Lead with Art- How to Become Necessary
When you become NECESSARY to your clients, trust and freedom come naturally. Here’s how I learned this lesson when I learned to Lead With Art.
When I left my professional career as a landscape architect I didn’t know quite where I was headed. I was running away from a desk job, away from a machine that I felt was producing less than excellent quality, and running toward all the things I thought I needed.
One of those needs was a feeling that I needed to prove that my artistic skills and gifts were something that people wanted to pay money for. This was a big one because I knew I was talented but had never experience it valued.
No one had ever paid me lots of money for my artistic talents.
For speed and accuracy? yes.
For quality work? Yes.
For the ability to get a job done? Yes.
But no one had ever wanted to pay me lots of money because they valued my work artistically. And I wanted it to be VERY valued.
Because it wasn’t valued, I stopped offering it. Just stopped doing what I do naturally- find ways to bring different ideas and materials together artfully. And that’s when I broke down and broke out.
I wanted to support myself with my artistic talents and was set on figuring out how.
I’d never done it but I’d seen it done.
In college, I thought I would be a public artist so I got two degrees, one in landscape architecture and one in sculpture. I had the opportunity to be the assistant to a successful public artist for a few months. After working for him, I approached the Seattle arts commission (I think now it’s the office of arts and cultural affairs). I started a special project that would evaluate public art projects by landscape architecture design standards. Through those two experiences, I got to see how professional artists are chosen, how tax money is managed for major civic art installations, and how an individual artist placed on a build team presented to and interacted with the rest of the design and building team- so architects, city planners, construction managers, civil engineers, structural engineers.
It was fascinating.
What I saw was the power of maintaining a vision. Nobody wants to mess with the strange, mysterious artist’s vision.
In these meetings, after an artist is selected for a big project like a light rail station, The artist is on the design team to build out this project.
And what I saw was artists OWNING their art, OWNING its purpose and importance, and acting as a protector and steward for the kind of impact their art would have on the community.
Understanding, collaborative, but unapologetic.
For the most part, the engineers, architects, budget managers, would do what they could to make the artists vision possible. City code was reinterpreted, entries and windows were reoriented, ground was regraded, structures reinforced. They knew they didn’t need to fully understand why, they just knew that they needed to trust and find a way to fulfill this strange person’s request.
When I started as an art minded landscape architect, I thought, hot dog, I know how this is done! Let’s start making some earth art!
What do you think happened?
Suddenly budgets were too tight, construction schedules were too far behind, it didn’t work with the engineering approach, some other component cost more so my budget would have to be reduced.
My perceived value was different because at that time and place, I was not considered an artist. I was a mere landscape architect who had to obey the boring laws of all the other non-artists.
I see the EXACT SAME PHENOMENON working in floral design, and I imagine, every profession.
So now I know this:
LEAD WITH ART
I’m not saying that leading as an artist will get you everything you want; that everything you propose is not still flexible to your client’s needs, but in my experience an effort is made to get you what you need because art has value… to some people… my kind of people maybe yours too.
And here’s a story about how leading with art played out in Lola.
Early on I would really take anything. Even if I wasn’t a good fit. I could always do something creative with the job.
Now, Our big break project came in 2013 when we got a call for a tech celeb’s birthday party. He was eclectic and would need a lot of strange things made.
I would need to put together a proposal asap. I had minimal information about what was happening or who this was happening for. Oh and I had 4 weeks to concept, get sign off, build, and install this massive event. And I would never meet the actual client- the birthday boy.
I asked how I would be able to do this without some sort of info about the project- with no budget range. She said, give me a number that there’s no way this could ever go over, and that will be the budget.
I said 50K because at the time, I thought, there’s no way anything could ever go over 50K. (Palm to forhead…. Groan.)
I asked how they found me and they had said that they asked the catering manager at their venue and she had said that Lola Creative was the only people she knew that could pull it off.
And then it occurred to me….
….The reason for that is on all of those small jobs that were not quite right, I would make an extra piece that was totally represented our company.
I’d walk the catering manager, planner, anyone in the industry over to look at it, and say with joy why I loved it so much.
This catering manager didn’t see all the boring stuff I had made during my first couple of years. She saw all the stuff I asked her to see, all the stuff I practically shoved in her face.
Because of that, I am now the only person that comes to mind when she had a golden egg to hand out!
That particular kind of golden egg, anyway.
So whatever is your art. Whether that be an amazing service, or a unique technique- whatever you want the responsibility to be known for. Lead with that. Put it in people’s faces even when they don’t ask for it.
That way people will know, when they get YOU, they get THIS, and that is how it has to be.
That way when people want THIS, they know they have to have YOU. You are necessary for THIS.
Come with an artist’s mindset about that and start seeing a new freedom among clients who want that thing and trust you exclusively to deliver it.
Oh man I get pumped up about this.
Lead with Art!
If you’re struggling with leading with art. Sign up to our inner floral posse. We talk about this sort of stuff. AND we have an upcoming product (September) that may make leading with art in your company a little easier 🙂
Ps, The images are not from that special break-through event. I was under a non-disclosure agreement and could not take pictures.
The beautiful people that always lead with art include Jojo Dyckhoff (Bamboo Beats) and Carlisia Minnis (Mac Fashion House).
I still love these photos so much 🙂 taken by Alante Photography
Slow Flowers Summit – Flower Wall Demo
Hello, hello! Today I want to show you a super cool new way to build a flower wall. We built this beaut as a communal building experience for this year’s Slow Flowers Summit attendees. If you haven’t heard about it, read about it here. Need I tell you that its foam free? No, I do not. Of course it is!
We’ve used this flower wall technique in the past for Seattle’s 2016 Art Fair; where it wowed outside during a hot, sunny August day in Seattle (hot and sunny DO happen in Seattle, we just don’t tell you about them). The point is, it holds up in heat, is pretty easy to construct, and is more sustainable than a van full of foam. This particular construction is strong enough to be stacked into an enormous wall. You can see such enormous wall stacking and construction of this in video from last year’s ART FAIR if you click here!
PS, if you are here looking for FLOWER WALL PRICING AND SPECIFIC INGREDIENTS, we are giving that away to folks who want to be part of our email flower posse. There’s a link at the bottom.
But back to our flower wall demo. About a month ago, I had the privilege to speak at Seattle’s first Slow Flowers Summit. Have you ever had a communal experience where you are surrounded by inspiring people and all you can think is “YASSSS, These are my people.” And suddenly it’s all you can do to NOT throw your arms around complete stranger and babble like you’ve been friends since you were 13? Like you ARE 13?!
This was one of those times. My talk was about Reinvention. But we also were asked to demo this wall. Really THE wall. We got the royal treatment as the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, SUOT farms and Alaskan Peonies donated buckets of flowers. Ehem, did I mention that we got the first cut of Alaskan Peonies, which were then airplaned (is that a verb? … is now.) with their human caretakers. These peonies were larger than my face, and my brother says my face is large.
For Flower walls, we use two methods. This one is the “moss and cage” or the “moss sandwich”. Our other go-to wall is a bioboard wall. We demo that soon. Stay tuned for a DIY video on how we made the Queen Bee’s backdrop, which is equally excellent but is useful in a totally different way. Here’s a breakdown of why you would use each wall..
Now that you get the basics, lets get your materials together! For this moss and cage wall, you will need:
- (3) Lumber 2in x 2in x 8ft
- Drill and bit
- A roll of chicken wire
- Zip ties
- (2) 4 x 6ft display grids, we got ours from Grand and Benedicts but you can find them at any retail display fixture store. If you are in a city, you probably have one.
- (5) bags of moss
- Wire cutters
- Saw (human powered or otherwise)
- Flowers, flowers and more flowers!
- 2 saw horses or a table. This is easier to build horizontally
Step 1: Wrap the Grid
Cover one side of each grid with chicken wire.
To get an idea of how this will look, try imagining the structure like a sandwich. The “condiments” (chicken wire) will be on the inside of the bread (the grid) to hold in the meat (the moss). For us, two long pieces of chicken wire was just the right amount to cover one side.
Starting with one piece of chicken wire, secure it to the grid with bind wire. Make sure you weave around the perimeter and throughout the middle. This keeps it from slipping or bulging. To save some bind wire, I cut a couple 3″ pieces and did little twist ties in random spots.
Step 2: Measure and Cut the Spacers
We are going to use the 2X2s as spacers, this ensures your thickness is uniform. We are going to pack in the moss but the spacers ensure that if there is a thin/ or dryer spot, the face won’t warp. It’s also critical if you are making a wall that is larger than your grid size (like in that video).
Measure the length and width of your grid. Cut your 2X2s to size. Remember to cut your short ends to account for the width of the longer pieces. We will want the shorties to fit inside the long pieces. All spacers should be attached Under the perimeter of your grid.
Step 3: Drill the Spacers and Zip Tie to the Grid
Choose a drill bit that gives enough room for one zip tie to slide through.
Next, drill a hole about two inches from the end and then continue to drill a hole every 4″ or so.
Once they’ve been drilled, attach the wood spacers to the grid by securing a zip tie through every other hole.
Step 4: Repeat on Other Grid
Cover the other grid with chicken wire as you did in Step 1. You won’t need spacers on this one, just the chicken wire. This will be the top piece of ‘bread’ to our sandwich.
Step 5: Moss It Up and Close the Sandwich
We’ll be adding moss to the grid with the spacers, so you may need to switch your setup now.
Grab your 5 bags of moss and get to town! Don’t spread this sparingly; pack as much moss in as you’ve got. Its very important that this is thick. You want your stems to be lodged in the moss and hydrated. Too loose and your stems may stay but they won’t get as much hydration.
Once every area feels full and even, lay the other grid on top of the moss. Grab more zip ties and connect the spacers to the top grid. Try adding one on one side then adding one on the opposite side for an even and super tight grid. Ensure your zip ties are rotated to the outside of the spacer- so your top grid can be cinched down right on top of the spacer.
Step 6: Water and Flower Prep
You’re almost done! Have someone help you move this outside or somewhere you don’t mind getting a lot of water on the floor. “Is it heavy,” you ask? Yes.
Take your hose and drench the whole thing so that every area is dripping water onto the floor. Do it a few more times. You’ll want to give the moss a chance to really absorb as much water as possible. You can also pre-soak your moss before adding to the grid. That way you have full moss absorption but it is messier. We went for the less messy option this time.
Prep your flowers, cutting the stems to about 3″-4″ long.
Step 7: Make it a FLOWER Wall!
Add in those darn flowers and foliage and consider yourself a Flower Wall Extraordinaire! The moss should keep it moist for a full day and probably longer, but I would test it in your neck of the woods to be sure.
Although not necessary, you may want to build a boarder around it as we did with leftover bio-board and some wrapping paper.
Some additional notes:
- Timing: You can make this in advance but I would add a bit of flower glue to each stem to be sure it doesn’t dislodge in transport. I typically add greens in the shop and add all the flowers in on site.
- We’ve done this wall 3 times and I am ALWAYS impressed with how long the flowers last. They typically look great the next day and most of the flowers still look great days later. I include some images of what the flowers look like after two days squished in my hot van after the summit. You will be amazed. I am still conservative in adding flowers too far in advance but . I would urge you to test a patch in your area.
- Super thirsty flowers may not be a good idea for this wall type- though you can always tube your flowers and that works well. Particular species that I don’t use in this wall are Hydrangea, raspberry foliage, sweet pea, or any other herbaceous, soft stemmed flower or foliage.
- How much does this cost? Simply put, lots. Sign up for our Flower posse and we’ll go over that. If you’ve liked this information, you’ll like what you get as a part of our inner circle.
THE FLOWER POSSE!
I think you’re going to love this wall.
Thanks for reading!
Designing Events, With A Pinch Of Wonder
I was going through images last week and came across this book arch we created a few years ago. I always thought this was so cool, and people went crazy.
With wedding madness in full swing, I thought the book arch would be a good reminder of how powerful this business can be.
Much of the time we get caught up in running the business:
- Has everything been ordered?
- Is everything ready to go?
- Are all the subcontractors prepped?
- Is there enough staff?
And for set pieces like the Book Arch:
- Do we have the materials?
- Do we have the welding equipment?
- Are we sure it’s going to be stable?
- How does it look?
It’s easy to get caught up in the mundane–albeit necessary–aspects of getting the job done.
When I come across images of events that really worked–and that had such a wide impact on people outside the event–it is a good reminder of the purpose of what we’re really doing: we’re adding that wee pinch of wonder that makes the difference between a serious yawner and a “I can’t stop gawking at how amazing this is” experience.
When we’re at our best, we take a profound moment in someone’s life and insert a bit of magic. It’s incredible what can happen when everything lines up.