I needn't go on.  In trying to start my fresh floral business, what could I say, but of course!
That's the first thing you'll learn about me and how I work with clients. I like to meet their needs. Honestly, there's no way fresh cut flowers would last for three days in the direct sun, wind, etc., so silks were the only option. I was a designer for our local craft store so I'm not afraid to work with silk florals. The trick is to make them look as good as possible. To do that you need to have a vision, be selective, and be flexible if what you want doesn't look good. I simply won't use crummy looking silks. So that's the second thing about how I work with clients; I want your flowers to be as beautiful as possible, regardless of the circumstances and limitations.

A day later we met at a coffee shop so she could show me the actual logo/image and to go over the details. (Thing number 3: I have no problem meeting with clients over coffee and food!) She pulled out the logo of two beautiful blue doors in a stucco wall. It looked like a lovely place on a quite cozy street hiding a beautiful pool and the sea beyond. Gorgeous. With red, ultra violet, and blue lettering spelling out the wonderful message, it was not exactly spring colors. Ok, not even close. Even if she wanted to match those colors, we wouldn't be able to since our craft store was stocked with spring pastel silk florals. Those colors wouldn't be available until after Easter. So I asked her what she imagined "Easter-y" colors to be and she described the typical pastel rainbow, which is what I had been thinking until I saw the image of the doors.
As we discussed specifically what she wanted, the style and the way she wanted people to feel near the doors, she relayed that she wanted it to feel as close to the image as possible. She really wanted to evoke the logo so people would recognize it come to life. At that moment we both realized she prefered the colors in the logo to the traditional lavendar/butter yellow/apricot/pink scheme afterall. Now, knowing those colors were not going to be easy to find, that they didn't represent realistic colors and might come off cheesey, that they really weren't Easter-y or even spring-y, you probably already see I had a conundrum. 

When I get that uh-oh feeling in my gut I start asking questions. "If we went that direction, what do you see it looking like? How would it feel? Are you OK with all those bright colors? Would you be ok with using small portions of those colors and using lighter values of each color for the majority of it? Do you want mostly one of the three, two of the three or all three colors?" I find that asking questions like these and having my clients think about alternatives they may not have considered as well as trying to visualize how a change will affect what they want is critical. It truly helps them understand the impact their decisions will have on their original vision and if they actually prefer this new direction. Even if most of the answers are, "I don't know'" or '"I don't care," we've moved forward. Either the client needs more time to assess, or really just wants me to go with it.
In this case my job was to take the new information she verbalized and try to mesh it with her original vision utilizing my experience, design sense and knowledge of the available materials. How could I make something in shocking red, ultra-violet and bright blue look easter-y and spring-y? It was important to me to help her think it through and become very clear about what she truly wanted, that she hadn't realized herself until that meeting. Thing number 4: I truly care about what my clients really want. It was important to me to help her dig deep and define what was important to her and help her process her ideas so they could become crystal clear and there would be no regrets down the road. That leads to Thing 5: I actively listen because I want to hear your vision. Your ideas are valuable. It's your day. It's your event. 

 The more I dug the clearer it became this difficult color scheme was the way to go. Putting my creativity cap on... how to make it work? Knowing the color limitations in silks that time of year, I suggested going with mostly soft pinks and supporting shades of with purple. In looking through some of her inspiration photos, she found herself inspired by photos that had the color of the door up in the flowers as well so we decided to pull some of the blue up into the flowers. OK. All three colors it was! I suggested just a pop of the blue and she agreed. Thing 6: I will work with a challenge.
 Once color was confirmed I had mood, style and texture to work with. She really likes the loose, natural look of flowers rather than tight, formal arragements. A loose style works great for spring! She wanted the mood to be somber for Good Friday and suggested greens only. Perfect! For Easter she wanted the mood to be joyful and I knew with the colors we had that was no problem. In order to make the whole thing come alive whether just greens or with the flowers, my ace up the sleeve was going to be interesting texture. Thing 7: I am happy to provide direction and I am happy to collaborate. Of course I have my own ideas, but if you've got a specific vision or need to excersize your creativy, let's brainstorm!  

At this point we were ready to hit the craft store and start shopping! We started with greens and moved into flowers choosing things with great shapes, decent quality and believable colors. I picked three different types of greens in a variety of colors and textures keeping in mind our spring theme. One was long, drapey, and light colored. Another was a thicker darker filler and the third was a light soft fern with lots of stems. We chose several types of flowers including roses, peonies, dahlias, ranunculus and hops in a variety of shades of pink, a few purples, white and blue. I selected carefully, comparing and choosing the best value for each item, looking for those that had multiple stems, looked realistic, and offered lots of bang for the buck keeping in mind color, texture, size and shape. We added everything up that it would take to meet her vision as we chose flowers and greens. We checked those costs against her budget and it was a match. Now don't be fooled by this list. We got enough and we did not over buy. 
Thing 8: I am extremely respectful of your budget...
Thing 9: ...but I am not a magician. My client had a beautiful vision and she had a realistic budget to back it up! 

Early the morning of Good Friday we met at the church and Julie brought all the florals she had purchased on our shopping day. The doors were up and leaning against another display which wasn't ideal, but we worked with it. I started by attaching chicken wire to the outer frame of the doors for attching the greens and flowers. Once that was secure I began adding the long drapey greens to define the shape and then added the filler to cover and finally, the ferns for a nice soft texture. It took about an hour and a half to build secure, design and clean up. Good Friday service was that evening, and to my surprise, a friend showed up in my facebook feed that night, standing with her friends in front of the very doors I had just decorated that morning!

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My client wanted to save the impact of adding the flowers until Saturday to create a joyful mood, so we met early Saturday morning to finish the build. She brought the flowers with her and had them all laid out in piles by type before I arrived (talk about a dream client!). Starting with the largest flowers I created a focal point in the center with a big beautiful dahlia and added the others on either side. After that the large peonies were added and I continued to work from the largest flowers to the smallest. This process took about 45 minutes thanks to her early set up.
My client wanted to save the impact of adding the flowers until Saturday to create a joyful mood, so we met early Saturday morning to finish the build. She brought the flowers with her and had them all laid out in piles by type before I arrived (talk about a dream client!). Starting with the largest flowers I created a focal point in the center with a big beautiful dahlia and added the others on either side. After that the large peonies were added and I continued to work from the largest flowers to the smallest. This process took about 45 minutes thanks to her early set up.
The final result was a beautiful floral display that was both the style and mood the client wanted as well as the colors and quality she expected. A volunteer added a few inspirational words and the next morning people were taken with the whole set up, stopping for photos. Originally it was meant to be a one-time display, but my client informed me after Easter morning they decided to keep the whole display for future use.
Thing 10: My goal is always to satisfy the client!
If you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you!  Questions and Comments
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