Learning From Hitomi Gilliam
By Sarah Drury
This past January, I had the pleasure of attending the Florabundance Design Days workshop. Not only did I get to spend three days surrounded by an endless buffet of the most beautiful flowers currently available in today’s market, (talk about a kid in a candy store), I was also able to learn and interact with one of my industry idols.
One of the most impactful lessons of the workshop was taught by the one and only, Hitomi Gilliam. For anyone who is not familiar with Hitomi, she is a floral expert when it comes to intricate designs and installations who has decades of experience working in floral design around the globe. Hitomi operated a florist for 28 years in British Columbia, and has a seemingly endless passion for sharing her knowledge with others. The lesson that she taught that day was on large floral installations and the various micro mechanics that she utilizes to build with flowers on a grand scale. The mechanics she taught us ranged from tricks as simple as filling up water tubes to keep flowers hydrated to more complex processes, such as weaving beautiful and functional wire supports.
With Hitomi as our guide, a group of us worked to create an opulent tropical flower wall. Hitomi stressed that the mechanics of the wall should be minimal, light, and effective. To this end, her son had assembled the main support for the wall prior to the workshop. This support was a simple, yet sturdy, wooden base that resembled a raised garden bed with four columns made of readily available wire fencing that rose into the air. We started our construction of the arrangement on the wall by using large tropical Monstera leaves and other foliage to cover much of the wire. Then came armfuls of beautiful tropical flowers. We had large cascades of Phalaenopsis orchids, clusters of long stem Cymbidium orchids, Anthuriums, Sexy Pink heliconias, and Imperial protea. We also utilized non-tropical varieties such as roses, Asiatic lilies, and hydrangea. The end effect was a floral wall that matched my wingspan in width, towered above my height, and transformed the space into a lush and tropically luxurious oasis.
Working hand in hand with an expert like Hitomi was an incredible honor, but equally rewarding was working alongside so many other talented designers from across the country.