The simple explanation, CFD stands for Certified Floral Designer, AIFD is American Institute of Floral Design. I realize that helps very little as those terms carry more weight within the industry. In plain English these are coveted designations that recognize training and creativity within the floral design world. Perhaps the journey to how my wife Trish, in little old Brandon MB, accomplished this feat will help to elaborate on how big a deal this was for her.
Early in 2014 Trish decided it was time to chase a dream. She had always wanted to earn these certifications, and while I obviously can’t speak for her I think there were a couple of reasons. We all want to be recognized for our accomplishments within our chosen field as well as master our chosen craft. It’s one thing to have everyday people compliment your work, its another level of satisfaction when you are recognized by peers in your industry. The road for Trish to earn her CFD/AIFD designations was a long one, almost 4 years in fact from start to finish. In 2015 Trish officially registered with the American Institute of Floral Design. This opened the door to textbooks, reference material, and an AIFD mentor. There is a comprehensive written test that asked everything from scientific names of plants and flowers to the fundamentals of floral design. Even after 20 plus years within the industry there was plenty to learn, and I remember many hours in between being a Mom to our 3 children and lead designer at our little shop spent studying. I can’t remember the exact date or even the month Trish decided she was ready to the written test, but I do remember how stressed she was leading up to it and after waiting for the results. To no one’s surprise she not only passed with flying colors but aced it, and the road to Anaheim was set. No small accomplishment on its own, most of those taking this test have years of training at a certified school but Trish essentially challenged it, a testament to the knowledge Cecil Foster passed on to Trish at her first job with Foster’s Floral Fashions.
Anaheim? As in California? Yep, that’s the one. The written test was a qualifier in order to be admitted to a practical test at the annual AIFD Symposium scheduled in early July. This is an educational event as well as the yearly opportunity for those looking to earn their designations. I have to admit that like most of you reading this, I was in the dark as to what exactly AIFD was and what it meant in the grand scheme of things. But hey, a trip to Anaheim to enjoy the sun and 4th of July fireworks? I guess I could tag along and see what it was all about. So we registered Trish, got our tickets, booked our hotel and waited in anticipation of the trip.
The trip to Anaheim was mostly uneventful. We flew through Vancouver where the US customs officer asked us a skill testing question to pass; what is the name of the airport you will be flying into? John Wayne Airport was the answer, and we knew it, so he cheerfully let us pass. We made it to the hotel without incident and settled in. Did I mention it was 4th of July weekend? We learned quickly just how much our American cousins loved their fireworks. Leading up to the 4th fireworks were a constant, all day long you could hear and see them popping literally everywhere right in the middle of the city. They never stopped.
Opening day of the symposium, Trish checked in and that afternoon we made our way to the hall where the testing was to take place. Hall is a bit of an understatement, as the room for all the participants was easily twice the size of the Manitoba room, or at least in my memory it was. I’m sure it seemed even bigger to Trish. As I mentioned earlier, I really had no idea just how big a deal this whole event was and especially the testing about to take place. The organizers had listed what, such as tools, was allowed in the room with the participants and they took this very seriously. Each person’s items were checked prior to entry, nothing extra was allowed and if you were found to have something beyond that list after entering the test hall that was reason for disqualification. Not a small thing for anyone there as most had invested thousands to get admitted into the next 4 hours. Security was tight, as in everyone entering or leaving the room was vetted, in fact if a participant needed to use the washroom during the test they were escorted. I quickly realized there wouldn’t be anything for me to see here for the next 3 to 4 hours so I wandered off to find my own entertainment.
When I returned to wait for Trish outside the locked doors, she finally emerged after the full 4 hours. We grabbed some lunch while waiting on the judges to mark everyone’s creations and went back to view everyone’s work. Now if investing thousands, traveling to another country and then being locked in a room wasn’t stressful enough, imagine doing all this and having to wait to find out the results 2 months later. I found a post I had made the evening following Trish’s testing that still sums up what I witnessed better than anything that I could write now;
“Just a couple of notes for our friends and family. While I had a sense that Trish Fjeldsted trying to earn her AIFD/CFD designation was a big deal, until arriving here I failed to understand the scope. It's essentially a doctorate in floral design, recognized and coveted worldwide. I've seen designers from all over including South Korea, China, Japan, Dominican Republic, United Kingdom, Mexico and a handful of countries I haven't even heard of. While touring the testing room with Trish looking at all the designs, we spoke to people from all over including a couple of designers from South Korea who follow Trish's work (among many others, she's a bit of a rock star here!). It's been an eye opening experience for me and Trish as well I'm sure. So very proud of you Trish!”
After arriving home it was hurry up and wait. I suppose when there’s 100 plus test scores with notes to sort through its bound to take some time. The assignment was 5 arrangements in 4 hours, with a wide range of styles and themes, and each design was worth 5 points total. To earn her CFD required a cumulative score of 16, with no individual design scoring less than 2.75. The AIFD designation required a cumulative score of 20, with no individual design scoring less than 3.75. There are some other finer points of the scoring that I won’t bore you with, but summed up it’s a daunting task when you consider she did not know the judges, what flowers she would be using, the styles they would request or the themes. Think Iron Chef type circumstances for a comparison. When the day finally arrived Trish found she had passed with flying colors, so we would be off to Seattle WA for next years symposium where she would be recognized along with the other participants who passed.
The Seattle trip was a bit of a blur. By the way, if you have not been to Seattle it’s a truly beautiful city. From the famous Pike Place Market to the downtown, and everywhere in between, the city was spotless and we felt safe wherever we went. The Symposium kept Trish busy and we managed to visit some of the local tourist spots to see a bit of the city. When it came time to welcome those who had earned their designations it was an incredible experience for everyone involved. As I said earlier, to be recognized by your peers is a pivotal moment in one’s career, and this was one of Trish's dreams. I would have to double check, but if memory serves at the time Trish was one of less than 50 individuals in Canada to have earned this honour, and one of only 3 in Manitoba at the time, and the only individual from Manitoba this go around. A truly elite group of extremely talented people.
Trish continues to maintain her certification through various activities and ongoing education, a major part of which is sharing her passion by hosting our Make & Take nights throughout the year. If you are looking for a fun night out with some friends feel free to contact us to see if there are any upcoming events to attend.