Oh so fancy

This week, things got fancy. Like, high class, high heels and high prices fancy.

From Ikebana International: Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement. It is more than simply putting flowers in a container. It is a disciplined art form in which the arrangement is a living thing where nature and humanity are brought together. It is steeped in the philosophy of developing a closeness with nature.

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That big red flower? It costs six dollars. Seriously.

Next up, formal linear. Like Ikebana, these arrangements are expensive. Why? Because the skill and creativity necessary to make these arrangements are worth the price. There are no set rules — the designer just has to have that special talent.

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RJI Innovation: Analytics & Social Media

The Mizzou J-School is usually bursting to the seams with brilliance. This week, it erupted, thanks to RJI’s Innovation Week. Although I couldn’t attend every event, there was one I was able to catch that I found particularly useful: how to optimize analytics and social media.

The first presenter began by discussing STL Today’s website. She stressed that reorganization, not a complete redesign, was being suggested. Visualization is key, since that’s the viewer’s first impression of the site. The better the presentation, the better user experience, meaning longer visits and a higher chance of returning. See, people are, quite frankly, lazy. They don’t want to search for stuff, so a website needs a strong focal point to lead the eye. This can be accomplished with a strong photo and headline placed front and center. Color plays an important role, too — grey is easily skipped over, whereas a dark red catches the viewer’s attention. A later presenter shared that people expect social media buttons to be either be at the top or the bottom of the page, according to click-map research.

The next presenter focused on email newsletters. Email, after all, is accessible on a plethora of devices, making it easy to check. Email newsletters are also personalized — not just in that the recipient’s name is included, but also in that the news contained can be catered to fit that user’s interests. However, there are some things to watch out for. First, many email users have image blockers, so if ads are included in the newsletter, they may not even appear. Make sure the alt attribute on images is used, so that if the images don’t appear, the viewer will still see something. Second, make sure any links included actually, you know, work. Kind of a big deal. Third, email newsletters should ideally be created so they’re also mobile-friendly. Finally, on the actual website, a “subscribe” function for email newsletters should be easy to find.

On Facebook, media outlets (and any other business, really) can engage users on a more personal level with actual back-and-forth conversation. Linking to articles or other content on your own website can also bring in more traffic. A good way to actually get people to click on it is by asking users to read the article before commenting. Knowing what the community is interested in is a good way to promote engagement, too. The new Timeline layout is ideal for visuals, but often photos, cartoons, etc., don’t generate web traffic.

It’s easy to just tweet information to numerous followers, but making an effort to actually interact is always a good idea. Again, knowing the community’s interests works in your favor. Creating lists for people to follow, as well as marking some tweets as “Favorites,” shows users you understand them.

A young but rapidly growing social media beast is Pinterest. Again, visuals are key. This site is basically just pictures with small captions, after all. And what do we know about visuals? People love them! Pinterest is a free way to attract interest, plus it’s easy for users to share your stuff. It easily integrates with other social media platforms, too, allowing for simultaneous posting.

How does your organization use social media to engage people?

Curvalicious

Most of our designs up to now have been relatively basic in their shape. Lines, domes and even triangles and tear-drops. All of these are very self-contained and obviously balanced. But this week’s designs threw us a curve ball, pun intended. Our first design was a crescent shape, although I like to think of it as a giant C for Crockett. We could use eucalyptus, Aspidistra leaves and lily grass to create our curved shape, and solidago, delphinium and birds of paradise for the focal point of the arrangement.

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I have to admit, I was ridiculously excited to work with birds of paradise. I’ve seen pictures of them before and never thought they were particularly pretty, but seeing them in real life…I kid you not, as silly as it sounds, I was basically starstruck by these flowers.

The giant curve was difficult to achieve. Although the Aspidistra leaves are naturally curved, they aren’t perfect. You really have to work the stem into behaving. Eucalyptus are very flexible and hold shape pretty well, so I used those on both sides of the Aspidistra to hold it in the right position.

The second design of the week as an S-shaped arrangement, featuring the same materials as the crescent with the addition of carnations, snapdragons and a bird of paradise leaf. That leaf was the smartest decision I made with this arrangement. It was very pliable, while also holding its shape really well. The finicky Aspidistra leaf was therefore demoted to the bottom curve.

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The carnations (and a snapdragon on the bottom) help lead from the focal point into the curves. This arrangement was a bit harder, because we had to balance the dish on the edge of a table. Thank goodness this is a one-sided arrangement — there was no way any of us could have made the back look very nice! My method for covering the floral foam in the back? Sticking random bits of greenery wherever I could, until everything was covered! It’s like a jungle of teeny tiny eucalyptus, pin-downed Aspidistra leaves and other random leaves.

Landscape vs. Vegetative Arrangements

Before we begin making the different arrangements each week, we look at examples in our floral design textbooks. This week’s designs were a landscape arrangement and a vegetative design. But when we looked at the example pictures, they looked EXACTLY THE SAME.

Fortunately, our professor is brilliant and explained in very simple terms the difference between the two (something our books didn’t accomplish):

The materials in landscape arrangements represent other things (mountains, paths, trees, etc). The materials in vegetative arrangements are themselves, as they would appear in an overgrown, unattended garden.

The above picture shows my landscape arrangement. The tall green things on the left (Bells of Ireland) represent clouds, while the tall green stalk and purple flowers (Gladiolas) on the right represent mountains (okay, so they’re really skinny mountains — use your imagination) and the purple flowers in the middle (Delphinium) represent trees. The various plants along the bottom represent different plants, like bushes and hedges.

The above picture is my vegetative design. These arrangements should basically look like you went out to an abandoned house’s untended garden and cut part of it out to put in a bowl. Things aren’t grouped together, symmetry is open and the materials don’t have to be perfect. Browning leaves and droopy flowers fit right in with this design.

Corsages with Wires

The Battle of the Flowers has finally drawn blood.

There I was, stabbing flowers of various shapes and sizes with wires to make corsages. One particularly stubborn mum just did not want the wire to go through it correctly. As I struggled to push the wire through the center of the mum, aiming for the stem, it suddenly went through — pricking me right on the thumb. I continued on, only aware of a slight stinging, when suddenly I realized blood was trailing down my thumb to my wrist.

I quickly attended to my wound, and kept on with the war effort. Suffice it to say, I survived, vanquishing my foe.

Hand-tied and Holder Bouquets

On New Years, I attended the wedding of one of my neighbors’ twin daughters. Two and a half months later, the second twin also got married. From the first, my family got leftover food. From the second, we got one of the bouquets that was displayed as a centerpiece at the reception.

We were able to enjoy the bouquet for more than a week — definitely longer than the food. How? The florist used a technique called hand-tying. Using this, the stems can be kept fairly long — long enough to put in a vase. Keeping the bouquet in water (fortified with plant food) meant we got to enjoy a lovely touch of nature on our kitchen counter, whereas if the bouquet had been made using a holder, it would have barely lasted two days. Continue reading

Every Rose has its Thorn

Floral Design 2 began on Monday with quite a big bang — the classic dozen-rose arrangement! A big part of this class is pricing items out, and this arrangement would sell for $75. But to make sure the customer feels like they’re getting their money’s worth, you have to make the design as big and beautiful as possible!

Guess how tall the arrangement in the picture below is. Go ahead, guess.

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25 inches. This arrangement is more than two feet tall!

If you compare it to the arrangement below, it certainly seems to be the more expensive of the two…

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But this smaller arrangement is only about $5 less than the first!

“It’s so SMALL though,” you might say.

True, but the flowers and greenery are the same. The labor and time spent making the arrangement is the same. The materials (knives, preservative, Green Glow) are the same. The only real differences are the vase and about 15 inches in height.

If that seems too steep, try getting different flowers. Mums and gerbera daisies are just as lovely, but much cheaper, after all!