12/27/2011 11:59 am ET Updated Feb 26, 2012

Pushing Through and Making It Work

I wasn't always a floral designer. Yes, I love what I do and I can't imagine doing anything else but not very long ago, I was an event planner. I guess technically, I still am. I planned mostly galas, the ones Bill Cunningham photographs for the Styles section. My colleagues and I spent lots of time waiting to spot his telltale blue jacket but I digress... As an event planner, I know what it is to be organized, to assemble a great team, to pay attention to every detail, to trouble-shoot and to push through and make it work, no matter what. As a floral designer, all of those same rules and lessons apply, with physicality and manual labor thrown in for good measure (and sore muscles).

I recently designed florals for a gala that brought me back to my non-profit roots. For the past two years, I've been designing mostly wedding and social events so I was excited to return to a very familiar milieu. New was my role as vendor and because it was a fundraiser, instead of being the one hammering for bargains, I was the one being hammered. So why did I do it? Honestly, I wanted to challenge myself creatively and I also wanted to explore this avenue to see if it is a direction I'd like my company to pursue.

My challenges {not necessarily in order}:
Scope and scale - most of my weddings/events cap at 200 guests with me creating roughly 30-40 elements, including personal flowers, centerpieces, ancillary arrangements, etc. This event was for over 600 guests and called for 100+ elements.
Budget - the budget was very modest, to say the least and I had to figure out how to deliver the most impact for the least amount of money.
Timeline - I was hired 12 days prior, not leaving me much time to hire a team and come up with a plan.
The plan - what would the plan be, not only with regard to design but also logistics, production and execution?
My brand - I have developed an aesthetic and a process and maintaining its integrity is very important to me. But I also had a very different client than usual. Would what I do translate at this scale for this client?
Bonus - did I mention that I had another smaller corporate event the same day?

Despite and maybe because of all of the above, the event was a huge accomplishment for kat flower. I was very pleased with my design, with my incredibly amazing and talented team and seeing my work in this particular venue, where I have produced many an event, felt supremely good.

A photographer friend once said, to be creative and to be in business isn't always congruent. It's really difficult not only quantifying all that it takes to get a job done but also getting people to see the value in it, especially with materials as perishable and underappreciated as flowers. And with every job, it doesn't necessarily get easier. But to paraphrase my photographer friend again, flowers are not only my business but there are also an integral part of my family. And part of that family business is creative growth, challenges, trial and error, hard work, perseverance and hopefully, personal satisfaction and success.

Some behind-the-scenes photos from the day of:

Behind the scenes with kat flower. Photo essay: Parris Wittingham Studio