Hitomi Gilliam AIFD, a floral designer known world wide for her intensely intricate design mechanics and fascinating floral displays. Hitomi works in all aspects of the floral industry – as a keynote lecturer, a demonstrator, an educator and a consultant. We are thrilled to share an interview with Hitomi, as we are constantly inspired by her and surely you will be, too!
Hitomi, How long have you been working in the floral industry?
How did your career in the floral industry start?
I began as a grower, specializing in fuchsias (grew over 300 varieties). We also grew bedding plants in season for retail sales, tropical, cacti and succulents the rest of the year. My ex and I opened a retail plant shop, selling tropical pots and hangers during the plant craze in the late 70’s. We soon entertained the idea of cutflower and flowering plant sales after several customers requested me to do their wedding flowers. I sought help from a retired florist friend – she showed me how to do my first wedding. I got started into floristry this way and Satsuki Growers, the plant shop – eventually became Satsuki Florist.
Many floral designers that I speak with seem to experience a bout of burnout somewhere along their path, is this something you’ve faced at any point in your career?
The burnout seemed a real possibility if I had just stayed a local florist for the 28 years in business. I may have moved on in the first 5 years if I had not began competing. I started participating in design competition within the first 2 years of floral business. It kept me excited and interested in trying something new and to get creative with my merchandising, window displays, etc.
Retail business can easily become really mundane if you don’t inject your own excitement into it. In retail floristry, you can so easily get into a working pattern that’s repetitious every day. A burnout happens when you get so busy doing the same things and getting overwhelmed with work which does not show enough financial gain.
How do you stay inspired and keep fresh at 20+ years in the floral industry?
Competing kept me inspired and highly motivated in the beginning.
Travelling to do design shows keep you inspired to come up with new ideas, to keep on top of new concepts.
When you start to teach – it became my inspiration. To come up with new useful ideas, new creative approach to design, new mechanics, new techniques and to help students prepare for certification or to compete.
Nature is a constant inspiration. Keeping eyes open to opportunities at all times to capture moments which provide ideas.
Architecture and Fashion are parallel arts where I find some of the best inspirations. I am always on the look out for outside influence for flowers.
We’d love to hear about some of the highlight moments in your career, an event of experience that you’ll never forget!
– Induction into AIFD 1986
– My first AIFD Symposium program in San Francisco 1987
– Winning the 1987 AFS Great American Design Competition – North American Championship in Las Vegas at a florist convention with 4000 attendees.
– First book with co-author, John Haines published in 1994 – EARTH MAN SPIRIT
– 5th recipient of AIFD ‘Design Influence’ Award in 1998
– Won Gold and Best of Show at Singapore Garden Festival at an invitational International design competition, representing Canada
Thank you, Hitomi, for sharing your insights with us, and I look forward to seeing you in the coming year! For all our flower friends out there who want to see more Hitomi, be sure to check out her YouTube Channel HERE and Hitomi’s website HERE.