WFC recently held its 34th annual summit, "Fragrance Embrace", and it was a WFC Summit unlike any other. This year the WFC Guangdong Chapter of China played host, and they had the unique opportunity to collaborate with the Chinese government while organizing the Summit. The government saw value in everything the WFC stands for - bringing international people together in the name of World Peace through the beauty of flowers- and they took it as an opportunity to help brand their city as the "Flower City of China". This led the WFC Summit events to be spread around the city, which allowed Summit-goers to see a variety of areas and buildings in Guangzhou while simultaneously allowing the local Chinese citizens to be able to view the beautiful floral installations that the WFC created.
The summit ran for four days with the majority of the events taking place in close proximity to the gorgeous Ritz Carlton Hotel of Guangzhou. The first day had local Chinese florists creating designs outside the Children's Experience Museum. There was also a trip to the local Guangzhou flower market- one of the largest flower markets in the world- where WFC participants were able to see the market first-hand, as well as buy flowers and accessories from the vendors. Many designers who participated in the "My Country Design" event used the opportunity to purchase some last-minute floral additions for their works, which were held both inside, on stage, as well as outside on large platforms. There were many moments of "lost in translation" during the summit, but those endearing moments are part of the fun of cross-cultural communication, and everyone was in good spirits reuniting with one another as well as meeting new members. Flowers often worked to fill in the blanks when words fell short.
The first night's welcome party was an event to remember, as most attendees had their first experience with authentic Chinese cuisine. The food was served in a distinct family-style setting, where nearly a dozen rounds of dishes were brought out one after another and placed on a round, mobile "lazy susan" contraption which was in the centre of the table and was rotated around from person to person with a simple push. For many people it was a game of "guess what", and it definitely had most people trying gourmet delicacies outside of their comfort zone. The Chinese government sponsored the dinner, and various speeches were made by host, Miss Lizzie Su and WFC Chairman, Mr. Lynn Hoffman.
Between the welcome dinner and 7am the following day, the outdoor platform designs for "My Country Design" were requested to be completed, so after dinner many designers made their way over to the Guangzhou Opera House to start constructing their outdoor platform design. Thepark in between the Ritz and the Opera House was lit up spectacularly at night, with all the amazing architectural buildings being brought to life in a whole new way with lights by night. The temperature was also very comfortable in comparison to the intense heat of the days. Designers delighted in this and many were seen crafting their works until well after midnight. The area was abuzz with positive creativity as people caught up with one another while simultaneously designing their own piece.
The whole outdoor area had been transformed over a few days, and flowers were everywhere by the time of the opening ceremony. Potted plants lined all walkways, creating rivers of flowers, and there were also beautiful green archways which led to the outdoor "My Country Design" space. The Opera House had a stunning bi-level design, and floral masterpieces galore were spread about both the upper and the lower levels, mixed in among the existing sculpture work. A city tour was also held on this first official day, and participants bussed around the city to a historical museum which gave insight into Chinese culture and heritage. The day wrapped up with a very special visit to the famous Canton Tower for a lighting ceremony, followed by a river boat cruise dinner along the Pearl River. Both events were hosted by the government, and recognized the World Flower Council, with their spin on the event being "World Cities Day" which brings citizens from around the world together in the name of flowers. There was a special video on all that the city of Guangzhou has to offer and a children's choir sang beautifully before there was an elaborate lighting of the tower, which read the World Flower Council's name high in the sky. The riverboat cruise was another interesting experience, as participants floated along the river, observing the bright city skyline from the water, and listened to local music while feasting on Chinese food, this time served buffet style.
The World Flower Council Summit always has several design workshops as part of the mission to share education worldwide, and this year these classes were held off the summit premises at Miss Lizzie Su's Su Li Si Floral Design academy. The building was super chic, and the two classes were held back to back and translated in both Chinese and English, as both the presenters, Christopher Lim and Bernard Low spoke Chinese. The courses taught how to make different armatures from repurposed materials- one from metal posts that come with orchids, and another from box-wrap which had been curled into circles to form a bouquet holder. Both classes taught students to think creatively with materials.
Floral design demonstrations started off that afternoon, beginning with 5 rounds of 5 designers each coming on stage to create a design which represented the country they were from. This year's Summit brought designers from over 30 countries together in the name of World Peace through Flowers, and many beautiful and creative works graced the stage.
Designers, Poo Chesdmethee and Cindy Chao took the stage afterwards, and wowed the audience with their separate yet together designs. Poo drew upon inspiration from both Thailand and China to create his pieces. Cindy crafted distinct pieces, and the juxtaposition between her works and materials awed the audience. She also complimented her work with modern floral fashion that came out on models after several of her main stage pieces were complete. Together they made an incredible presentation team.
That night there was a wonderful "White Night" celebration in honour of one of WFC's beloved founders, Mr. Dean White. The WFC awarded Dean the "White Hero", and several long-time WFC Members like International Chairman Lynn Hoffman, International Board member Els Hazenberg, and Chairman for the Asia Pacific, Poo Chesdmetheegave speeches about the incredible impact Dean has had on the lives of so many through his stewardship of the World Flower Council. A beautiful slideshow with pictures of highlights from Dean's long and full life was then played. Later an exquisite violinist delighted the crowd, as Russian florist / ballet dancer Boris Menyaylov surprised everyone with an impromptu dance dedicated to Dean. A theatrical group of traditionally dressed Chinese ladies then came out and danced tantalizingly for Dean, as well as the audience. Summit goers danced the night away, and had lots of fun sharing moves on the dance floor with their friends from around the world.
The next and final day, there were two rounds of floral demonstrations, each with two different designers onstage at one time. The first round was Kenny Chan of Hong Kong and Anson Low of Singapore. Kenny shared that his background was originally in science and botany, and he expressed how this impacted him to keep his work as organic as possible. Anson was charming as always on stage, and gave translator Damien a run for his money, as he cheerfully chirped out story after story amidst his designs.
The next round of designs came from Premysl Hytych of the Czech Republic and Harijanto Setiawan of Singapore. These designers had different styles, with Premysl's being more natural and Harijanto's being more structural and delicate. Both styles were a delight for the audience to observe. It was amazing how both designers unknowingly echoed one another's thoughts, discussing how oftentimes "less is more" and "simple is better". However, they both showed moments of exquisite detail, with Premysl sharing a floral purse accented with pieces of pincushion protea glued onto hundreds of carnations which were strung and elegantly dangling, and Harijanto literally painting gold flakes as a final touch onto one of his designs.
The summit came to a close with one last elaborate Gala Dinner event which looked like a woodsy and whimsical floral wonderland. Attendees, adorned in unique wearable floral art pieces, socialized with one another, then entered the ballroom to watch Summit participants receive rewards of recognition. A special moment was when Chairman Lynn Hoffman said a special thanks to Lizzie Su and her team, and then wrapped her in a traditionally made quilt from longtime member, Malcolm Angus of New Zealand. The grand finale consisted of a fabulous floral fashion show, and a last minute surprise for all was an award from Dean White honouring Lynn Hoffman with the WFC Floral Nobel Prize for his long-time service and contribution to WFC.
The night came to an end with hugs all around, and exclamations of, "See you next year!" The Guangzhou Summit was an elaborate experience to remember, yet as one summit comes to an end, the planning for the next summit has already begun. The 35th annual World Flower Council Summit will be held in Western Australia's capital city of Perth, and is sure to be an inspirational delight! Hope to see everyone there in October 2018!