FLORAL DESIGN-ART OR CRAFT?

The terms art and science are widely misused. Tractor repair is ennobled as an industrial art, and lawnmowing is glorified as turfgrass science. Equally tedious is the insistence by some purists that only they know the distinctions that separate true art and science from all pretenders. So it is with the terms art and craft. What separates the two? Which is floral design? Floral design is a craft; it can be learned by nearly anyone who wishes to take the time. However, the level of expertise and degree of creativity expressed by flower arrangers increase as their appreciation and knowledge of fine art increase.

If art is the creation of new and harmonious relationships among lines and forms, then floral design may qualify as an art in the hands of someone who can use living materials in the same way that others use paint or stone. Commercial florists seldom acquire the knowledge of fine art necessary to create truly original relationships with their materials, although very often their work is beautiful, imaginative, and skillfully executed. Their work is usually a copy or modification of styles created by others, sometimes centuries earlier. Accordingly, theirs can be regarded as the craft of flower arranging.

Being a craft, floral design can be taught. Yet, as with any skill, some practitioners will develop a greater proficiency than others because of the time they spend practicing and their level of personal interest. To become a superior designer, florists must first learn the mechanics of their trade: how to prepare flowers for use in designs, how to position them in arrangements, and how to package the finished work for delivery. In addition, superior florists will study design of all types from classical
to contemporary, the natural world with its endless combinations of line and form, literature and social sciences to better understand the many shades of human behavior and emotions, and the fine arts, including painting, sculpture, and music. All too often, florists try to substitute personality and pretensions for a solid foundation of knowledge and training. In floral design, as elsewhere, however, there is no substitute for hard work and education.