On Thursday, April 12 celebrated Southern floral designer Sybil Brooke Sylvester begins two days of programs to benefit of the Walters Art Museum. At Simply Beautiful Flowers from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Sylvester, the owner of Wildflower Designs in Birmingham, Alabama kicks off the two-day event with a workshop. A wine and cheese reception and a take-home arrangement are included for each participant.
Then on Friday, April 13 at 10:30 a.m. at the museum, A Spring Day at the Walters features Sylvester in a lecture and demonstration, “A Fresh Take on Spring.” Light luncheon in the sculpture court follows.
Tickets for the April 12 workshop are $135. Tickets on April 13 are $50 for the lecture and demonstration only, or $95 for the lecture, demonstration and luncheon. Tickets may be purchased through the museum website.
Sylvester’s approach to floral design is seasonal and natural but sophisticated and elegant. In her new book Fresh, she says, “Many people feel intimidated by flowers, and I want to lift the fear and help you to dive right in.”
We talked to Sybil about her work.
How have your designs changed over the years?
My business has gone FULL CIRCLE. I officially started Wildflower Designs 28 years ago, after many years of playing at it. It began in my garage at home. It was so fun to step out there, put on my business hat and get to the task at hand. I outgrew the garage quickly. My husband was relieved when I moved to a storefront and gave the family back the laundry room, which I used as a flower locker and the washing machine as a deep well sink!
Following 20-some years of successful flower shop experiences –– combined with all of my weddings, galas, traveling for out-of-state destinations, floral demonstrations, plus flower school classes –– I downsized a few years ago: back to my garage. All I can say is, “Watch Out!” I’ve once again outgrown the garage, and I am in the process of moving into a new studio! Make me STOP!!!
What makes your Wildflower Designs unique?
This answer isn’t my favorite, but I must say, “ME.” It is my unique design sense, my strong belief in customer service and my drive to always create something new, “FRESH” and different. When you have a Wildflower wedding or event we say, “You’ve Been Sybilized!”
If you had one piece of advice for beginners, what would it be?
To beginning arrangers: Have fun!!! YOU CAN DO THIS!!! My mission is to completely dispel the inner voice that says, “You Can’t!!” Keep it loose, and cut your flowers at various lengths to create “ins and outs.” Try using a Lazy Susan to help you see your creation from all angles. Please remember the sides and edges of your container and use garden finds and unusual materials. If it pleases you, then it is perfect.
To beginners in the floral business: There are tons of us “flower girls” out there these days, and the competition is unreal. It is a very difficult business [in which] to actually turn a profit. My advice is that you must couple a strong business plan along with your creative dreams, or you will be doomed. Be prepared to work long and hard, and nothing beats prior flower shop “trench” experience!
What would you say to experienced arrangers trying to stay fresh and current?
Here I would repeat my answer for beginning arrangers plus: Do not limit yourself to one style. Explore and grow and experiment. Try using what is left in the cuttings bin to create a unique design, my favorite personal challenge! Stay in touch with changes in color trends/fashion, and be true to yourself but keep evolving!
You are a designer, a writer, and a teacher. What helps you accomplish everything?
I started as an untrained, creative soul who loved flowers. Then I began being asked to do magazine articles. That was closely followed by beginning to teach flower classes. This evolution forced me to go inward and ask myself, “Why do I do what I do, and how do I explain the steps clearly?” One of the best gifts that have come my way is to have found the path to express what I actually do and to enjoy sharing of myself so entirely.
What’s on your bucket list of floral pipe dreams?
So many dreams; so little time!!! New Zealand…South Africa…Amsterdam Floral Festival!! Visiting as many individual flower farms as I can, where I get to pick materials and arrange on site.
Anything else you’d like to say?
Thank you to all of my wonderful supporters and amazing customers who have allowed me to do my thing and Sybilize their special events. Haven’t we had the best time ever?…So many memories!
To purchase tickets for the Sybil Sylvester workshops, click here.
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