Career plan D?

employment, Floristry, PhD, Stress, Work

There is one good thing about unemployment.

It’s the fact that when you spent the night alternating between crying and getting drunk because another interview/job trial flipped you over the edge, you can simply crawl into bed and stay there.

When I dreamt that my kitchen exploded recently I was fairly sure a meltdown was on the way.  Well, here it is.  Obviously, meltdowns involve long term baggage and the precitating event is just that.  Nevertheless it was horrible.  I don’t think they meant it to be horrible, but it was.  Four hours of it.  The only saving grace of it is that I got paid.

They were very particular, even down to how the buckets had to be filled.  I thought their method was more inefficient, but I didn’t say so.  One of the women has no filter.  She might not have said ‘God that’s awful’ but her face did.  She undid everything I did and remade it.  Not that they gave me a demonstration first, just showed me a picture and said do that.  One was a posy in a pot which had paper around it in the picture, so I wrapped it like a bouquet and put it in the pot only have it all ripped off and redone.  Pot, with paper pushed in and then filled with water.  WTF?  I got into trouble with her for making the boss angry but I have absolutely no idea why.

I walked away from that job trial feeling utterly incompetent and like I never want to set foot inside a florists ever again.  Or that I am capable of handling a retail environment.  Which would be fine except for the fact that I am no longer getting interviews for work in my other areas.  I am totally baffled by this.  And I’ve asked for feedback and what you get is total buraucratic dribble that is not remotely helpful.

All dogged by the green eyed monster which is directed toward my friend.  She’s not even graduated with her PhD and she’s been offered not one but two lectureships and won a huge research grant.  She’s had the luck I hoped for myself post PhD.  It either works for you, or it’s a career killer.

so here I am faintly dead and career plan c (floristry) in tatters around me.  Career plan D?  At this rate I’ll be scrubbing the loos at the mall.

 

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On being a student florist

employment, Floristry, PhD, Stress

I was heard to mutter, as I left class this evening, that doing a PhD is easier than becoming a florist.   Correction.   A floristry assistant.  Those who were remained in the class thought I was being melodramatic and anxious about my paid trial for a job tomorrow.  This is partly true, but I meant my comment seriously.

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Bouquet with delphiniums, green carnations, white rose and some very mixed foliage. Photo by the author.

Starting over in any new field is faintly terrifying.  Most of the time I handle this with aplomb, but not currently.  I’ve got the full trifecta happening.  Job hunting, final assessment, and PMT.  These things should never happen in a sentence, let alone an actual real human being’s life.  The worst thing is that knowing it’s your hormones fucking you round doesn’t make them stop fucking you round.

The bouquet above is one of this evenings efforts practicing for our grad show.  In addition to this, we also have to display a hair piece, corsage, buttonholes and table centrepiece.  It’s OK.  I can do it.  But I would seriously find it easier to sit down and write several thousand words on, say the history of Australian policies on native vegetation protection than it is to pull this off.  If you’ve been accepted into a PhD it means you’ve already attained a high level of skill with words and concepts.  This is completely useless in floristry, because you can’t write a breathtakingly beautiful bouquet into existence.

Floristry is more than learning a new language or discipline.  It’s all very well to learn colour theory, but an entirely different process to pull it off in practice.  Flowers are real.  They have likes and dislikes, and they’re not shy about them.  I thought that silvery olive foliage would be a brilliant choice for this bouquet, but actually when it came to it, it was stiff, ungainly and ugly.  I threw most of it in the bin.  Earlier today I tried a vertical parallel arrangement, which I’d missed somehow through the year.  You’d think that grouped flowers in lines would be easy.  It’s not.  And I have the photo which shouldn’t be shared to prove it.

Let me deconstruct this bouquet in the way that I might pull apart an chapter or an essay.  What I have done well is the colour.  Soft green, muted blues, touches of silver and plenty of foliage is a combination that works well.  It gets a tick on our brief for muted and gentle colours.  It is quite soft, romantic and unstructured. But, the fern is too prominent, as is the rice flower.  There should be a balancing third piece.  I’ve left the roses too deep.  More eryngium more evenly placed.  Should I include some wired ageratum?  Green bells?  And so on…

I’m worried that my anonymous assessor will not perceive the story behind the contrast of this bouquet and my chosen wedding dress.  I’ve chosen a very unadorned thirties style sleek silk satin number.

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Sleek dress, and an bouquet that is the exact opposite.  Together, I hope they will make an understandable unity.

Meanwhile, the only sensible option is sleep.

 

End of term approaches

creativity, Floristry, PhD, Roses

It’s the downhill run to the end of term and I confess to being a very tired little bunny. Between the book contract, two part time jobs and full time study since January, all I want to do is take long naps with the Iron Paw and watch 70s sci fi repeats.  Perhaps then I might find the whatever-it-is I need to care about the flowers again.

in the interim, samples of class assignments.

Clockwise from the top left…

My take on a hamper, called ‘How to survive your PhD submission’. This is what some kind soul needed to give me about three weeks out from submitting.  It’s got appropriately dark and moody flowers along with anti inflammatories and painkillers, because you back or your neck or your wrists will have gone out in protest.  Rescue remedy and vodka to deal with the panic.  Couscous, chocolate and other forms of carbs.  A memory stick because you can NEVER have too many back ups and finally, a novel, as a gentle reminder that one day before you die, you will learn to read for pleasure again.

A bridal bouquet with buttonhole and corsage in purples, a practice run for a bride who has since changed her mind about the colour scheme.

A floral response to a place, the heritage listed University House at ANU.  The recycled cake tin echoes the lean times of the post war era, and the placement of the flowers echoes the traditional university enclosed college transplanted to the Australian landscape.

An ‘alternative’ bridal bouquet.  Built on a structure of kitchen implements, it is entirely edible with roses, lavender, brussel sprouts, spring onions and a variety of herbs like bay, rosemary and curry plant.  The bride got the sieve and the bridesmaid carries the spatula.

My task for next semester? To get better at photographing my work…

A year older…

creativity, Floristry, PhD, Uncategorized

Yep.   Had a birthday.   I am now perilously close to fifty.

It was a good day.   I jumped on a bus and went to Sydney.   Interviewed a lady who was described to me when we were introduced as the Constance Spry of Australia.   So I’ve now found a postdoc project!

The following day I had my very first trip to flower market.   I thought I did very well to only come home with two bunches of double tulips, given I was navigating sydneys trains and the 3 1/2 hour bus trip back to Canberra.   Miraculously I didn’t break a single head.

The flower market was like nothing I have ever seen before.  A ginormous shed stuffed to the brim with flowers that made me cry with happiness.   Whole stalls just devoted to orchids.   The biggest tizziest disbud chrysanthemums in readiness for Mother’s Day,  and the sexiest purplely black callas.  Droooooooooooooooool.

I maybe perilously close to 50 now but it is deeply comforting to know that I finally found my thing.   It’s better that I found it now rather than in 10 or 15 years time, when I’m still relatively young and fit enough to do the work.   Course it would have been nice to have escaped the misery of the last 10 years,  but I can only hope there’s gonna be some unforeseen pay off from the sweat and tears that went into that PhD.

In the interim I’m going to practice being grateful for all the good things that I do have.  The Iron Paw, my lovely warm house, my own garden, delightful friends, loving family.   The luxury and the beauty of flowers, and being able to learn from them.

 

Recent work

Floristry, PhD, Uncategorized

Just a few pics of my recent work in class and out.  It’s wreath season here in Australia so we’ve been practicing.  For the bottom right, I’ve been trying to get over my fear of lilies.  Not a good thing to have if you want to be a florist.

On the top are two wired bridal bouquets, one contemporary and one traditional.  Challenging but very enjoyable.

Finally a flower crown I made for my friend to wear on the day she submitted her Phd. I wish I’d thought of that when I was submitting…

 

 

Year’s end

creativity, Floristry, PhD, Publishing, Uncategorized

I feel like I have a very great deal to catch up on!

It’s been a very busy spring. Between a major garden expansion, the continuation of my floristry night classes and getting my thesis accepted for publication, I have barely written a thing.  I also got my first floristry client too, and her reaction to the flower crowns I made for her gave me sufficient internal fortitude to enrol in professional floristry training.

My main priority between now and when classes start next year has to be revising the thesis in order to meet my publication deadline. This is a strange process.  I haven’t picked up my PhD since I submitted it and reading it again now in depth is highly illuminating.

Part of me is still astonished that I passed. I feel like I am falling into a tunnel as I read it, and that’s exactly what it felt like to write it.  I was in an ever shrinking world.  It is true what they say about specialisation. You get to know more and more about less and less.  I see how, as I leap from one highly esoteric point to another, how far gone I was.  Stress will do that to a girl.

It feels good to be making something more beautiful and accessible out of that raw material. But I still have to wonder.  Why does this process have to be so punishing.  I am currently watching two women friends walk this same path, and it’s not right.  Learning should not be this stressful and this painful.

Processes of learning are significant right now given that I am a student again. I went back to look at all the photos I have taken of what I made in classes this year and what I have practiced on my own.  Quite apart from realising that it was indeed a busy year, I also realised that for the VERY FIRST TIME EVER I kept my new year’s resolution.  I wanted 2016 to be a year of creativity.  It sure was.  And here’s a few photos to prove it.

Thanks to everyone who has followed my adventures this year, have a wonderful rest of the year and joyful start to 2017.  May all your dreams come true.

Publishing and the (weight of the) past

employment, PhD, Publishing, Uncategorized

Last week I got a welcome email. It was from a publisher, saying that they would like to take my manuscript, my thesis, to the next stage of assessment.  Part of me was elated.  Part of me was prosaic, reasoning that it was my exalted referee’s name that got me to stage two.  Partly I felt dread.

Dread. Yes.  What’s going on with that?  Doesn’t every author aspire to be published?  Well, yes but…

Let me clarify that this is not fiction writing which I do for the sheer pleasure of it. I’m talking about work.  It’s all about the economics.  My boss returned from an OS jaunt recently with a story of how for one job in my discipline at a UK university they received a thousand applicants.  The only people who made it into ‘being vaguely considered’ pile had two books on their CV, in addition to their PhD.  It really is publish or perish in this game.  Basically I’ll be forever lurching from one insecure contract to the next at the lowest pay scale (which is quite low given how long it takes to get a PhD) unless I can get published.

Perhaps I wouldn’t feel so gloomy at the thought of revising my PhD if I had found it anything other than what it was. Doing a PhD is like that proverb of putting a frog in a pot of water and bringing it slowly to the boil.  The cool water of the first year is quite pleasant.  You get to spend an whole year just reading and exploring.  There’s possibly no other institution on the plant that offers this luxury.  At the end of first year, the heat goes on.  By the end, which may be anywhere between three and seven years, you are boiled to a sodden mush.

Let’s not forget either that life on the outside goes on, and can be equally challenging. In my case, multiple deaths, including my own vitality and sense of meaning about anything, including and most especially work.

Reworking my thesis into a book takes me back into that deep gloom. I feel like I’ve only just escaped with my life.  Now that I may (I need to whisper this quietly so I don’t tempt fate) have gotten my mojo back after years of deep depression and grief, now I may have to go back to the that time.  It wont make any difference if it is this publisher or someone else. I am going to have to find a way to face this with creativity and intelligence.  At the moment I can think of nothing that would help me with the process.  I know I’m going to absolutely resent giving up my gardening/sewing/embroidery time on the weekends.  Maybe an end vision might help.

I survived this mind-altering-body-changing-soul-mangling process of a PhD and burying two parents, two grandparents, two friends and my cat, and I still managed to produce this book out of it all. Any you know what?  It’s a good book.  Not publishing it would make going through all that pain worthless.