Max Gill Design

Kelly Perry - 00:02 - You are listening to the Team Flower podcast where we talk about flowers with the people who've dedicated their lives to sharing with the world. We believe that your work with follies matters and we're cheering each of you on. Hi, my name's Kelly, and today we're talking with Max  Gill of Max Gill Designs in Berkeley, California. With the background in environmental science, Max has a passion for art across a wide range of mediums, sculpture, art, and theater history, painting by far his greatest passion is for gardening and this shows and each one if is beautifully constructed. Botanically inspired floral arrangements. He's a feature designer in the book in full flower, is widely known by his weekly arrangements in the famous Chez Panisse restaurant. You can gaze upon the beauty of its talent on his website,, or follow him on instagram at Max Gill design. In this episode, Max is sharing his philosophy behind his designs and finding inspiration in the natural process of nature. 

Kelly Perry - 01:00 - He draws parallels between people and the flowers and talks a bit about how to embrace challenges and allow them to shape us in a positive way. Max is discussing how his journey is teaching him to trust and how impactful this rural community has been in his life. He's given a few tips on how to build healthy floral community as well as how to embrace your own personal style. This podcast is brought to you by Team Flower and online support community dedicated to educating and connecting and empowering flowery members worldwide. We provide online classes in person events and free weekly resources designed to support you in your journey with flowers. Whether you're a professional florists, flower farmer, or you just love flowers there. Space for you here, come join the party Well, Max, thank you so much for being with us on the podcast. A, it's really great to have you here. 

Max Gill -  01:55 - Oh, well thank you for having me. I'm excited. 

Kelly Perry - 01:58 - Oh, good. Well, we're going to just jump in by talking a little bit about your design philosophy, which is botanically inspired. Tell us a little bit about what has influenced you to sort of embrace this motto and just just fill us in on, on why that's just a driving force for you and your work with flowers. 

Max Gill -  02:22 -  Sure, sure it will. I mean, really, I'm, I do floral design because I have a passion for gardening. I mean, that's where my relationship to flowers started. It's definitely in the garden and just being really moved by the stories that you can see in the way things grow. So in any sort of little botanical vignette, you can see that all the elements responding to the same environmental factors. So, um, you know, maybe they're all reaching to the same light source or um, you know, you might, it might be on a wind swept hill and there's just sort of some kind of drama about the way things grow. The um, that creates interesting shapes and interesting spatial relationships. And I found that, you know, flowers are beautiful. So if, if I can capture something about that story and my design, then it sort of sets my work a little bit aside and uh, you know, it, it, um, helps to kind of define my work a little bit. So, I really find my inspiration and natural process. 

Kelly Perry - 03:58 - Yeah. I think it's so interesting you, you mentioned about how they were all responding to the same thing, whether it be like, you know, light source or wind or something like that and just how it is a great equalizer in a way to, I don't know why my mind just sort of drifted off to like sometimes I'll say at Team Flower lake, we, we are the garden, there are so many parallels between, you know, flowers and people and things like that. But just how, you know, we do have those same sort of environmental environmental things and how we respond is, is different each time. I, I just, I love that was just a really beautiful thought, a thought that you shared about that. 

Max Gill -  04:46 - No, that's, you really picked up on one of my sort of personal philosophies about it. Um, but it, you know, I can't tell you how many times I've been at a nursery, I'm seeing a little, you know, one gallon that, that caught my eye and it had something special or different that I hadn't seen about that particular plant variety before. And so I buy it and I get it home and get it in the ground and get it all happy. And I'm like, oh, actually you were just stressed before, like your, your normal, your regular. So it was like that challenge in the pot that made it have a particular shape or made the foliage or the fruit a little more refined or a little different color. And so it's really that the challenge that's made it all the more interesting. And I liked to think metaphorically that way about myself that it is, it is the challenges in life that, that have made me who I am, that, that, um, that bring character.  

Kelly Perry - 06:00 - Mm,wow.  That's so beautiful. It's a, it's a really interesting thought to entertain. And I'm, I was thinking too, um, at the, at the conference this year, I spent a day with Gabriela. I'm going around looking for plants and different things to use in her arrangements and it was so interesting because I feel like there is this sort of, um, uh, sort of back and forth sometimes between, you know, flower growers, they, they know, they know when the plants are stressed and they're like, oh, but it doesn't look like how it should look or, you know, something like that. But a lot of times the designer will sort of see something that's interesting about that and really take onto it. Like there were some kumquats and the foliage on them. They had just had too much water from all of the hurricanes that had been there and they really were quite stressed. 

Kelly Perry - 06:51 - But it was that stress of the plant that made it interesting or intriguing to kind of like build her design on. And that's something I really took away from that experience was just like, that stress can have, like you were mentioning just this refining quality about us is as people. And I think that sometimes we feel shameful or um, you know, bad because it, it's noting a lot of time weakness or insufficiency or something like that. But really it is in those things where we can find such, um, such great strength can come out of those times of, of building and. 

Max Gill -  07:33 - Well, and I think also just to, to even take it a step further, there's a way that, that prepares you to be of service to others so you can be helpful to someone else who finds themselves in and challenged in the same way. And, you know, also, it's, it's fun now that I'm starting to do a little more teaching with flowers that I can really, you know, pass along some of, have some of my harder, harder and turns lessons and um, hopefully, uh, you know, save some people some, some time and heartaches or. 

Kelly Perry - 08:25 - Absolutely. Oh, that's so good. That's exciting. I didn't know you were teaching more, which is, I mean, I knew, I knew that you have and I've seen different things that you've done in the past. But, um, that's really exciting. That makes me happy. And understanding even just a little bit more about your philosophy in those kinds of things make makes me even more excited about it because it is about, I don't know, at least for me, it is about so much more than the flowers. The flowers to me are just kind of like a way to, um, to have deeper conversations in a richer life. You know, those little mind I'm those thoughts that we can sort of weed out or that, that shift as a result of the process of paying attention to how they, how they work and how they relate and just our part in them. And how it all fits together is really intriguing. 

Max Gill -  09:19 - It's so funny to me because, so, I mean, I know every, every floral designer has heard people say, oh, you do flowers, you must just, you know, like people have this idea of what it means and they don't really understand, um, you know, what a physical job that is and how the parameters and the variables are often pretty stressful, particularly in event work and you know, beyond it just the expectations being so high. There's the hours and there's the, you know, the sun and the wind and the temperature and the, just all of it. There's a lot to consider. Um, so it's, it's, it's, I think, interesting to, to note that, that, that, uh, you know, we're, we're working hard there. 

Kelly Perry - 10:24 -  Absolutely! There are, there so many different facets to this, this type of work and um, it's really easy to. Mm, how can I say this? I feel like it's easy to make the work shallow in a way whenever we get really, really busy and we're just cranking it out, cranking it out, cranking it out, you know. And um, I just kinda started, uh, uh, I don't know what you want to call it, a practice, um, where, whenever there is some sort of odd or interesting for me right now it's been weather element. So the snow, the wind though, whatever the rain and the fog, I will go out into the garden and things look differently when there's different things happening out there. You notice different things. And so I just start picking up ingredients from different parts of the, from different parts of the yard and putting something together and when the wind knocks it out, it's, you know, an opportunity to, you know, the wind makes the shape of the arrangement, you know, 10 different times as things are falling out and going back together again and those kinds of things and feel like cultivating that creativity in times where there is a little bit of rest or pause really does help me connect with the flowers again in a way. 

Kelly Perry - 11:43 - Because,I went through a season of life where I just really didn't like flowers at all because I was too busy with them. Like I was just like I would, I would see a flower into me. It would just like instantly trigger like stress response in my body. And I was like, oh, I gotta get Outta here. 

Kelly Perry - 12:03 - I can relate. 

Kelly Perry - 12:08 -  I, I'm thankful to have somebody who can relate because when I share that, sometimes people look at me like, are you like, what's, what's the matter with you? But yeah, thank you Max. Thank you for. 

Max Gill -  12:22 - I have a dear friend in the industry who calls it floral fatigue. 

Kelly Perry - 12:22 - Oh, floral fatigue. That's it. 

Max Gill -  12:30 - Really. It's, you know, it's interesting. I have seen that in and many of my good friends and the flower community. Um, and it is, it's, it's a really challenging job and it's, it's important to, as you said, find some way to preserve what you love about it. And I've heard you talk about that in the past also just in the few times that we've had a couple of conversations on the phone where, how easy it is to sort of for self care in the face of an event or a deadline and how vital that is to, um, making sure that your business and your, uh, the integrity of your work and your creativity sustains your event season. 

Max Gill -  13:35 - And it is, it's just, you know, it's so easy to be like, did I have anything besides chocolate and coffee today? Have I had any water or, you know, is there been any vegetables in my afternoon, afternoon? Um, all of those things are like, you. You can only crank so long on four hours of sleep, you know, that's just period. Yeah. Honestly, in my, in my thirties, that was fine. I did start with flowers later, later in life, if I didn't start until I was in my thirties, but that was actually fine. Um, but now that I'm in my late forties, that's, that's just no longer an option. 

Kelly Perry - 14:19 - Yeah, it's interesting. Financial support for the production of this podcast is brought to you by Team Flowers, online business growth class. If you are feeling overworked and underpaid, if you find yourself sacrificing time with family and friends to support a quickly growing flower business, this class is for you. If left unchecked, business growth can lead to feelings of overwhelm and burnout. But if, if I told you there was another way, the topics covered in this comprehensive class will allow you to skip the season of confusion that often accompanies growth and we discover what a healthy work life balance looks like. In this class. We'll take a deep dive into your business to pinpoint frustrations, spot opportunities for streamlining and identify those strengths that will help you transition in launch to the next phase. We'll also walk through new revenue streams, hiring online advertising, and even give you videos that you can use to train your staff on the basics. If you're ready to learn how to work less and get paid, you can join online 

Kelly Perry - 15:28 - It's, it's hard, you know, is it a job that,that does age well, I've had some people who have, I dunno, just shared a concern or something about that too because it is, it is physical, like what's the transition look like, how, you know, like how can it be sustainable at these different phases of life. It's interesting. I feel like every phase of life can kind of has its own limiting factor. Um, and it's just a matter of like, oh, well in my, in my twenties, I started in my twenties and I had been in a car accident and had headaches every single day. And so that was like, just sort of an interesting thing that was like, oh, well how does this, how can I function in this with this type of limitation right now? And you know, it shifts and it moves. And for some people listening it might be I just had a baby or you know, my husband just lost a job or you know, there's always these curve balls that life throws our way. 

Kelly Perry - 16:39 - And I just think it's comforting to know that we aren't alone in whatever that is, that, you know, we're all doing flowers were all sharing flowers with the world and we can kind of come together and just have this acceptance that we're not super heroes, you know, like we don't ever have to stop. But in a way it's like in the weakness and like embracing some of those things. Like we kind of are, you know, I don't know, it's just, it's interesting how the, how the plants can sustain and, and how we can sustain and um, you know, balances one of those things that sort of feels a little bit elusive. But I think so much of it is just in our process of how we think through and in sort of perceive the stress or perceived whatever the struggle, you know.

Max Gill -  17:49 - I mean there, there's also this whole, um, uh, the profession and my sort of trajectory of my, my relationship to it has really asked that I just learned to trust a little bit more. I learned to trust and other people I learned to trust and just that everything's going to come together. It'll all come together. And what a, what a gift to that has been like to me beyond flowers. And that's, it's, it's hugely where that trust comes from is in my relationship to people, to other people. Um, and that's, that's been really lovely too because as you said, it can be a really sort of isolated experience. And um, you know, I'm, I'm actually so grateful and fortunate that, that there's such a, like the flowers are actually such a thing here. Like there's such a business here, you know, we're really have the um, the luxury of being very close with all my competitors, like being friends with all my competitors. 

Max Gill -  19:10 - We all, I mean I've heard all of us say and, and I believe strongly that there is enough work for us all, you know, and if, if I don't get a job that I'm bidding on and I'm actually bidding on it against a dear friend, I am so happy to like lend them the vessels that I was going to use for that job or you can use my studio or if I've got something to cut that would be good for the overall vision, they're welcome to it. So it's, we're really, I'm really grateful that the competition doesn't really look like competition locally anyway. 

Kelly Perry - 19:55 - That's beautiful. Do you feel like it's always. Do you feel like it's always been that way or. Or would you say that there has been, I don't know, maybe some key moments in your floral community that have really helped to foster that kind of connectivity in that attitude? I know some people feel like that that's just, that hasn't happened where they live yet. Like what, what could be, you know, but they deeply desire it. Like what would you say to someone like that? 

Max Gill -  20:27 - So just quickly in my personal experience, I really, again, just got so lucky my introduction to flowers was with Ariel, which is our beautiful lady. She's just, her work is like, you understand the expression, breathtaking, what they, she's equally as lovely a person and generous and supportive. And so that was absolutely my first experience of flowers and I have really, she, she really has been an ongoing reference for, for that sort of, um, that sort of spirit. I really enjoy offering that to people who are new to my business or you know, people are just stepping into the business itself. Um, so 

Kelly Perry - 21:32 - You did that for me. I mean, really. Yeah. I don't know if you remember, but um, whenever I had first started philosophy flowers, I had a little message come in from Mac Gill who I adored that said, you know, something along the lines of, oh my goodness, I wish I would have made this like, this is so beautiful. And I was just completely, you know, completely beside myself. So it's so beautiful that, that, that just sort of ease is something that you received and something that I do feel so naturally comes out. And so if you're listening today like receive it and just, just get the momentum going like one, one smile at a time. One, Hey, I'm here. If you need anything at a time it's hard for people to um, you know, they might be a little bit cold or are skeptical whenever you offer kindness and it's not always received the way that we want it to be. But kindness over and over again. It's pretty hard to. A pretty hard to ignore. 

Max Gill -  22:42 - No, that was gonna be my thought, too. Is that something that you're missing and longing for then? No. No, maybe initiate it is a just like reach out to people whose work you admire and I'm and I have to be like it to be a hundred percent transparent. There is often in me and I, I think um, you know, with social media it's not uncommon for inspiration to a,to look a little bit more like envy, like a turn the corner to self comparison.  

Max Gill -  23:43 - You know, gentlemen about your work and just to those two things are not far from each other and just that, that act of kindness and gratitude for, for someone's beautiful work and reaching out to them and saying, hey, this is stunning. Can completely like it. It's like the antidote to jealousy here. Now it's the antidote to envy. 

Kelly Perry - 23:43 - Beautiful. 

Max Gill -  24:16 - Um, so and I'm not immune to that. There's, there's, that absolutely happens to me with great regularity. I'm like a liquid they're working with or look what they did or it's hard to avoid in our industry. It really is. 

Speaker 3: - 24:34 - Absolutely. I love that. The antidote, um, you know, just what is that opposite thing and I'm kind of grace for the moments when it's not. And in recognizing it and moving ahead, all of those are such, such powerful tools. Well, none of these things are on the talking point for today's episode of the Team Flower Bod cast. I'm really, I'm really glad. I'm really glad we've, I think it's cool things sort of go in the direction that they need to. And, um, I just think that it, that this has been a really, um, I feel like this is a really important. Yeah, this is an important episode and perhaps a turning point. I know it just, even in me, I feel like I'll probably hop off the recording and just have a little bit of, of thinking to do, you know, it's so fun to sit with people. I'm like that who just spurs on into some of the deeper things, the richer things that you know, relate, but sort of transcend the flowers in a way. I think that that's a really, really neat. 

Kelly Perry - 25:41 - You can support the production of this podcast by joining Team Flowers, online learning community, whether you're a flower farmer, professional, florist, or just starting out with flowers. We've got a class that's right for you, deepen your design skills, discover valuable foundations for business, or learn how to grow a beautiful healthy garden from seed Germination to arbor installations. We've got you covered. Each class comes with lifetime access to course material as well as direct access to the instructor through the Team Flower community. Receive instant on demand access for all your devices when you joined in. Enjoy learning anytime, anywhere. We're here to help each class comes with quick friendly member support in a 14 day money back guarantee. Ready to learn more. Head over to the online and grow with us.

Kelly Perry - 26:37 - Max before  we sign off today. Is there anything that you might like to share that we haven't talked about yet? Just, I don't know, advice maybe for somebody who is, um, maybe just getting started or you know, you've, you've, um, I mean, I don't want this to sound funny, but I mean you've, you've really, you've accomplished so many things and we honor we honor and we respect that. Just different publications, your relationship, your longstanding relationships with, you know, the restaurant that you do flowers with and all of the many events and just all these different things, your garden and things like that. For somebody who's feeling like, oh boy, that's a long way off for me, or I would really like to be in a book one day or something like that. Um, what's the real like? What's the real advice like what's the thing that's actually under that that it's like, oh, but really the treasure that you're, that you're looking for? Is, is what? 

Max Gill -  27:51 - That's a great question. I get a lot of, a lot of people asking about how to find your, your, your personal style. Oh, a lot of people. Well my answer's so simple though. I just, I feel like you're always already doing it is if it's come off your hand then it's your style. And that's not to say that you can't learn more from, from people whose work you admire. It's not to say that you, your work won't change and grow and evolve, but they'll probably be a through line. Like you can probably look at arrangements you did 10 years ago or 20 years ago. 

Kelly Perry - 28:49 - You're not that old, Max. It's so funny.

Max Gill -  28:58 - But still still see sound, the evidence of yourself, even though you're work has completely changed. And so, and, uh, you know, with, with designers that I know well who, who freelance for me or that I employ, I like literally when they were done with the event, I can look on the shelf and I know who did what arrangement. No, even though they all feel, you know, like, uh, like they're all slated for the same party. They all have their own little personalities and there's, there is a huge way that I think that translates to, um, so I guess the part of it is to just say relax, you know, and the, um, you know, I studied theater for a long time after college, um, we really focused on acting principals. Uh, and really, um, you know, my acting teacher used to say that we all do academy award worthy performances in the shower. But it's, it's under duress, like onstage when you're, your, like the principles that you've studied are gonna carry you through the performance. And the flowers are also often done under, under duress, you know, you've, you've often had very little sleep or a, it's a particularly difficult bride or you have very limited time to set up and uh, he's got a lot of things to do on site or it's 107 degrees. 

Max Gill -  30:44 - You're on a hill and the wind in wine country or whatever. And if you have solid principles to fall back on, um, you know, art might not happen every, every arrangement, but you can rely on solid craft. So that has been really, really helpful for me and certainly, you know, I can, I can see just from pictures, arrangements that I've done when, when, oh, that's craft or the stuff that I feel much more proud of where I'm like, ah, that was a moment I found something there. Even if it was accidentally that that's something new or something interesting. 

Kelly Perry - 31:32 - Yes. Yes. It's so good to, to sort of, um, I don't know what I'm trying to set the set the, the line that there are different, that there are different things that, that, like you're saying, art doesn't happen every time. It just sort of relieving ourselves of the pressure that it will or that it's possible, you know? Um, yeah, I think that's so lovely and so restful and those principles that you're talking about to fall back on in the moment. That's something that I think is, is crucial. Like really, really important in, in everyone who's listening. There's, there's a book out called in full flower that Max has, um, several arrangements in, in one of Max's arrangements is actually on the um, uh, the back cover of the book. It's my favorite arrangement in the whole book. It has some hellebores coming out of it, but if you look at that arrangement, like you will see how he very carefully placed like large, medium, small, and just like how that is one of those core things that you can fall back on in a moment where there is stress that you can just quickly know, like, oh, that, that's something that, that works. 

Kelly Perry - 32:47 - Now of course, every arrangement that you do, that's not going to be probably the principal or the thing that would, you would use. And I don't even know if max, if that's something that's something I think through whenever I arranged, I don't know if it is with you or if it just happened, um, you know, to come out of you naturally or whatever, but it was something that just died instantly picked up on when I saw it. And I'm loved. 

Max Gill -  33:10 - No, I definitely. The principles are the kind of thing that pulled me through and any just about any photo shoots going to be in my head and I'm getting, there's going to be a level or two of anxiety that, that I don't have to worry about when I'm just doing flowers and in the workspace for fun, you know, which, which luckily I still do. 

Kelly Perry - 33:45 - Yes, yes. Good, good. Oh, so cool. Well, next, it has been, it has been a real treat to have you here today. I just feel, I feel so um, I dunno. Just filled are encouraged and um, restful in a way you sort of have that, that way about you that is really special and a gift to the people around you. So thank you for sharing that with us today. And um, thank you for being here. 

Max Gill -  34:12 - Oh, well thank you for having me. And I also had a that was just a pleasure and it's always so good to meet my, uh, my fellow flower folk. You know, I said it's a, it's a, it's a special group of people or that I feel really, really grateful to be a member of the community. So, thank you.

Kelly Perry - 34:36 - As we sign off today, I want to remind you that your work with flowers matters. It's about more than the blooms. You're loving the world. You make magic happen. You're creating memories. You're following a dream, delivering light and grace here at Team Flower, cheering you on one bloom at a time. Thank you for listening to the podcast. And until next time, remember that we're so thankful for each bucket that you wash and each bag of garbage that you take out of your studio that makes all of this possible. If you're looking for more formal education, that's free conversation or inspiration, just visit to see their library of helpful videos and articles for florists, growers, and fire business owners. You'll find helpful tips on everything from creating flower walls to hiring freelancers and much, much more.

The Bloom Project

Shean Strong