I am feeling rather nostalgic this week thinking back to exactly one year ago when I spent a week in Charleston learning from Ariella Chezar. The time I spent with Ariella felt magical and completely inspiring in every way. I’ve been meaning to blog about our time together for a year now, so what better time than the anniversary of this trip.
My friend Erin of Floret Flowers encouraged me to attend Ariella’s workshop and assured me it would be life changing. I was at a point in my career where I needed a change. I felt uninspired and bored and as a result I felt unhappy and dissatisfied with the work I was producing. I knew I needed to do something, but I was so hesitant to sign up for a workshop with Ariella. I had admired Ariella for years, and have always been so inspired by her work. Her name is synonymous with the beauty she creates. Most of what I do is self taught, and I had never received any formal training for floral design. As a result, I was scared she would look at my work and tell me I was untalented. I literally had a dream that she denounced me as a designer, labeled me a fraud, and put it out on social media that I didn’t know what I was doing. It’s funny how our own insecurities can weigh so heavily on our hearts and scare us from taking big steps and trying new things.
I pushed through my insecurities, fearfully signed up for the workshop, bought a few new bow ties to help boost my confidence and headed to Charleston with my wife.
Jamie took a photo of me as I headed out to class that first day. I felt like I was in kindergarten again, wondering if I would make any friends and if the teacher would be nice. I rarely get nervous for anything, but the closer I got to the workshop, the faster my heart started beating. I opened the door to discover what seemed like a sea of ladies looking at me, shocked to see a man walking through the door. But then I heard a warm, welcoming, lovely and soothing voice declare “Steve! Welcome!” It was Ariella. At that moment every fear dissipated and I felt safe.
Ariella might be the most gentle and kind person I have ever met. She truly has a beautiful soul and is lovely in every way. She is gracious and humble and so down to earth. No matter what skill level each student entered with, she treated everyone the same, and encouraged the talent she saw within. She gave tips, shared trade secrets, directed us to new resources and opened our eyes to her world. She listened to our stories, asked us about our dreams and made us feel like we could accomplish anything. She believed in each of us, which helped us to in turn believe in ourselves. I came to realize that the reason why her work is truly so amazing and beautiful, is because it is simply an extension of who she is as a person, and her designs flow from within.
Those few days I spent with Ariella were in fact life changing. It was the exact reboot I needed and I left feeling inspired and ready to conquer my dreams. As I went through wedding season, I often found myself referring back to the techniques I learned. Ariella’s influence ran deep and the impact she had on me elevated the weddings I designed to a whole new level. As a result we produced some of my favorite weddings I have ever been part of.
Beyond strengthening my skills as a designer, I think the greatest thing I left with after our time together, was a sense of value for what I do for a living. Sometimes I wonder if at the end of my life I will question what the point of everything was. It is easy to lose sight of why we do what we do when we are inundated with hundreds of e-mails daily and caught up in so many details. I have even questioned the value of spending so many resources on creating something for just one day, only to have our work torn down at the end of the night when the party is over. I’ve even had friends ask me how I feel about helping people squander their money on just a one day celebration. It can all feel meaningless and frivolous, especially with so much of the world in need. That mindset can be de-habilitating and discouraging and leave me wondering if I should do something more meaningful with my life.
Ariella spoke a truth into our lives on our final evening together, and I will never forget it. She gave us a memento written in Latin that read “hominibus opus decoris” Those words sat in front of us all evening during our dinner until Ariella translated them for us… “The world needs beauty”
Those of us who are designers, creators, and artists have meaningful jobs. We live in what can be a dark, scary and lonely world. What we do is create beauty that softens the world. We create celebrations that are remembered for a lifetime. So when I start to question the point of it all… I remind myself that I do what I do… because the world needs beauty.
In a few short weeks we will hold our own workshops in our Seattle design studio. My hope and prayer is that I can encourage, support and instill the same passion for design as Ariella did with me. I hope our attendees walk away feeling like they can conquer any dream. Mostly I hope they will leave with the understanding that their role in this life as a designer has great value… and that they will go with confidence and create the beauty that this world needs.
photos: Corbin Gurkin