Cornwall Ontario – It’s subzero outside and the November sun has begun its mid-afternoon descent. Yet, as it arcs ever downward, wide bands of warmish yellow light are suddenly streaming through the windows of Flowers Cornwall, right about the time Robert Martin says:
“Flowers have a language. They can and do speak to us.”
Robert and I are seated in a cozy corner of his shop, surrounded by a Christmassy crush of living colour; potted red poinsettias, multi green-hued ivies and ferns, and fuchsia and hot pink Schlumbergera. But I’m pensive for a moment, after his language comment, recalling one of Degas’ most famous paintings. Yes, Robert. Flowers do speak. Even in November.
“We’re similar to painters because the goal of the floral design artist is to send a message, to elicit an emotion.”
It’s a perfect parallel. But surely in working with “living media” there are challenges painters know nothing about (?)
Robert is nodding, and divides the challenges in two broad categories: The day-to-day [challenges] and those that stem from a changing global marketplace.
“First, one has to know the plants and flowers themselves, how they behave, the technical aspects of design, and the cultural significance of certain flowers. All these require education, training, experience, time and commitment.”
Then there’s the twice-weekly flower auction in Montreal. It demands a 4 a.m. start time after which – on Tuesdays alone – Robert will return with around 10,000 fresh stems.
Robert lists some additional features on the landscape of the florist’s day-to-day: Wedding season, calendar events (like Valentine’s), major life events (like births), and special occasions.
There are also the deliveries, including daily out-of-town trips to places like Casselman and St. Isidore, Ontario; Valleyfield, Quebec; Akwesasne, and Massena, New York.
And if all these are not enough, the marketplace has created new realities that impact both the top and bottom line.
The number of privately owned florist shops has declined sharply as customers purchase their flowers online, or pick up their posies in gas stations and grocery stores.
So what does this mean for Cornwall, will we lose our floral design artists?
No, says Robert:
“There’s more innovation now, and plenty of passion and artistry here.”
Remember, if there’s art in what you do, I want to hear from you via firstname.lastname@example.org