By Matthew Liebenberg
Swift Current florist Poppy Parson’s passion for learning and personal growth has earned her the distinction of being Saskatchewan’s only European Master Certification (EMC) florist.
She has become one of only about 10 Canadian florists with the EMC designation behind their names.
“Education is super important in anybody’s job,” she said. “This is the next level for education and creativity, and being creative in this field is really the most important thing.”
She has already achieved several educational distinctions during her floral career. She is a professional florist with Certified Floral Designer accreditation. She is also an accredited member of both the Canadian Academy of Floral Art and the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD).
She wanted to complete the EMC program, because it is internationally considered to be among the best.
“This one is really the one I’ve been looking at for a long time,” she said. “I’m ready for just delving into it further and exploring it even more.”
She completed an intensive process of advanced study in European floral design to become a European Master Certified designer. The EMC program is based in Belgium and her education is certified by the Belgium Chamber of Commerce and the Royal Belgium Floral Association.
It took months of rigorous learning and a trip to Belgium to complete her studies. The three-part program emphasizes craftsmanship and the floral design process.
Her studies started in the fall of 2021 with an online program on the theory and techniques of floral design.
“It was three to four months of foundation classes with weekly meetings with a team of mentors and teachers and fellow classmates from around the world,” she said. “And then weekly submissions of written testing and pictures of my work that were assigned, with specific designs we had to do each week.”
The next step was an online practicum in the spring to implement the knowledge gained by students during the initial phase.
“The game was upped again in weekly meetings with a new teacher and mentor and a new group of students,” she recalled. “So early morning meetings at about 7:30 each week and again written exams that we had to submit and be scored and marked, and then photos of our work that was assigned to us as well.”
Parsons was invited at the end of this second part of the program to attend the final advanced level, which involved nine days of in-person learning and exams in Bruges, a city in Belgium.
“When you put in that much work and dedication, it was really important to get that invitation,” she said. “I worked really hard to ensure that happened and when the invitations came, there was a limited amount of people that were invited and a limited number of spots that they could accept. So I basically decided overnight that I would definitely go to not miss my opportunity.”
She was the only Canadian in a group of 18 students from across the world attending the final phase of their studies to achieve the coveted EMC qualification.
“The in-person exams are even more intensive,” she said. “We had learning sessions and hands-on projects to do with our core teacher. We had to submit a 150-page document on nomenclature that had to be scored and marked. You had to bring that with you, a printed and bound book, and then we had two written exams to pass in person. They were timed and written exams that we did throughout the week, and four practical hands-on design challenges and tests and works of floral art that were scored and marked as well.”
Parsons was among the top students in the group with highest marks in two assignments and the only student to pass the fourth design challenge. The students undertook a field trip to the famous Louvre art museum in Paris for one of the design challenges, which required them to create a floral interpretation of an artwork that inspired them.
Graduation day was a memorable moment on Oct. 3 at the historic 600-year-old Bruges City Hall. Parson felt she has benefitted immensely from this intensive studying process.
“It’s really in-depth on different types of techniques and utilizing techniques in the correct way for the best outcome,” she said. “It’s just a way of speaking with clients and understanding what they’re looking for and just opening up myself to trying different types of design. Lots of constructions and structures, a different look and a different vibe and feel in that type of designing.”
She has owned Smart Flowers in Swift Current since 2007 and she plans to apply her new knowledge in floral designs in her business.
“I’m going to start introducing a few different types of things, especially over the Christmas season,” she said. “The European hand-tied bouquet is something I’m going to incorporate a little bit more in my store. I’m actually looking for some display vases and containers to display those ones.”
Parsons felt her EMC designation will also provide her with other possibilities to explore and further her floral career.
“There are florists that have completed this that travel around the world and work with the team of EMC designers, and are paid for their talents,” she said. “It opens up the chance for more teaching opportunities, as the AIFD did for me. When I got that designation, I was asked to do some stage presentations and teach some classes in North America. So this could open up those opportunities for that as well. To travel and teach and work with other florists in the same high capacity is definitely something that I would be interested in doing.”
She is already an active AIFD member, serving as the Northwest Chapter vice president and as a member of the national marketing committee.
She was in Vancouver from Oct. 16-18 to do a video series for a Hawaii Floriculture and Nursery Association webinar, which will be released online on the Hawaii Neotropica website in November. She will also be travelling to California just after Christmas to be a floral float decorator for a fourth time at the annual Rose Parade, which takes place on Jan. 2 in Pasadena.