Laura Daluga AIFD, Owner of the Department of Floristry, Ann Arbor’s up and coming design studio specializing in one-off special events and corporate designs, floral sculpture, fleur couture and conceptual editorial design is taking over the floral world one design at a time! Laura also provides support, mentoring and advice to retail florists in the area who’d like a leg up, and one-on-one atelier style private lessons to area floral designers.
While home for the holidays, Floral.today caught up with this floral design trailblazer to get to know her a little bit more and bring more of her to you! Wether she’s making floral couture weapons or simple clean design for other art medium duplication, Laura’s free spirit and professional design is always here to remind us what a well educated design brain can create.
One of the things Floral.today always enjoys asking our feature designers is, what some of their non-floral hobbies are. Laura didn’t fail to deliver in her response when she said, “I enjoy reading very much and I try to stay current with several topics including scientific developments, psychology, politics and economics. I enjoy researching the human condition.” “I love to roller skate! I have a serious pair of quads in my closet if anyone ever wants to hit the rink with me. Absolutely serious! LOL” “I’m a bit of a nerd, and love going to cons! I love anime, comics, science fiction, movies, gaming… Last year at C2E2, I met No-Face, of Miyazaki’s ‘Spirited Away’ fame, it was awesome!”
After such a great response we hope you enjoy to get a little more about Laura with her Floral.today Feature Designer Interview!
Where did you get your start in the industry and what have been some of the most instrumental experiences that have helped you with your successful career so far?
As a 4th generation florist, I was literally born into the floral industry, growing up playing with dropped stems in the flower shop owned by my parents. Beyond the lifelong hands-on education I experienced in my parents shop, when I had ventured out on my own I found an amazing 5th generation owned florist and greenhouse that was in the midst of a generational change themselves. The newest owner was just a touch older than me, and had just been to the Teleflora Education Center in Oklahoma City for an intensive hands-on with Hitomi Gilliam AIFD. That shot in the arm was infectious there, and soon all the designers, even juniors like myself were jetting off for immersive programs with teachers, the likes of Els Hazenberg AIFD, AAF, Kevin Ylvisaker AIFD, PFCI and of course Hitomi Gilliam AIFD. For a gal growing up knee-deep in stems all her life these were my first professional encounters with members of the American Institute of Floral Designers, and boy were they eye-opening… These experiences sparked a need for continual education that has only grown since. I wanted IN, I wanted to know all about it.
Where do you see the greatest flaws in the industry at the moment and what do you think we as an industry can do to rectify some of the issues?
I’ve heard my entire professional career how ‘rare’ I am, a veteran Millennial designer with education, experience and an open mind. My family has forever lamented the fierce upcoming generational gap, and I now believe we are seeing it in full force. And it’s killing us. The old school florists like my mom are retiring, one by one- and sadly along with them, the retail florists are closing as well. They’re being replaced, mostly by young, fresh and woefully undereducated designers. I see this as a challenge, a challenge to bring them into the fold, to ignite in them the joy and passion of learning, growing and collaborating. I’ve been watching these Millenial ‘instagram superstars’ grow in favor among brides and clients, and through a collective mindset that is unique to this generation I have been watching them grow by leaps and bounds. This communal, crowd-sourced, collaborative rather than competitive approach to an art form is entirely unique to this generation. Their work, while amateurish, is still connecting better with the public than we’ve seen since the 90s, so that’s very exciting to see unfold. Now to just elevate the skillset!
Are there any exciting projects or shows we should be looking forward to in 2016?
Coming up in 2016 I am personally looking forward to Milwaukee Art Museum’s annual Art in Bloom show, which just last year expanded to include a floral fashion show. Also on the floral fashion front, I’m looking forward to the return of Chicago’s Garfield Park Conservatory’s fleur couture runway show, FLEUROTICA. After participating 4 years in a row, they took a hiatus last year and I’m super excited to see it come roaring back now that the turn of the century conservatory has been restored. Stacey Carlton AIFD and Shawn Michael Foley are planning a floral couture main-stage program at AIFD National Symposium in Anaheim, CA this summer that I’m very excited to be involved with, I can’t wait to get in that design room to help!
After such a crazy personal year what are some of your personal goals that you’re working on right now?
Crazy year is right! Just a few weeks after relocating from Chicago to Ann Arbor, I was inducted into AIFD and eight months in I’m working on building my clientele here and it’s certainly slow going as many florists here are several generations deep! My primary goal for 2016 is to land a few more solid corporate accounts, to keep making brides’ visions a reality and to keep up with the community involvement that has gotten me this far already. Working with local non-profits and starting up a new chapter of Repeat Roses, the collective of floral designers who upcycle event flowers, gifting them to local veterans’ and children’s hospitals. Ann Arbor is perfect for that, what with the University of Michigan Hospitals. I’m also becoming more involved in our regional chapter of AIFD, seeking new venues for public floral art and revenue streams for the chapter’s many educational scholarships.
When designing floral fashions what is one of your greatest secret go to mechanics for wearable floral fashion?
The learning curve with floral fashion is pretty steep. I love watching the designers at Fleurotica grow by leaps every year. With floral fashion, its a real struggle to keep the garment lightweight, moveable and flexible despite being covered with product that weights a ton. My last floor-length dress came out to a whopping 28 pounds, despite using dried materials in abundance! Working with lightweight, easy to sew materials are key to making the dress template onto which I glue or sew my blooms or petals. To put it simply, go with felt! It sews incredibly easily and floral glue (hot or cold) stick to it quite well.
What are some of your favorite flowers or materials to work with right now?
I’ve been positively obsessed with the graphic form of protea… any and all protea are ooh and ahh worthy in my book! Combine that with Art Deco intricacy and you have my logo! The Anco Vandas are just swoon-worthy, with colors so saturated you can’t believe they’re real! I’m also very much looking forward to working with all the locally grown Michigan flower branches, especially cherry! Having a garden for the first time, too, I’m excited to be able to grow terrestrial orchid plants here, especially Paphiopedilum! Oh my god, and the unbelievable Japanese product we’ve been seeing at floral shows, I can’t wait to get my hands on some of it this Valentine’s Day!
Do you have a philosophy when it comes to designing?
My personal design philosophy is pretty simple. I aim to create visually exciting designs, in line with the principals and elements of design. While anyone can make something beautiful with gobs of lush flowers, I’m aiming for the ‘Art of Leaving Out,’ which is, I think, more realistic in today’s economy. My work tends to have an emphasis on spatial design, movement and structural composition, as a result of my childhood ballet training. Tedium is my forte. I love working out a design from deciding its basic form all the way down to its tiny, tiny details.
With our ever-changing industry, where do you see it changing the most and where do you see it heading in the next 10 years?
In the next ten years, I’d like to see designers working actively to change the prevailing public perception that flowers are something that ‘just dies.’ I’d love to see us more toward a more European mentality, that flowers are a way of life, more than just an accompaniment to a meal, a holiday, or well-wish, more than for weddings, funerals and special events. A shift in consumer mentality might save our remaining brick and mortar shops from closing, and would encourage Millennial business owners to move from home-based or studio-based to full retail. I’d also like to see an elevation of mechanics for all American designers, hopefully elevating our craft to the level of an art form.
Where do you find your greatest inspiration when designing?
My greatest inspiration is my incredible life partner in crime, Brian Skol. His creative ability is unmatched by any one artist I’ve met or worked with before and his collaborative spirit, along with an equal passion for education and science, inspires mine every single day. I’ve never had such a vocal supporter, nor someone so willing to challenge me creatively. Working with him on floral sculptures, fleur couture and prop creation for his oil paintings has felt natural from the start, even more so now that we both have a feel for each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
If you had the chance to attend a floral class anywhere in the world what would it be?
I think since I first met Els Hazenberg, I’ve been curious about the Boerma Instituut in Aalsmeer, the Netherlands. I’m absolutely intrigued by Holland’s rich floral culture, its rockstar-status designers, and their willingness to openly share mechanics and techniques, something that until recently was unheard of here. Workshops, masterclasses, intensives, creative retreats… and to have it tied in with the EMC Program makes it all the more dreamy and perfect in my mind.
Given the chance to teach a floral class anywhere in the world what would you teach and where?
If I could teach anything… anywhere… well, you asked! I’d like to teach the fundamentals, the principals and elements of floral design, to excited, curious students through my own floral design academy. That’s my big dream, to inject some professionalism, craftsmanship and european style into the average American floral designer’s everyday designs.
Thank you to Laura for taking the time to let Floral.today and it’s readers get to know her a little bit more. As a top floral designer and future American floral industry leader, we wish Laura the best of luck with all that comes before her brilliant mind. Make sure follow all of Laura’s social media to stay inspired by this one of a kind designer.
Till Next Time,