This week we take a slight departure from cakes and stuff made of sugar! I’ve always believed that no single field of expertise is one-dimensional when it comes to further development. Even in the world of management consulting where you have to develop a whole host of skills which aren’t just about great technical knowledge, powerpoint slides or effective client presentations — it’s also about the softer side of building relationships all the way through to the mundanity (is that a word? nope spellcheck just said it wasn’t, oh well, I’m making it one) of managing a job budgets and project economics.
The world of cake artistry is exactly the same. There aren’t a lot of jobs where you have to be about 6 professions at once and in the world of cakes you need to be a Baker, Sculptor, Artist, Engineer, Architect… and sometimes a Florist too!
So the importance of complementary skills is the mantra of this post today and I’m shining a spotlight on floristry.
Learning about the basics of floristry is essential in my book if you really want to understand how to arrange decorations properly (not just sugar flowers but aesthetics and placement of decorations in general). Even understanding how real flowers move and can be manipulated is really important to converting how you use flowers to the sugar realm. The business sensibility in me also cottoned on to the fact that knowing how to use real flowers on a cake is particularly important for brides on a budget and can’t afford ginormous numbers of sugar flowers. I also believe that having this skillset in the repertoire also helps to build a foundation for better sugar flower work too.
So I rocked up to a basic floristry class on a very rainy Saturday taught by the extremely lovely Bec of Fresh Flowers. They’re a Sydney based company who are just starting out but already making waves because of their cost effective beautiful arrangements. They even have their own flower farm which is rare for even the biggest florists in Sydney.
We covered some fundamentals in this day long workshop including basic wiring technique, making a buttonhole for weddings, creating simple centrepieces on a budget and creating a large beautiful bouquet using a simple layering method. Even the tricky wrapping of flowers with giant sheets of decorative paper was made simple.
My favourite part of the class by far was creating the buttonhole and bouquet. It was also great to get some hardcore wiring practice even though my thumbs were pretty raw afterwards. The best part? I managed to buy majorly professional florist secateurs for cutting through cake dowels like they’re sticks of butter – no more hurty hands! Woot woot!
My finished buttonhole
Materials for the buttonhole including cake dowel dominating secateurs
To summarise “Key Learnings” in true Management Consultant style:
- Purchasing a “T” bar to make a button hole (far left in the picture above) is a really effective way to make a buttonhole safe and easy to create (essentially a small piece of plastic shaped like a capital T with a safety pin attached to the back). You can apparently get these from floristry shops – brides to be take note!
- Trimming the base of your stems at a sharp angle is important to prevent suction to the base of a vase so that the flowers live longer.
- Handy Tip Alert! For heavy water drinkers like gerberas (or any other flower with very thick stems for that matter) trimming 1 cm off the stem for every hour it has been out of water is important to prevent air pockets from forming within the stem of the gerbera which is what eventually makes them flop on their side! (such a cool and interesting learning for me by the way!!)
- Making a simple grid at the top of your vase from clear sticky tape creates a stable base from which to arrange flowers so you don’t get that lopsided uneven floppy effect when someone brings you a bunch of flowers for a dinner party. Takes about 30 seconds but so worth the time!
Sticky tape grid in action!
- Wiring allows for strength and movement. We wired gerberas by piercing the top of a 22 gauge wire into the centre of the gerbera first before wrapping in a spiral down the stem. This then allowed us to manipulate the gerbera any way we like – it’s a notoriously top heavy flower so the wires give it extra support. Note that there is a huge world of flower gauge wires out there – the gauge refers to the thickness of the wire and generally the lower the number, the thicker the wire. Here’s a floristry wire guide for those interested.
- “The Sara Lee” method rocks. This pays homage to the famous Sara Lee layer cake whereby you layer flowers on their side in the same order you’d like to see them when upright — a very simple way to arrange very large bouquets (especially if you have small hands!). Walking around the table to see the bouquet from afar also helps to visualise the end product and rearrange as necessary. Here’s a photo of the layering method in action:
Interested in floristry classes?
Check out Fresh Flowers on facebook to find out more. They also do periodic Groupon type offers which are very good value. Faye Cahill also holds workshops with Kirsten Boike at her studio and I believe Kirsten also teaches the Sydney Community College which you can google easily for more info.