Meet the EMC TeamOct 11, 2022
When creative growth and passion for flowers meet up
Rebecca Raymond - portrait of an EMC Teacher
Rebecca lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest, where she has built up her highly rated weddings and events business, making her one of the most sought-after and respected floral designers in the area and on the mainland too. She has always loved flowers and has built the business up along with free-lancing for others, whilst raising a family and continuing to work as a flight attendant, which feeds her love of travel. In recent years, she has become more interested in floral education, using social media to reach a wider audience, and learning continually how to use technology to her advantage. Her peak wedding season is from May until the end of September, and she has just completed the last wedding to be postponed due to the pandemic, giving her the mindset to look even more to the future. Over the years, the passion that she has for creating beautiful, eclectic floral designs has grown massively.
She is the first person to say that you never stop learning and takes every opportunity to hone her artistic skills and broaden her theoretical knowledge, as well as expanding her technical repertoire through training with national and international floral masters; and is now able to offer her own workshops in which she can teach others about the possibilities involved in the craft of floristry.
Rebecca was the middle child of five, with a mother who was open to all ideas to bring up her children with respect for nature around them and also to teach them that you have to work hard to make a worthwhile success. All the children had to make a choice of one flower and one vegetable to grow and were taken by their mother to purchase the seed or bulbs etc., to carry out this task. At the age of five or six, Rebecca made the choice to grow gladioli and green beans.They had to prepare the ground themselves, plant their selected flowers and vegetables, nurture and harvest them; giving them a real understanding of how plants grow and where their food came from. Not only was Rebecca extremely proficient with growing, but it also sparked her interest in the understanding of how things grow, the morphology of plants and how they could be used. Even at that tender age, she was the local queen of making daisy-chain crowns! With the successful flowering of her first group of gladioli, she realised that making a daisy-chain crown, wearing her nightgown, borrowing her mother’s shoes to wear, and carrying a bouquet of gladioli in the crook of her arm, allowed her to believe that she was taking part in a Miss America pageant!
It was also, with her mother beside her, that she became involved in what is known as ‘Rose Rustling’. Roses were brought to the East Coast with settlers from Europe, to enjoy in their gardens. As the settlers moved east across the States, they took roses with them, but many were discarded on the way, as it was important for the travellers to utilise the land for providing food rather than for decorative purposes. Some of those old roses can still be find growing in the wild, and Rebecca and her mother eventually collected eighty-seven different ones which were planted in their garden, and she was able to use them when creating arrangements and bouquets.
As Rebecca grew up, she maintained her interest in growing flowers and completing small bouquets and arrangements for friends and family. She had been assisting her aunt with her catering and events business, which gave her the opportunity to use some of her florals to add to the decoration of a range of events. When her cousin was due to get married, her aunt asked if she would be willing to do the bridal flowers as well as her normal venue decorations. She agreed to do so, although she had never made any wedding bouquets, buttonholes, and corsages! This brave decision gave her the confidence and passion to carry this further, working with her aunt’s clients on the island and establishing her reputation as a wedding and events designer. Her achievements and ability were noted, and she started being asked to complete floral decorations and wedding flowers on the mainland where her reputation as a top-flight floral designer continues to grow, working with her own clients or free-lancing for other designers. During this time, she was also bringing up children and working as a flight attendant, something that she still does, as it nurtures her love of travel too.
Rebecca’s reputation as a wedding and events florist is widely recognised, and this continues to be the main floral string to her bow, both with her own business and as a free-lancer. The season for this is really at its height from May until October and, during the winter, she maximises her work as a flight attendant in order to ensure that she clocks up the required number of hours to carry on. She is also growing her knowledge as a floral educator, using technology and social media to her benefit, as this is an area which is really taking her out of her comfort zone, challenging her and a direction in which she can see herself moving more in the future.
Having ‘trained’ herself by ‘doing and learning’ for many years and having confidence to do ‘basic pretty’ designs, to which she tried to add something of her personally into the work, she felt that it was not particularly necessary or helpful to complete any qualifications. However, she read books, purchased floral magazines, and began to discover designs with a very real different look, techniques used that were so different that she couldn’t work out how they were constructed, areas that excited her creativity but left her frustrated because she couldn’t emulate them fully. It excited and intrigued her and also introduced her to names of floral designers such as Hitomi Gilliam and Gregor Lersch and she began to follow them, wanting to be able to create designs similar to theirs and to be able to show something different to her clients – something that was not available through the usual florists and floral designers in the Pacific Northwest area.
It was during this period of learning about and recognising the differences between the floral design current in the States, and the exciting techniques and design possibilities of the work of the European designers, that Rebecca learned about the EMC and decided that she would apply to take the Foundation course as soon as possible. At that time, it was not primarily the qualification that Rebecca wanted to gain, but it was the possibility of challenging herself to learn this new language and methods of completing floral designs that attracted her to it. It was a while before she was able to take the first step by attending the Foundation Course live in the USA and, eventually, to graduate in Belgium in 2017. Now she admits that she is inordinately proud of the qualification and to be a member of the alumni. She also added that she has encouraged many others to follow in her footsteps, if they are willing to take the challenge.
In 2018, when she had recently graduated, Rebecca was approached to become a mentor for those beginning on their EMC journey. She was delighted to be able to accept and has enjoyed this role greatly. Some of the students have been deeply grateful for her support and understanding when they have felt challenged by what they are doing and what they see ahead of them; and have been greatly encouraged by knowing that there is someone to whom they can turn to for clarification. There are others who feel that they can learn well without as much assistance and support, but Rebecca has still made sure that she checked in with them on a regular basis to ensure that they are still moving forward as they should do, moving through the Self-Practicum phase and, eventually onto the Advanced Course, which was delayed for many due to the pandemic.
She has now been invited to join the teaching team and she is really delighted to be taking this next step, as this is the direction in which she feels that she wishes to move in the future, following her desire to be more involved with floral education.
Rebecca has been only too delighted to answer questions from florists about her journey through floristry and especially through graduating with the EMC, for a number of years. She does not hide or gloss over the fact that is not an easy journey, but challenging; and that it is important to remember that nothing is worth doing if it is too easy, you have to stretch out of your comfort zone in order to achieve something very special; and to grow your creativity and, ultimately, your reputation as a floral designer – something that Rebecca herself is extremely passionate about.
Rebecca is a strong believer in supporting the growers locally whenever she can, so includes as many locally grown flowers as possible within her designs. She likes to visit growers and learn as much as she can about the process that is used to produce high quality blooms, which she can then work with in her designs. She is still very attached to her time of growing up under her mother’s influence and always tries to have materials in her designs that reflect this; whether it be the addition of moss, stones, or wood – that is where she is grounded; to the extent that she was known at the design school as the ‘Stick Woman’. This may be her signature style, but she also has a reputation for putting something ‘different’ or slightly ‘weird’ into her work, and that is what makes it stand out from the creations of other floral designers. She has also had her name used in the same breath as that of Hitomi Gilliam and Gregor Lersch when other floral designers were discussing whose work could be easily recognised, so that she feels that there must be something in her work that makes it stand out from others, so she may have a signature style without really realising it.
Her hopes for the future had, for some time, included the desire to move more to floral education, so the opportunity to teach with the EMC has already helped her to progress in this direction. Sustainability is also very important to her, and she is interested in taking this forward in her teaching too. She wants to continue to share her knowledge, coach others and take them through the nuances of business, whilst still continuing to produce videos which she shares via Instagram at the present time. She loves to travel, she loves the floral industry, and feels that it is very important to be totally inclusive within the industry and education and is very excited and passionate for her hopes and plans for the future.
Rebecca feels that it is really important to celebrate and embrace one’s curiosity, to go deeper with it – ask yourself what you are feeling and trust in yourself. Take risks and do not be afraid to try, otherwise you never grow and come out of your comfort zone. She used to be very shy and, after her mother’s death she was even afraid to go home, afraid of what she was going to be able to do; and then she realised that she was tired of being afraid and must make herself do things that she would not have done previously. The journey has been hard and very scary but now she embraces it. If she had not pushed herself, she would not have found herself on a stage in front of hundreds of her peers, demonstrating floral designs at the Symposium in Las Vegas. It is for this reason that she wants to encourage others to continually push themselves out of their comfort zones, to embrace their creativity, to find out how far they can grow, and what they can achieve.
by Sara Marie Andrews
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