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Recap of NYC 2014 Chapel Designers Conference: Day One

Mar 19, 2014

The night before the Chapel Designers Conference began, attendees started arriving in NYC and Vasesource hosted a welcome reception in their showroom. Unfortunately I missed the reception because my flight from Houston was delayed, changed, delayed again and changed again. Isn’t traveling fun? I heard that everyone enjoyed and appreciated the kind welcome and chance to shop for new vases at Vasesource! See for yourself…

When I finally arrived at the hotel that night, it was a stunning sight. So many designers that I consider friends….designers I’ve only known via the internet…some for years…waiting for me in the lobby. There were smiles, tears and lots of hugs. The most memorable moment came as Holly Chapple and I saw each other in person for the very first time. I can’t describe what it feels like to know someone so well after years of talking on the phone and emailing and then hug them in person for the first time. The week was off to a surreal start. Some of us headed towards Times Square…giddy at the thought of being together for the first time.

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Then we headed to dinner…

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L-R: Susan (Passionflower), Liz (Parsonage Events) and Eatherley (Floressence)

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L-R: Amy (Amy Lynne Originals), Lora (Sophisticated Floral), Hunter (Sherwood Design & Events) and the Botanical Brouhaha Expert Panel Member who traveled all the way from Scotland to join the Chapel Designers, Nick (Mood Flowers). Sitting to my left (not pictured) were: Tina (Living Fresh), Holly (Holly Heider Chapple Flowers) and Abby Chapple (Holly’s amazing daughter).

Day One of the conference was filled with valuable information about the industry and heartfelt words of encouragement. We met in the Helen Mills Event Space & Theater and kicked off the day with an introduction from Evan & (a tearful) Holly Chapple. Holly loves the Chapel Designers with her whole heart and sometimes requires a box of tissues when she speaks to or about them…just one reason I love her! I spoke next…about my experiences in different parts of the flower business, how I came to write Botanical Brouhaha and my love for (which led to my involvement in) the Chapel Designers. I looked out on the most amazing group of designers and stopped to snap a blurry picture to remember the moment…


Anne Chertoff, sought after wedding industry consultant and wedding media expert, shared her expertise with us at a dizzying pace. She gave advice on website content, marketing, blogging, online advertising and utilizing various forms of social media. I couldn’t write fast enough! So helpful!

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Anne with Evan Chapple

What came next, I’ll have a hard time describing to you. Jes Gordon spoke and she captivated me in a way that made the world stop for me. I was completely engrossed in her story and swept away by her honesty, authenticity and humor. I can only remember meeting someone like her one other time in my life and that was the day I designed the flowers for a wedding that was photographed by New Orleans-based photographer Julia Bailey. ( Julia photographed my son later and she shared my words about the moving experience here.) These two women exude artistry. Some of us are creative, some are artistic, some create artistic things….but, these two women just ARE art. Like living art. No apologies. No pretense. Pure artistry from the soul. And both of them have a kindness and humility about them that moves others to be better. I would give anything to relive that hour with Jes and somehow capture the emotion. Thank you, Jes. I’ll treasure the experience always. What I won’t do is have your autograph tattooed on my body like some other designer I know!

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Have to share one more picture of Jes that I believe captures her spirit…

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Hearing Debra Prinzing speak and then having a chance to visit with her over the course of the week was a real treat. Debra is an Outdoor Living Expert who has written seven books (including The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers  and Slow Flowers: Four Seasons of Locally Grown Bouquets from the Garden, Meadow and Farm) and she lectures extensively. Debra is passionate about promoting American grown flowers, is a member of the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers and travels the country connecting with designers and flower farmers. She is an integral part of the field to vase movement gaining momentum in the US.

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I was so excited about the next speaker…photographer Erin Little of A Love Supreme. I first heard about Erin from Erin Benzakein (Floret Flower Farm) last year in this post. Erin B. took Erin Little’s e-class and sings her praises…and based on the gorgeous photos of Erin’s Floret Flower Farm designs, I’m sold! Erin explained some basics of photography and then allowed the Chapel Designers a chance to ask questions and practice with their own cameras. Learning to photograph the designs you create is an invaluable skill to have when marketing a floral design business.

Isn’t she beautiful?

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Nick Priestly (Mood Flowers) and Tina Riddell (Living Fresh) found time in the afternoon to share with the Chapel Designers about their experiences running The Flower School at Mood Flowers in Scotland and Living Fresh Flower School in Ontario…

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At the end of the day as we were winding down and preparing to walk back to the hotel, I was savoring the moment when I turned around and saw a shocking surprise! Every designer I had been corresponding with since the early days of Botanical Brouhaha had made it to NYC except one. We were so disappointed that we would not meet in person this time around.  To my surprise, I looked up at the end of the first day to see Liz Rusnac (Liz Rusnac Floral Design) standing at the back of the room with her suitcase. She and several of the Chapel Designers had kept her arrival a secret. Holly and I were shocked and elated…and so we cried, of course! What a memorable moment!

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Love this video and so grateful for the precious moments captured in it…special thanks to the amazing Vicki Grafton and Megan Soh for creating the videos during the conference.

Chapel Designers Conference 2014 – Day 1 from Chapel Designers on Vimeo.

To be continued…




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