I have always preferred working with people who are outside the field they were trained in. Perhaps it is natural, given that I changed careers from the very academic art gallery curator to the very muddy gardening florist.
It pre-dates that though - the best exhibition I worked on in terms of sheer outside the box excitement was at Kelvingrove museum with Ben Kelly - designer of the Manchester nightclub The Hacienda. He had no concept that things couldn't be done - the problems of listed buildings, crane access, getting porters to work late and so on meant nothing to him as he had never worked within a hierarchical institution like a council art gallery - so miraculously they got done.
To be honest I think it was a nightmare for the Kelvingrove curator in charge of working with him but for a lowly minion it was an eye-opener in how being trained in "how things are done" can be a real disadvantage.
I have been thinking about this this week as I have to work out how I deal with florists who want to buy flowers. Most florists come here because they have been steered in our direction by brides who want to curb their carbon footprint by having Scottish grown flowers at their wedding. It is not usually the florist's idea which is probably not a good start.
Then they visit and we have the problem of the flowers not being on show as it is the wrong season and my photographs all being of things growing in the garden, not laid out in boxes. We have a discussion that goes something like "well will you have any gerberas?", "no", "cream orchids?", "no", "Bacarrat roses?" "no" and as you can tell this is not a good conversation for either of us. I feel lousy, they feel frightened of not being familiar with the flowers that I say I will have and altogether it is a really bad thing. It is something I have to address as it is largely my fault that they go away without understanding what we are trying to do.
By and large these are conventionally trained florists - they wanted to become florists on leaving school, they did their City and Guilds and worked their way up the ranks in a florist shop before opening their own shop. They know exactly how things should be done, what flowers you should use for wedding pedestals and how many stems should be in a bunch. They don't know what to make of me at all.
And then, thank heavens, there is a different kind of florist - florists I love working with. They tend to have worked doing something else before floristry- teaching, pr, car design etc. - and their approach to visiting me is completely different. They show up - they want to see what is growing now because you never know when that will be useful for other events, they want to talk about how I use things, vase life, texture, flexibility of stems, how long will something last out of water, is the stem hollow, will the flower bend to the light. Questions, questions, questions and curiosity. They make a lot of notes, they take a lot of photos, they e-mail me a couple of days later to check out specific cultivars. It is a quite different experience and I feel happy sending my flowers off with them.
The difference is so great that I do wonder whether a compulsory career change should be brought in aged 28 for the benefit of the creativity and drive of the country.
This is an unfair generalisation of course - Jane Packer is a work up from the bottom career florist, Paula Pryke a career change teacher, as for Shane Conolly - my own favourite celebrity florist- I haven't a clue what his background is, I just know he obviously loves his flowers.
Perhaps I should have a questionnaire.