A Designer's Inspiration

How an award-winning exhibit comes to life at the Atlanta Orchid Society Exhibit 2017

In March 2017 Terry Furuta Designs earned five awards at the Atlanta Orchid Society Exhibit: Best Use of Orchids, the People’s Choice Award and three Blue Ribbons. To date this is Terry’s most decorated exhibit for orchid floral arrangements and contemporary floral design. If you’re curious to know how her show-stopping exhibit was conceived and created, read our Q+A with Terry:

Q: Sometimes having too many options can be daunting. How do you overcome “blank canvas syndrome”?

A: The exhibit all depends on which orchid plants are blooming at the time and how many are available.  The week before setup Mike, owner of Peach State Orchids, told me he had around 100 white waterfall phaleonopsis available and random assorted other plants. 

I instantly thought of Amicalola Falls waterfall in North GA.  In fact, some varieties of Paphiopedilums (lady slipper) orchids grow in the mountains of North Georgia. Fortunately, Mike had some paphs in bloom, including two that are over 20 years old.  I realized that by using these native orchid species my exhibit could evoke the experience of a hike in the mountains by a waterfall.

Q: How do you translate such a varied sensory experience effectively under the contraints of limited space, while using only three dimensions?

A: If I were to try to paint the experience onto canvas, I would compose the scene using carefully chosen elements to symbolize broader components. One tree can symbolize an entire forest, for example. Repetitive shapes can create new textures and by using the rounded petals of the phaleonopsis blooms in mass I could suggest the waterfall’s foam. Then, any air movement on the blooms would create a sort of shimmer, causing the sensation of water falling as they rustled together. With this movement, the fourth dimension is invoked.

Q: Once the design is conceived, how do you approach the building of a floral exhibit on such a grand scale?

A: I started by working out the mechanics of the waterfall.  Luckily the first building block already existed: a 7 x 4 foot lattice that I use for display in my shop. 

I wired the phal plants in their pots to the top of the lattice for 2 tiers.  Then I built pedestals that would each hold a tray of orchids to place in front of the lattice in 18” increments.  The phals were mostly 36” high.  To disguise the pedestals and trays I used muslin painted 3 different shades of brown to black to look like stone behind the waterfall.  This was pinned to the 8 ft high pipe and drape.

At the bottom of the waterfall we placed a long line of trays of white amabalis (small white phals) to look like the stream.

We covered the entire floor with 15 boxes of different varieties of live moss.  Nestled in between were ferns and lady slipper orchids.

The lattice was secured to cinder blocks with wire.  A tree was created using a moss covered log with curly willow just beginning to leaf out.  Moss covered logs were interspersed on the moss with ferns and orchids appearing to grow around them.

Saundra Nixon and Kyle Broflovski help assemble the exhibit.

Q: You are only about five and a half feet tall. Surely you needed help building an exhibit this size?

A: I started with a rough sketch then detailed measurements of orchid heights to come up with dimensions for the pedestals. A few days before setup Lynette Rosser helped me plan the lattice and pedestal placement.  Saundra Nixon helped me build the pedestals and assemble everything. Kyle Broflovski of Peach State arranged the orchids in trays so the orchids in each tray were the same exact height and facing the right direction for the waterfall. Then Kyle and Saundra arranged the orchids and moss and helped with the total assembly.

Q: Something this monumental must take quite a bit of time to create, let alone maintain?

A: The exhibit had to be installed all in one day, right before the show. It took three of us six hours to assemble on site. I spent five hours procuring and creating materials ahead of time after creating the concept.

Since we were using plants we made sure everything was watered ahead of time.  We sprayed the moss with water twice a day to keep it fresh and alive.

 

To see more of Terry Furuta's imaginative orchid floral arrangements and contemporary floral designs, please visit our Galleries section.