We had a sold out class, so we needed fourteen floral set ups. Thirteen for the students and one for Gregg. My studio mate is a very talented floral designer and we worked together to get everything done for the workshop.
We gathered a ton of flowers, fruit and various vases and objects and got to work.
Once we had everything gathered, we began to do the set ups. As you can see, the beginnings of a still life set up are not very glamorous. Several weeks before the workshop, we began collecting milk crates to use as a base. A few days prior to the workshop, we got the wooden shelves at Home Depot. You just tell them the size you want and how many and they cut them right there. We then stained them using Minwax Dark Walnut, the same color I stained the shelves in my studio.
My bud Ilene and I work very well together, so we always have fun setting up. I'm good with still lifes and she is great with flowers, so between us we get it done.
After placing the wooden shelves on top of the milk crates, we put a presentation board behind the crate in order to hold the fabric. We got these from Staples, but the party store near my house carries them as well. We draped the fabric over the board and then secured it in place with large clips.
It was then time to get to the flowers and fruit. We started by picking out a vase that worked with the particular fabric we were working on. We would then choose flowers that complimented them both and then we would decide if the set up needed anything else. Some we left with flowers only, others we added fruit, petals, another object or something else. You can't really decide in advance what you will do. Once you have your main pieces in place you have to experiment a bit to see what looks the best.
|This is the set up that I painted|
You'll notice in the photo above that there are post it notes on the shelf. Due to the fact that we did the set ups the day before the workshop, we did not want to leave cut up fruit or petals out an extra night, so we used the post it notes as reminders of what needed to be done the next morning. They were very specific - "apple slice", "rose petal", "green leaf". The first morning of a workshop can be a little chaotic and you don't want to have to try and remember what you wanted for the set up. With the reminder notes you can just get down to business without having to think about it too much.
|Gregg starting the workshop with a demo|
One tip, make sure you have extra fruit and flowers for the second or third days of the workshop. Things often have to be replaced, usually cut fruit or some of the stems, and you don't want to be caught short.
Setting up a still life is a lot like being a stylist. There are two guidelines that I follow: You want the shape to be triangular and the set up should read from left to right. After that, it is really a matter of using your eye to see what works. This takes some time, so don't rush it and don't worry if you don't get it right the first time. After we set everything up, we went back around to each still life and double checked that everything was in order. Sometimes things stayed the same, others we adjusted by either adding something or taking something out. On one of them, we spent some time deciding if we were going to use one grape or two on the shelf. There was a guy in the office fixing the computer and I'm sure he thought we had gone completely off the deep end, but these tiny details matter. You don't want a boring or incomplete still life set up, not for yourself and certainly not for a workshop.
We had a great two days painting flowers and the students raved about the set ups. I was so happy that people really liked them because you want to do the best for your workshop participants. As for my painting, I decided to use a 16x20 canvas so I didn't get very far, but I did manage to get the whole canvas covered and I am working on it now. Luckily, my floral designer is right across the hall :)
Have any questions about setting up? Leave me a comment!