April Design Workshop in Mt. Airy

Marilyn Potter has been graciously giving floral design workshops at that Mount Airy community center. The initial impetus was to help District V garden club members to get up to speed and gain practice in how to construct winning designs for the May 19th Flower Show. Quite a few people have been attending since these started.  Marilyn mentioned that she would continue giving the workshops, so watch for her e-mails or sign up to attend. This post covers the April class for trays,  functional table settings and theme design exhibition tables with tablewares using various unique props effectively.

Our expressive instructor, Marilyn Potter explains some points about this pewter ware functional table.


From notes taken:

Function has nothing to do with an Exhibition Table. It is strictly to show off design skills.

When using frames, stick to the smaller sizes rather than the big ones as there is not a huge need for those.

The Exhibition Tables have an underlying motif (in this case, a mystery) having to connect with the theme of the Flower Show. For example, our show is “Riding the Rails” and two people chose Exhibition Tables connoting “Murder on the Orient Express”. The designer will use a card to write about her motif. The allotted space is 30″x30″ and  the designer can use whatever she wants as far as plates, glassware types, fabrics, etc.–even plastic.  Marilyn mentioned that a couple good places to find cool items to use are Pier One and Tuesday Morning.

A Functional Table is set up for only one course and it needs to be clearly evident by the choice of wares that would naturally be used for the described course to be served.  The arrangement should cover 1/3 to 1/4 of the table and can be of variable height as long as it does not obstruct the view of those who would use such a table. If two people are seated adjacently rather than across from one another, then of course the arrangement could be taller than one might otherwise make it.  Marilyn mentioned a trick of hers to keep a tablecloth from having forbidden fold lines; she rolls it on a tube.  Of course, one may use table runners or place mats as well.  She also mentioned that one seldom sees a formal setting for a functional table in flower shows, but informal (using almost anything) and  casual (picnic, al fresco) is common. For the train theme, there were dishes specifically for Pullman dining. Syracuse China used to make quite substantial dishes for dining.  Designers should avoid bringing expensive dishes or silver for flatware.

Trays would typically be set for one person. In our train scenario, the items on the tray should not be subjected adversely by the movement of the train or waiter while being transported, i.e. too heavy, wobbly, crowded. Nor should it easily slide about on the tray. So, one’s choice and number of tablewares should be wise and limited as it shall be judged on practicality. Liekwise, the tray chosen should be appropriately sized and of a suitable texture, possibly using a gripping cloth underlying the wares if that helps. We were reminded that plates and bowls do come in smaller sizes for breakfasting and luncheon and are useful for trays. One’s arrangement should be suitably small and the whole effect not overcrowded. Trays are typically 15″ x 24″.

It goes without saying that all the above categories should be pleasing through harmony or contrast of colors and textures and show an understanding of weight and proportion.

Here are some examples of trays and tables which workshop participants constructed for examples or for critical review.

Marilyn used her pewterware for this  functional table for two with soup bowls, and bread plates.

Marilyn shows here an example of a tray, also with the pewter.

Many people were doing single settings at the session.

And then there were trays.

People liked the floral arrangement here:

and here:

Here is an example of a very fancy tray. Being quite “busy” with pattern, choice of table wares will be critical. One could use a fabric to cover that pattern if necessary but it would have to be stationary to avoid sliding.

This is difficult to see from this angle,  especially given the juxtaposition with the brown chair, but would be a start for an exhibition table using the smaller frames. The cups are quite unusual.

Marilyn brought a number of calendars from National Gardening which had examples to inspire: