Since the opening and early development of our Ohio florist business in 2011, I looked to Holly Heider Chapel of hollychappleflowers.com in Virginia as a model for who I wanted to be like in the wedding flower industry. From her beautifully established design aesthetics, her top-notch branding, and her openness and willingness to share her great knowledge with others, I chose Holly. I remember sitting for hours at night while my children were sleeping perusing her blog. I would carefully study the look of countless bouquets she had designed, reading and noting the contents and flower selections utilized. I made it my mission to be like that. I don’t remember how I ever found her (I think it was through web searches or possibly Pinterest) but I knew from seeing her work that it was something special… something different…and her bouquets had this extra fullness and body to them that I wanted to learn how to achieve.
Years went by, our business grew, and over time I developed our own signature look and style as well as the mechanics behind how to make it happen…the Madison House Designs way. There have been times through the seasons, especially in the last year while the style of wedding floral design has evolved into a more loosely gathered, naturally spilling, and foliage-focused look that I wished I had someone like Holly who I could learn from to further establish and grow in my wedding florist design capabilities.
In 2014 we had our fourth child, William (who by the way is laying under my chair right now as I write this, crying because he got in trouble for throwing his Cheerios). As time went by I wondered if I would ever get the opportunity to meet Holly Chapel in person and attend one of her design classes. Year after year I would read about her amazing Chapel Designer Conferences which are offered just for owners of wedding floral businesses and wish that I could register for the classes and earn Chapel Designer status. Each year it seemed that a roadblock or excuse would come up. Either I was pregnant or nursing, or to be honest, just didn’t feel like I could spend the extra money on myself and my training. As 2016 was coming to an end I mentioned to my husband Fred that I would still really love to go to New York for the Chapel Designers Event. He encouraged me to go and said that it would be worth the financial commitment and that I shouldn’t worry about leaving the four kids behind. He would be happy to take care of things at home. Before I came up with a new excuse not to go I registered and paid the deposit.
Becoming a Chapel Designer
In March of 2017, I made the trip to NY (my first time to New York City) with my best friend Katie, a previous fashion designer who had lived and worked right in the NY fashion district where the wedding floral design workshops were being held. I was a nervous wreck the first day of the conference between too much coffee and so much anticipation, mixed with years of hope that this day would come. I was also a little shaky about being surrounded by so many well-known and esteemed wedding floral designers in the industry. Although I’m so proud of how far we’ve come and what we’ve accomplished here in Columbus, especially being self-taught, I had this little voice in the back of my head saying “are you good enough for this?” Meeting Holly, getting to hear about her ideas and mechanics/construction of her designs and her passion for what she does, all while being a of mom of seven, and the most kind-hearted person ever (oh and as emotional as I am, which is hard to find) I felt like I was home in this group and right where I belong. In addition to learning from Holly we also had the opportunity to see demonstrations from many other incredibly talented Chapel Designers, including Ariella Chezar and Passion Flower Sue. I soaked up everything I could possibly take down on my notepad, took tons of pictures, and made a few wonderful connections around me. I am so eager to put these new practices and ideas into motion here in our market of Columbus, Ohio!
Here are a couple pictures of the bouquet I created during my time there using the mechanics learned from Sue of Passion Flower Events. I love her aesthetic and we are now moving toward her more modern and clean approach for corsages and wearable flowers. My bouquet below included several huge ranunculus, brown dyed sweet peas, lisianthus, jasmine vine, david austin garden roses, plumosa, and silver dollar eucalyptus. I was able to achieve a very open, spilling, and voluminous look using this technique (which I’m sorry, is a secret).
This is Ariella Chezar teaching compote design with the most lovely selections including fritillaria, spiraea ‘vanhouttei’, blooming knifeblade acacia, anemone, flowering quince branches, and more. My arrangement shown below didn’t look like hers at all but among nearly 30 other floral designers, every single one of them had the same identical ingredients but a very different look. Some were more rounded on top, some more open, some more dense, and that’s the beauty of being a Chapel Designer. Individuality is appreciated and embraced in this wonderful group. It’s not about being “good enough” or better than the next one.
The following lovely new approach to pin-on corsages presented by Passion Flower Events was a huge breakthrough for me, as corsage design has not been one of my favorite areas. I often find the concept of a ribbon and wire-based floral piece odd and not that desirable to wear or create but this new look has me jumping for joy inside about the possibilities of what’s to come for us in the future. Applicable for many wearable floral arrangements from hair flowers to belts to pin-on and wristlet corsages, necklaces, rings, and off-the-shoulder presentations, we are now thinking of these designs in terms of floral jewelry rather than those odd wirey and stemmy ribbon-looped things of the past. Please keep an eye on our instagram for these new designs as the season progresses!
I also had the opportunity to be involved in the creation of this huge floral piece which can be hung from tents or other interior structures. Who would like us to design one of these lovelies for their wedding? It makes a huge impact, keeps the focus off the tables and out of the line of vision for those of you who don’t like those tall conversation-blocking centerpieces.
You may be wondering why this was so important to me, who these Chapel Designers are and what benefit this carries for you, the customer. Let me tell you! Being a Chapel Designer means that I now have a huge international network of resources to draw from in terms of floral and decorative resources, the most new and innovative design mechanics that allow us to accomplish those picture-perfect styles in current and trending floral artistry, knowledge of new varieties and where to find those unusual foliages and flowers and a wonderful family of like-minded yet unique designers who I can approach for help and ideas, whether it be business or design related, or even for personal support. Now being able to tap into this huge breadth of floral knowledge I have the ability to grow our business to new levels and take on bigger projects than we have embarked on in the past. I am already using some of the concepts and design ideas that I learned last month in New York and can’t wait to see how our design capabilities and styling grows in this upcoming wedding season.