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The Mastermind Experience part 3

emc alumni emc community emc designer floral education inspiration Mar 08, 2023

Celebrating Creativity

by Sara Marie Andrews, EMC

The story of the EMC Mastermind Experience, as seen through the eyes of the participants enfolds in a 3 parts blog, detailing every aspect of the journey our designers have embarked on in September 2022. Set up as an anniversary event to celebrate 10 years of EMC, it transformed into an adventure of creativity mixed with fun, challenges and growth all together. This blog is merely the first of a 3 parts story that will engage you in a deep understanding of how the class created a magical experience for the atendees.

Read part one of this story here and follow up with part two in this link.

All too quickly, dawn broke on our final full day of the Mastermind Experience.  Prior to our arrival in Bruges, we had received a message from Christi, asking us to forward about ten photos of our work taken over the past ten years or so.  These were going to be used by Tomas on the final day, but we were unaware of how.  We were very quickly shown how!  After a quick review of what we had learnt about our floral DNA during the Advanced course, Tomas went into more detail, finally using the photos to show how our designs and ability had changed as our creativity had grown.  It was an amazing, astute, and intuitive session that I shall never forget. Tomas could see changes in our work that we hadn’t previously seen or noticed, and he was able to predict the direction that we were taking during the period covered by our photos, what our strengths had become, our particular areas of expertise, where we could stretch ourselves further so that we could once more, go outside our comfort zone and therefore our creativity would continue to grow. Those words and thoughts resonated with me very strongly and that Saturday will remain with me as one of the most thought-provoking and extraordinary days of my life. I just hope that I have the mental and physical strength to keep progressing as I wish to.  I am not afraid of failure, it is very much part of my learning ethos because I take it on as a further challenge, which brings me back to my ‘tree’!

Once Tomas had completed his fascinating insight into our floral DNA, which took up the major part of the planned day, we moved on to the expressions based on the Inspirations we had located during our trip to Paris.  As I have already said , mine is still a work in progress but I have promised that I will continue to work on it and send pictures of it when it is done.

As I mentioned earlier, Anahit had taken her inspiration from the visit to the Christian Dior exhibition and produced a magical design, almost totally white, based on the cubic boxes displayed on the walls, holding scraps of materials, accessories for dresses etc. It was amazing in the way it obviously expressed the emotions that she had felt in the first place.

Ursula is known for her love of colour, so she had chosen a painting which was not only almost cubist, but very neutral in colour, to give herself a real challenge. She had chosen the painting,’L’Homme a la guitare, printemps 1940 by Georges Braque, as her muse. Having worked as a painter and decorator for some of his life, he was able to produce a range of textures which add great interest and depth to the painting, which Ursula was very keen to ‘replicate’ as much as she could in her interpretation, especially with such a muted colour palette.

Armed with a sheaf of Japanese folded paper ‘arrows’ that she had and not previously used, Barbara was on a mission to find a painting where they could be used to create a layered surface, and was overjoyed to find a Jackson Pollock painting, ‘The Deep’, which she interpreted with a superb understanding of the dimensions of the painting, and the use of the dripped black and white paint which was shown in a number of his paintings of this time, when he was very troubled. She even included a touch of yellow to lift the colour slightly, as the artist had done, and the very light use of Sanguisorba to mimic the small drops of blood apparent in a number of his works, due to the number of times he cut his feet!  It was a masterful and quite beautiful interpretation of an abstract work of art.

As Sue has already said, she took a little time to find a piece of art that inspired her but eventually chose a geometric portrait by Frantisek Kupka that she also found in the Pompidou Centre.  The female figure appears to be animated by a slow movement, split by vertical planes; and Sue interpreted it beautifully with her chosen colour palette of fabrics and botanicals, truly completing a three-dimensional, highly creative expression, demonstrating the vision that she had in her mind related to the original painting.

The level of creativity was extraordinary, and the way that Tomas reacted to it and gave additional critique can only be described as mind-blowing.  I don’t think that any of us wanted the day to come to an end as we had learnt so much, especially about ourselves, and it had been so astonishing and very emotional.  However, coming down to earth a little, it was time for us to get changed in order to spend our last official evening together with Tomas and Christi at the fabulous ‘In the Mood’ restaurant; a wonderful way to complete a breathtaking week with the Mastermind Experience.

Sunday morning arrived, with the sadness of some of the group having to pack and make their way onwards to see more of Europe before they returned home.  We did all manage to eat together at lunchtime in one of the many superb pizza restaurants, prior to some dashing off to purchase the last minute souvenirs and gifts, including chocolate, of course, to take home with them.  I made my way back to the hotel, where the Advanced group had completed all their exams, to find a great deal of urgency to clear all the rooms rapidly, as the hotel had a booking for a large conference due in on the Monday morning!  I happened to ask Diana if she wished to have the leftover flowers made up into hand-tied designs to be given out to people in Bruges. This was what we had done after our Advanced exams the previous year on our way to the City Hall on Monday morning, and it had been very popular.  I was just starting on the task, while Sue was busy making up three presentation bouquets to be given out to the hotel management and to officials at City Hall, when Diana suddenly arrived at my side and asked me to show some of the Advanced group how to do a hand-tied bouquet, in my style including having longer stems.  Very quickly, I had a number of them around me, watching while I demonstrated; and then they started making their own with me watching and helping out if needed.  It wasn’t long before they had got the method and joined me in producing a wide range of bouquets to be handed out the next morning.  It was wonderful to see how their confidence grew in that small amount of time and they really began to challenge themselves with their choice of materials, and it was very special for me to spend this time with them.  It was not too long before we had used all the flowers and foliage up, and the classrooms were ready to be handed over to the hotel to complete the cleaning.   The students went off to change, pack and then went off in groups to find somewhere to eat, knowing that they had an exciting and busy morning ahead of them with the graduation ceremony.

There were far fewer of us meeting over breakfast that morning, but more appeared as the time drew near to walk up through the city to the City Hall, giving out the bouquets to slightly surprised and very grateful people as we passed, with the Advanced students making sure that they held on tightly to their wedding bouquets!  I knew how they must be feeling as we entered the magnificent City Building, because it brought back so many wonderful memories to me too.  The graduation ceremony was marvellous, and it was fantastic to be able to welcome all the alumni into the fabulous EMC family, and to see the huge smiles on their faces as they realised the success of their achievements.  As we drifted out of the beautiful building into the square, Tomas asked who was going to join him for the ‘annual’ coffee and waffle, before we all went our separate ways.  That waffle and a very large mug of hot chocolate was a perfect way to end our time together.  

Early on Tuesday morning, Fran and I made our way to the station and caught the train direct to the airport. Once we were safely in the departure area, Fran and I said our goodbyes and she made her way to catch her flight which was due to leave quite soon, whilst I was not due to fly until the afternoon.  I was sad to see her go but knew that we would keep in touch, and I went to wait for my plane, full of such wonderful memories of a fantastic time spent with fabulous people with such a creative, open mindset; and also wanting to find out from the others what they had actually felt about the inaugural Mastermind Experience.

“It was lovely to spend the time with the Advanced group, now fellow alumni.  EMC is about community, and we were able to connect and bond with them.  Coming on the Mastermind Experience has given me a real confidence boost in my abilities that I wasn’t expecting. I am pleasantly surprised and so very humbled.” - Ursula.

“I enjoyed spending time with the Advanced group.  I think it is important to get to know who they are and to spend time with them.  I can also say that the Mastermind Experience gave me far more than I was expecting.” - Sue

“It was nice to meet the Advanced group and knowing what they were going through as we once had done. We were able to encourage them, and also learn from them as they were very talented designers.  I have to say that the Mastermind Experience was far better than I had expected.  It was insightful, and I am really grateful that Tomas gave us so much of his time and went much deeper into the analysis than when we were in the Advanced group.  I would definitely do this again, but maybe with a visit to a different country.” - Barbara

“The Mastermind Experience was amazing, but I wish we had two extra days added to the time. It taught me how to create for myself, for my own experience, not just for my clients. I feel that this will help me not to get stuck in the ‘everyday designer’ mindset.  I truly enjoyed getting to know each and every one on the courses.  I loved sharing this experience with old friends and new ones, and I cannot wait to see everyone’s growth.” - Anahit.

Finally, how did I feel about it? I had hoped that it would ease the lonely feeling, uncertainty, and lack of creative direction that I had experienced after returning home from graduating.  It did, but it gave me far more than that. It gave me the time and opportunity to be with a group of very special creatives who were not frightened to challenge themselves, to find out more about themselves, and through them, to stretch myself to see what I could achieve, learn, and create.  I do have a stubborn streak that urges me to keep pushing myself, to go on challenging myself for as long as I can. I will also continue to take part in the monthly Design and Critique for alumni, as this challenges me each time, giving my creativity a much needed boost. I am very aware that I may have reached a level at which I have to admit that I may not be able to go much further now, but I will continue to stretch my mental abilities and creativity as far as I can, because that is who I am; and I will delight in seeing what others around me go on to achieve. I have to sincerely thank Tomas and Christi; Diana and Fran; Keith for the day that he spent with us; and, very definitely, all my fellow participants and all the new alumni from the Advanced group. I had an experience that I will never forget and meant so much to me.  I have looked through my notes and photos to help me complete this, and those have also brought back vivid memories of what occurred and something that I hadn’t realised.  When I was looking through the notes that I had made about my floral DNA which Tomas had put on the flip chart, I realised that it was missing his last comment on where my level of creativity now falls.  Maybe, one day, he will tell me!  

My final thoughts:  

Was it worth attending? Without any doubt. 

Did it meet my expectations? Certainly, and far more.  

It will not be held every year, but would I want to attend the next one if I am able?  There is no doubt in my mind that I would want to, but circumstances may mean that I cannot.  

What I am really positive about is that every alum who wants to grow in their creativity needs to attend the next one and invest in their future.  

You will never regret it!

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