Sunday, July 08, 2007

Not knowing "how its always done"

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.


Fresh Floral Art said...

At age 28 I changed careers from a Landscaper to a Floral Designer. The career change was brought on from the desire to be home more with my children and the growing effects of landscape maintenance on my body. I totally agree that career changes can bring on an abundance of creativity and inspiration!

Gigibird said...

I like people who think outside the box.
The problem with florists is so many of them aren't particularly creative.
Changing careers, finding what really motivates and excites is a rare gift if you are able to know what you want to do and more importantly not have the financial worries that come with giving up a job.

the flour loft said...

It's funny you've been thinking that Jane. Ginny & I have had similar conversations on this topic this week, amongst ourselves and other stall holders at H.C. I myself had a total career change on reaching 30. Firstly I had a baby and then I worked freelance for Liberty before starting Folkydokee with Gins. Having Oscar was the most liberating experience of my life. I really felt like anything was possible. Maybe maturity also gives you the confidence to approach things that you would never have dreamed of doing before.
After leaving art college, I drifted for many years not even picking up a paint brush, but now I am truely doing something that I love and am passionate about. How lucky is that?
Al x

Jane said...

I personally think that having children gives women a fabulous opportunity career wise. Here is a time you can take off from the grind of daily work and decide whether what you decided to do aged 17 is going to be the ideal job for the rest of your life.

I think that this is particularly the case if you have more than one child under 4 as, unless you are particularly well paid the cost of childcare tends to swallow up wages anyway.

That said I know lots of very capable, innovative, intellegent women who are palpably terrified at the prospect of going back into the job market after a few years off looking after small children. I would employ them in a snap if I could get the business to grow fast enough.


The Country Craft Angel said...

I have always loved art and crafting (should have studied it, but didn't have chance!)
I had an enforced career change when I had to retire from my job as a bank manager due to ill health.
My brain was still alive but by body wouldn't always let me do what I wanted it to. So after years of making family and friends little hand crafted and personalised christmas/b'day gifts I started a small craft business making personalised gifts, childrens home accessories and teacher resource bags. I'll never be business woman of the year, but it keeps my brain alive and me out of trouble and gives a sense of purpose. I wish I had always done it...

warm wishes

Anonymous said...

It's a very challenging part of life to change your career but very rewarding. I'd always been a desk person until I realised farming and found I had more going on apart from photocopying and typing other people's letters.

countrymousie said...

I admire Paula Pryke. I have done a couple of floristry courses just so that I could make my garden flowers a bit more less "plonked in a jug" as it were.
I have several career changes. From property to Children's Charity Aid, Auctioneers Assistant,
Banking. You never know what you can do until you try.
Enjoyed the blog very much

ChrisH said...

I enjoyed reading about the contrast in your florist clients - interesting points.

Ash said...

Hi Jane

I just changed careers from a bookkeeper/secretary to training to be a florist. I am very lucky in that I work with a florist who was an IT manager before changing careers. We get on really well and she always buys unusual flowers. Right now she's crazy about astilbe and achillea so we have buckets full of them in the shop!

She also buys the equador roses which are organically farmed and as many 'wild' flowers as she can find. She bought tonnes of blackberry in fruit and it looks amazing in the bouquets.

It's such an enriching occupation. Love your blog :)

Vintage to Victorian said...

Oh yes - definitely! Working outside the box makes for a fuller person. From secretary to craft person to college lecturer to typesetter to antique dealer. Some might say Jack of all trades, master of none, but I've been on one long learning curve during my 40-year (eek!!)working life that has kept my horizons broad and my life full. To my mind there is achievement round every corner and no such word as 'can't'!!

So much is missed by living inside the box. It shouldn't be allowed!