Floral Designer Kathy Wright
Like many designers that later discovered they had an undying love for the floral arts, Wright learned about floral design in a round about way. She said, “When I was very young, I wanted a car…what teenager didn’t? It was a time when kids still “worked” for things, and my Dad, in his ‘later to be found out’ wisdom, told me to get a job. A friend had a job at a wedding chapel that also had a reception facility.
" They provided many services for brides and grooms and one was flowers…I thought that might be fun! I secured a part time job, after school and on weekends, and as time passed, I worked my way up through the ranks, and found myself the “florist” at the site. Looking back, I’m surprised that anyone would ‘trust’ me to handle that much responsibility at age 15…but then again, I’ve always ‘acted’ responsible and more mature for my age.”
One of the best ways to learn floral design is by doing it, and there is never a substitute for this. Wright explained, “The job I described above was certainly ‘on the job’ training.’ Once I myself got married, my then husband was in the military, and I of course traveled with him to his different assignments. I worked in a very small shop in southern Idaho for a little over half a year, and it was there that I met Doris, who was an incredible talent…she understood dimension and angle and color and texture…which of course, are the cornerstones of design. I’m sure that Doris isn’t arranging flowers any more. That was over 30 years ago, and she was in her 50’s when I knew her. But I always give credit to Doris, because without her guidance I would not be the designer I am today!”
When asked about her favorite flowers and floral material, Wright replied, “I love all flowers and foliages. Right down to the lowly carnation. I waiver back and forth between “favorites” based on what the “look” is at the moment…right now, I’m in love with majestic spikes of cymbidium orchids…and phaleonopsis sprays are another “all time favorite.”
"My least favorite is always the ones that “everyone” wants…remember what stargazers were in the 80’s? It’s the same with mini calla lilies now…I call them the “uniform” flowers…One of the things that has always made me different, is the combining of different colors, textures and materials…you know, combining a protea with a rose in a bouquet for a bride…I think that’s the most fun!”
Wright’s interest in style is as broad as her experience. When queried on the subject, she replied, “I love all styling…each and every one has a place. I love clean contemporary lines…single varieties arranged, but they don’t look arranged, in a tall vase…I love Euro garden and tight clusters of flowers…I love big squishy roses and lilacs and hydrangeas…I love anthurium in that great celery green color.”
Wright is never short on inspiration when it comes to floral design. When asked about her sources, she said, “First and foremost I always consider the venue in which I’m going to be working…being an event florist (we don’t have a “retail” flower shop, so single pieces don’t happen very often around here) I think it is of the utmost importance to the overall outcome of the event to consider what the site looks like to begin with…ie: I would never consider “high style” contemporary in a venue like the Hotel Del Coronado…the place is hundreds of years old, with wood paneling and huge chandeliers of cut glass.
" But by the same token, I would never bring a big squishy rose bouquet into the Museum of Contemporary Art…How things grow in nature is great inspiration for someone like me…how do the grasses move in the breeze? How does the flower show itself on the stem?”
Appropriately enough, Wright is justifiably proud of all her work. She said, “I am proud of EVERY single event I do…of course, over the years, I’ve been honored to have been selected to do some pretty prestigious stuff…the biggest was the Republican National Convention back in 96 here in San Diego. It was huge…I still am amazed that we did what we did.
"At the local level, we work with all the museums, have our name on nearly every major hotel list, work with most of the coordinators in the city, etc. I love the huge parties, because I am allowed to be as creative as I want,…and, in all honesty, they pay the bills and keep the “ball” rolling…however, last year, I was able to donate floral and décor to a special high school here in San Diego, called the Preuss School.
"This school is private, and only available to kids who would normally never have the opportunity to attend college. In fact, in order to attend, you have to be the only one in your family to ever attend college. Last year was their first graduating class. In return I was given a plaque from the kids at the school, and on it is inscribed the following words of Winston Churchill…”We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” If the place ever burns down, that’s what I’m going back into the fire for.”
When working with clients, Wright prefers plenty of advance notice. She said, “I used to be able to say at least 6 months, but that is not always true any more. I think with everyone’s busy schedule, décor is sometimes left til the very last minute…in a perfect world, the answer is 6 months. We accept only two events on any given weekend.”
So far as the profession is concerned, Wright has seen many changes during her career, and foresees more of the same in the future. She explained, “Sadly, I see fewer young people coming into the floral business, and I’m sure there are a variety of reasons for that in today’s world…even as I try to find designers to help me with my work, I find it harder and harder to find people who understand the things I understand, or have the skills that I require. I do believe that one of the reasons that we’re seeing more “large leaves in vases” in magazines who used to regularly feature lush floral arrangements is that of cost, but also that of the lack of talented designers.
"I think my generation is part of a dying breed. When I look at my younger “competitors” in the San Diego market, sadly I see very few, if any, that understand design. Also, their mechanics are terrible…unfinished backs of arrangements, poor finish work, etc. And no one knows how to wire a phaleonopsis orchid..eek. I do believe that the industry will continue, but it has changed already…when I was first entering the business, you never heard of someone who specialized in certain things, like I do today…there were retail flower shops and that was the ONLY place to buy flowers…now you get them at the grocery store, and swap meets, and from people who work in their garage…But the retailers didn’t change with the times, and people like me sprung up, and developed followings of customers who were looking for something unique, and liked the personalized service that people like me gave them.
For more details and examples of Wright’s work, do visit her website, which she recently updated.
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