Returning from my busman's holiday, I delivered an arrangement and some bouquets, planted out some Erysimum and Larkspur (which I highly doubt will survive winter's slugs), tackled the laundry, poured myself a glass of wine, found my workshop notebook, removed some gossamer white Japanese ferns from its pages and read. And read.
I'm an obsessive note-taker which is a mixed blessing: what to do with all those scribbles, plant lists and quotes? Find a theme? An angle of approach? How does one condense an experience? And would it be fair to? For the final dinner we wore malachite and rose quartz, sipped emerald watercress soup, and ate salmon from pink glass plates. Detail upon detail. Can I simply say that you should attend an Ariella workshop, feel all the feels, smell all the smells, see and touch beauty for yourself?
I understand not everyone can peel off a wad or travel, so I'll give you this little seed for wherever you are right now: Be grounded in what you offer to the world. Remember, "people, for the most part, have no vision."
Ariella extraordinaire. This isn't to suggest she is snooty—far from it. But it does raise the issue of YOUR vision, how your aesthetic, your values, and your integrity are expressed in your work. Not everyone is creative. Not everyone works with colour, texture, or design. Not everyone can grow armloads of flowers or even access unique ones, has built relationships, is an entrepreneur, a marketer, or an artist. Not everyone, nay—no one, can do what you do. So value that. Put a price on it. Ask for what you and your knowledge are worth.
This is difficult for anyone to do. Women in particular. So Ariella recommended a book for us all to read, aptly named Women Don't Ask, a book about negotiation. A wonderful workshop moment occurred when a student asked Max and Ariella to role play a bridal negotiation. I can't re-create it (many giggles ensued) but here is some advice I jotted down:
- If someone has expressed interest in your work, ask them why. "Is it the colours you like? Or the shape? What are you responding to?" Accept the fact that you're not going to win everybody, even those who think they are in love with your work.
- When asked what budget they have many people hesitate to name a number. Present a range. Draw them out. Let them own their landing point.
- If someone asks you to go lower on a quote ask them: "What would you like to get rid of?" (Sub-text: no one gets chairs for free. Why flowers?)
- If you don't entirely align with someone's vision/palette, try to. "It's a good exercise to to do things you don't love."
With that, I've reached the 'shower cap' point in the design of this post, uncertain where to go next. (Ariella analogy: when your bouquet lacks nuance and gesture, when you've stuffed in a handful of decent flowers and have a tidy little 'head' of bloom, but have you yet to pull the thing together to make something beautiful...add foliage. Take a breather. Keep going.)
So I'll turn from my notebook and say honestly I did affirm something about myself over the course of my trip: I've become a high-maintentance person, with horribly high standards about the food I eat, the kind of people I spend time with, the clothes I wear, the spaces I inhabit, the flowers I use, the time I have left on this earth. If anything, mid-life and launching my business has made me fussier, more demanding, more protective of my energy, and I'm waiting for the pivot point of fifty to hopefully lighten me up. Yet oddly I feel as if I'm alight every day...with ideas, with desire, and the Ariella and Max workshop only fuelled that. Ablaze, this blasted Edna St. Vincent Millay quote I've recited since my twenties haunts me, becoming more exasperating by the day:
"My candle burns at both ends/it gives a lovely light/but ah, my foes, and oh my friends/it will not last the night!"
May we all save a little light for the darkening days to come.