Addressing the Divide
There’s some debate in the flower world over rule following and rule breaking.
Important: if immediately after reading the above, you find yourself responding with, "You need to know the rules before you break the rules." Keep reading, and slowly, this phrase is why I'm writing.
After listening, observing and reading, I see three camps you can sit in on the topic. Rule follower, rule breaker or both as the common "know the rules to break the rules" statement suggests.
I can't seem to settle with any of the groups. I sit with one, then another, then another and back again. I realize I can't settle with one because I love all these people and I think they all actually agree, but don't realize they do. I think they have simply attached different meanings to the same words. Maybe I can help them see eye to eye?
The key sticking point is vocabulary. So let's look at it.
Balance, movement, focal point, repetition, dominance — what are they? Rules or Principles?
We may have learned to call them different things, and that's ok, but from this point forward, let's call them principles. Despite rule and principle being synonyms/associated words in the dictionary, the way we perceive these words are different.
Rules suggests specific steps. Rule suggests there are limits. Rules not followed suggest punishment.
Principles suggest a foundation. Similar words are bedrock, keystone, underpinning. Principles are big picture ideas that guide granular choices.
After looking at the two words closely, It's abundantly clear to me that my beloved concepts of balance, movement, etc. are principles. They give us a safe place to build, to experiment. They can be interpreted in so many ways! They are not suffocating. They promote every style and designer.
Some were taught that focal point is the largest flower in an arrangement. It is, and it's not. Focal point is much more than that. It is a resting place for the eye and it's placement can make us feel peaceful, tense, intrigued and a number of other things. Using a large flower is a granular choice. It's one way to do focal point. There are others, for example — blocking small flowers to give the illusion of a large one where the eye rests.
If we called focal point a rule and attached the granular choice of one large flower to it, I can see how process-driven creators would eventually feel suffocated. I can see how all our work would look exactly the same.
So I invite you to call them principles and allow them to be the foundation that gives you a place to build amazing work. When you've mastered large flower placement, figure out another way to create a focal point. When you're tired of focal point, explore movement. Play with scale. And when you've mastered them on their own, start mixing them together. Start creating symphonies that are so complex and interesting I have to sit with it for a while while I process the emotion I feel and the combination of principles and granular choices that led to the emotion. Like a good novel, these take time to write and time to read. They are very personal.
This is why, after creating the design classes, which are all guided by the principles, but focused on systems and mechanics for efficiency (Bouquets & Personals, Arbors & Ceremony, Centerpieces & Reception), I created the Principles & Elements of Design class. Without a deep understanding, and I would argue, love for the principles, how will we ever truly create? Replicating is easy and fast. Creating is different. I think both are an important part of the designer's life. We replicate to learn and produce quickly and in mass. We create to inspire — ourselves and others.
Switching gears and returning to the "know the rules to break the rules" statement. What does this mean? If we replace rules with principles we have "know the principles to break the principles." Well, principles can not be broken. This is their very bedrock nature. They don't move. You can create art without a conscious awareness that you are using them, but show me anything, and I'll show you the principles used. They are in everything.
You can't write a song without notes, and you can't create without the principles.
Turns out there aren't any rules to break after all.