At the 2011 AIFD Symposium, I heard about a special floral design course/certification taught by two pretty famous people in the floral design world: Tomas de Bruyne and Hitomi Gilliam.  This European Master Certification course was taught in three parts, in three different locations (see my posts on EMC: Part I and EMC: Part II for the back story).  In May 2012, several course-mates and I from the Vancouver and Connecticut classes descended upon Bruges, Belgium to finish Part III of the program.


I had heard that Bruges is a beautiful place and I saw the Colin Farrell movie “In Bruges,” but nothing prepared me for how truly magical this little town is.  Medieval buildings, lush canals, cobblestone streets:  it felt like a movie set.  We were lucky to be in town during the annual Procession of the Holy Blood, yay!  And did I mention the chocolate?  But I digress……on to floral design!

DSC_0149Just like Part I of the program, the first three days our week-long class was filled with design theory, demonstrations, and practice.  We learned more about armatures (construction vs. structure), flower supports, and creating emotion/tension in design.  Tomas went on to demonstrate with gorgeous floral designs that highlighted what we learned.  Once again, his techniques and “floral expressions” were amazing and inspiring.  The second half of the day gave us the opportunity to practice designs that we later shared and discussed with the class.  Here is one of my practice pieces that addressed the concept of contrasts:


Our fourth day was a treat: a day trip to Paris.  We got up at the crack of dawn and piled into a charter bus for a three hour trip, during which we either snoozed (me) or studied for the final exam (my studious classmates).  Our mission in Paris was to peruse the EMC 3 Pariscollections in the Louvre and select a two-dimensional work of art that spoke to us (more on that later).  We had the rest of the day to do as we pleased, so I met up with my sister for a bit of shopping and lunch in Saint Michel, and afternoon tea in the Place des Vosges.  My sister and I stumbled across a Parisian flower shop and had to take a photo:

Paris flower shop

Our exam took place on the sixth day, and I can safely speak for many fellow classmates when I say that it was stressful.  First we had a written exam (I was starting to regret that nap on the bus).  Then we had the three design projects.  Remember that work of art we were supposed to select on our Louvre visit?  One project was to translate that work of art into a floral design incorporating everything we learned throughout the entire course.  It was kind of like a Bouquets to Art, but we had to be ready to discuss and defend our design choices when we presented the final product to Tomas and Hitomi.  It probably would have been a little easier if we  had more time to plan the design and select our own materials, but we only had a couple of days and were limited to whatever materials were pre-selected for us (and weren’t already in use by other classmates).  Challenging for sure!  The design portion was timed as well, so we couldn’t use very elaborate, time-consuming techniques.  In addition to the “art inspired design,” we had to create a fully wired bouquet and a hand tied bouquet.  Unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to photograph my designs!  As you can imagine, it was a huge relief when we were finished.  But then the wait began: we wouldn’t find out if we passed the course until several weeks later.

But that didn’t stop our celebration the next morning when we had a completion ceremony at Bruges beautiful City Hall.  We all received certificates for completing Part III of the program, followed by a cocktail reception.  It was nice to finally relax and talk with fellow classmates about the past week and our overall experiences.


Some classmates accompanied Hitomi on a tag-along tour of other floral designer’s studios (Moniek vanden Berghe, Geert Pattyn, etc.) the following day and visited the Floriade and Amsterdam afterwards, but I was off to meet my husband, sister, and brother-in-law who all came to Bruges with me.  I’m sad to have missed the tag-along tour, but happy for the vacation memories with my family.  Here are some photos from the course:

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