Pumpkins go Wild at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden

pumpkin allee

Once an art teacher told me, “you could always just get obsessed with ridiculous quantities of the same thing.” The folks a the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden take that to a whole new level with their yearly installation of pumpkins and gourds. These are last year’s photos from a trip I took with my sis. We took a moment to freak out in this incredible display of gourds donated by local farms. UGH, my arms are sore just thinking about the set up for this.

pumpkin house

main signpumpkin attachments

pumpkin riverpumpkin garland

kaleI don’t have much to say…. Just that plants and people are so cool. Definitely, a haiku is necessary.

Live here and keep dry!

The brightest house on the block.

Weeks till rotten walls.

 

 


Vulnerability: Teachings from Pharell and Brene Brown

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When I’m procrastinating and need a kick in the a**, I like to throw on a quick TED talk. This one on Vulnerability by Brene Brown was particularly eye-opening.

http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en

It’s message of courage, openness, and wholeheartedness is one that I personally strive for. These qualities are also necessary to achieve the kind of boldness, creative thought, and success for my business, Lola Creative to thrive. I am also amazed whenever I see a speaker who can address a crowd as if they are her best girlfriend. This lady can speak two words and I am already drawn in. In a nutshell, it teaches that our belief in our vulnerability as the source of what makes us special, is the key to joy. Also that connection requires vulnerability because it reveals our authentic selves.

This is particularly useful in business, where vulnerability can be viewed as something less than professional. It’s scary because it admits some degree of uncertainty. In my industry, uncertainty is necessary, nobody knows exactly what will happen at an event because all the pieces have never come together in the same time and place. All we can do is prepare. Even still, confidence, even if unfounded, can be a bigger sell to a hesitant client than a bold idea.  Everyone has someone to impress but our clients have one shot to nail it. To fail at a lofty goal is so scary, many would rather choose the safer option to make the potential fall less scary. Several times we’ve been in the situation where we’ve proposed a bold idea or experimental approach only to find that later, it needs tweaking. It will have to be modified. This has sometimes been stressful for our clients who are reluctant to relay an alternate to their higher-ups for fear of looking incompetent. We’ve even been tempted to simplify our offerings to what is easily accomplished. We also have been tempted to express over confidence in the beginning when really, “Yes, absolutely this can be done!” actually means, “Yes, absolutely we are capable of doing this, until we can’t. And at that point we will move to another awesome idea that will work better.” Brene’s message is a wonderful reminder that new paths are uncertain, but also yield exciting results. Experimentation and creative acts are vulnerable endeavors and if vulnerability leads to joy. Than the path to the “hell yeah” business that we want rife with uncertain moments.

With all this on my mind, later in the week I went to my number 2 time waster, reality TV. The Voice is on and this past week I was surprised to see Brene’s findings echoed in the coaching of Pharrell Williams. To a rejected Bianca Espina, he said, It’s not about the chairs,”It’s about your great time.”

The idea that as a creative professional, if you are to draw people in, your ‘performance’ must be authentic, bold, and vulnerable. You must be so into your thing, that it’s play, and the audience reaction becomes more of an observation and learning process than a judgement call.

Next we’ll talk about building trusting clients who value a bold approach.

And speaking of vulnerability, stay tuned for a very uncertain situation, our first big event using tall floral arrangements without floral foam… In a glass house… midsummer. Yowza.

 


Sustainable Flower Arranging, Part One: Frogs

frog arrangement

We successfully weaned ourselves off of flower foam over at Lola Event Floral & Design. It’s not been easy. The green yuck (floral foam) is just so efficient and when you’re in a bind, it’s easy to revert back to what’s easy. (Isn’t this addict talk?) You can hear more of my whining about it in this previous post. I discovered (though I hate to admit it) that my short term anxiety over time restraints during event production, delivery, and setups trumps my noble desire to run a more sustainable operation. But thanks to the waggling fingers and stoney resolve of some of my employees, the interwebs, and some colleagues, I’ve been kept on the straight and narrow. Hopefully I can be that motivation for you.  If I can build some new greener neural pathways, you can too. It’s definitely a different way of approaching arranging, but we’ve developed some new processes that we can be proud of. So proud, in fact, that we’d like to share them with you.

(And by the way, I documented this tutorial with On-Site Reporter, an app that facilitates this sort of thing. Read more on that at the end. And as a bonus, it just happens to be created by the most wonderful man in the world (hubby)).

We’ll start with what’s easy. Flower pin frogs. Little metal pucks with pointy ends to grip your stems. They are great for securing a few stems as you make a stem cage support for the rest of the arrangement, or for use in a low dish where there isn’t much room for support. frog arrangement9I make sure my frog and bowl are dry and secure the frog to the bowl with some floral clay.

frog arrangement8Next I start adding in my base foliage. Agrostis and Begonia leaves. I use river rocks to add more support for the frogs, disguise a bit, and add more structure for plants to be nestled into.

frog arrangement7pink rhododendron sustainable flower arrangementI’ve got a potted azalea that doesn’t have a home so I cut off a piece of the mini shrub and secured it to the frog. Woodier stems like this will have to be jammed in. Careful you don’t impale yourself! I also want to add some pussy willow but the stem’s too thick for me to jam it on with all these other plants in the way so I go ahead and add some clay to the end to give it a bit more adhesion. This stem is dried so I’m not concerned with it actually being under water- just in there enough to stay in place.

stem

sustainable flower arranging.

Next I’ve got some monstrous ranunculus, a hellebore plucked from my yard, and a few more bits of foliage. And that about does it. Don’t need much.

frog arrangement4

So cute… so healthy… Loooove. If you deliver this you’ll just have to remember to water again when you get there.

Now for some glamour shots.

frog arrangement3frog arrangement2That’s it for now.

We’ll be going over a bunch of different methods for getting interesting foam free looks, so follow us to keep up to date. And if  you’re thinking about going foam-free, do it. Hesitant? Of course, but do it anyway. You’re a freagin’ MacGyver, you’ll figure it out.

AND if you want to know more about On-Site Reporter, check it out. It basically allows you to document any site visit or process with steps by matching photos with dictated or typed in notes. Chronological photos and notes are then sent to you. No more confusion wondering what you did when- BOOM. It practically puts your tutorial together for you. At the time of this article, we’re (ehem, I mean) THEY are still working on some quirks with the android version. But i-phone is good to go. Let us, er… they know what you think.


Three Ways to Love your Design Business this Valentine’s Day

cyclamen heart

Just like a little love and attention will make your relationships more robust, here are some ways to show your business a little love- so it will get all big and juicy, too.

1. Remind yourself of how awesome it is- and tell everyone else. If you’re like me, you have no problem selling anything you are passionate about. But somehow when you’re in the trenches of a startup or big project, the fire that burned at the onset of the idea can seem a little dimmer. Look over some photos and messages from clients and congratulate yourself for what you have accomplished. Recall the principles that lead you to start this business and how each job has helped you satisfy or reinforce those values. Spread the word like you just discovered your business and can’t wait to tell everyone.

2. Give it a gift. Take a little project that’s been on the back burner and get someone else to do it. Maybe your blog can be redesigned, maybe it would like a little studio tour video, or maybe you can hire an e-lancer to simply go through your various web platforms and make sure your message is all in line.

3. Make your business easy to love. Spend a little time clarifying your process, policies, and prices. Your art is unique and your clients want your particular brand of awesome to stick around. Tell them how you need to be loved so that your business is robust enough to last. They may not know. If you are charging too little and getting burned out, you are not doing your clients any favors in the long term. You pay the financial and physical hardship and as a result, your clients don’t experience your gifts…. or worse, you push your anemic company on and on and become haggard and bitter. You will probably begin to growl at children. eesh.

Happy Valentine’s Day Business I love you. Even though you are sometimes irritating (taxes, bookkeeping, why are you always out of paper towels? etc.) we are so right together.


Seamless Take-Offs and Landings

Starting out, this business can seem like it’s exploding one moment, and fizzling the next. When exploding, it’s easy to feel like we are barreling toward a bright, uncertain, fiery end, with our parts being thrashed around and coming loose. These times are exciting and all-consuming. Once we climax at a shining glorious event, we fizzle back to reality, thin, used up, and with a smile on our faces. As we come to, we are surrounded with the neglected routine to resume. Oops.

larch

I had a little moment of clarity this past month regarding how this company will function as we grow bigger. Luckily, it aligns with goal number 4 of our little manifesto in our first post. And I think it’s going to go far in terms of providing the kind of consistency that we need. While it’s normal to focus heavily on an urgent event, we need to keep our long-term goals in check with systems and routines. Here’s what we did this month to handle a surprising number of large events during a typically slow period:

  • Hire flexible people early, get them trained. Pull back in employees from busy times. Test out new techniques and materials early.
  • Hire professionals on a project basis to handle management of a few key areas. This month, we had someone in charge of procuring items (fancy speak for driving around gettin’ stuff) and floral design. We added people to our buying accounts and ordered AMEX cards for our employees for hassle free purchasing.
  • Delegate the pieces: A few key pieces were doled out to employees. They became responsible for following through on the complications that arose with each piece. Rather than me as lead on every piece, I became the orchestrator who tried to support the people making everything. This became essential when the inevitable hang up occurred. I was available to either jump in and help, or switch our team to a new direction. Without my head into the specifics of each piece, I was able to move resources around to the most urgent needs. We also had one employee who managed incoming inquiries and normal day-to-day requests. She followed up with everyone and scheduled consultations.
  • Remove yourself as a barrier. Each person was used where they were most effective and removed where they were not. For example, I know that I don’t have the best tact nor do I speak clearly when exhausted, so it was best to put one of our managers in charge during the client walk throughs. Same goes for staffing the event.
  • Reign in your perfectionism. Quality is essential but when one little detail is slowing progress, it’s important to identify if that detail is essential. If not, work around it or eliminate it and move on.
  • Tap into your resources. It’s difficult to anticipate everything that can go wrong, but being resourceful helps to smooth out the inevitable hang ups. In one extreme case, during a particularly overwhelming task, we called everyone we knew in to assist. We even posted a Craigslist ad at 9pm for ‘people with hammers’ to come in to work late that night. We were overwhelmed with interest. While we didn’t end up using the Craigslist people, that opened up a new avenue of help if things ever got so hairy. We now have a screened list of on call handy people who are willing to work all hours. Awesome.

What we did let slide a bit was our marketing and social media efforts. We’ll be looking into ways to create content that’s ready to go for busy times such as this. Marketing we’ve learned we need to do year round- even in busy times as it’s about a 3-6 month lag before we see results from many marketing efforts.

Any suggestions on tools for maintaining consistency?