Valentina Safronova: starting the history of the Florist Competition from a blank slate

On August 22-23 the international competition of professional florists will be held among participants of the 26th International Exhibition “Flowers&City” (pavilion 75, Hall B). It will become a part of a three-day florist program of the exhibition – a bright and colorful event in field of professional floristry organized by JSC VDNH, the Slava Rosca Flower Studio and the Association of Russian Florists. Valentina Safronova, President of the Association, told us about the competition in details.

– What is the objective set by organizers of the competition?
– What are such competitions for? To let people see professional excellence of some florists. Sometimes even most simple flowers we pass by without paying any attention turn into masterpieces in the hands of a florist. Certainly, it’s a fleeting moment – flowers’ lifetime is limited and all this work vanishes soon, but I guess, that’s the spice of it: every time something new should be created. Even one and the same flower or cultivar can look absolutely different, and the skill of a florist is to show the most common things from an unusual angle. That’s what these competitions have been invented for. In that respect VDNH is a pioneer: it’s here where the first florist competition was organized.
– How did the idea appear?
– It was initiated by florists who used to work in various Soviet cities and gathered together on holidays, such as May 1, November 7, the Children's Day and so on. It was their tradition. Florists arrived from different republics to show flower compositions they brought. As a rule, those people were associated with either national botanical gardens, or greenhouses and state owned farms (‘sovkhozes’), where flowers were grown. It was incredible, because usually flowers were rare, the assortment was poor, and suddenly such magnificent, beautiful compositions appeared! Actually, then it was impossible to imagine that any grass or leaves could be added to the bouquet...
Our first florists are our gold reserves; many of them are 70 years old, but they still work, they are still full of enthusiasm. Let’s take Vladimir Bermyakov from St. Petersburg – there’s already a second generation of florists in his family, his son has taken part in all our competitions. There are such amazing florists as Stas Zubov from Moscow, Nikolai Agop from Chisinau, Nikolai Danilovich from Belarus. The Moldavian school has always been very interesting and authentic.
Exhibitions and competitions in Moscow and then in Tallinn were first starts – they were considered international exhibitions of a higher level: as in any other profession, there was a hierarchy for florists; there were regional, republican, all-Union, European and global competitions. Our florists passed all the steps. And they did it in a very rapid manner somehow: last year there was a World Championship in the US, and our Natalya Zhizhko received a silver medal – it’s certainly worth a lot.
As for florists who started at competitions to venture, the sky was the limit for them after it. It’s a great training to take some place or even to take part. No matter how long you studied, no matter where, to take to the stage and to do your work during a certain amount of time in plain view of the audience is a serious test; it needs huge concentration, attention and energy. Alas, some time later it all disappeared. And this year we start the story of the florist competition at VDNH from a blank slate, so to speak! As if turning over all past pages – good and not – we decided to revive this tradition.
– The motto of the competition is “Flowers and Emotions”. What do you imply by this phrase?
– Emotions are an abstract concept: how can emotions be expressed through flowers, so that not only professionals who are able to appreciate the composition, but common people as well could understand what a florist wanted to say?
The goal of the competition is to popularize floristry. It is for people to look and recognize that a bouquet is not about five or seven ‘buds in a bag’, but a true work of art that can convey emotions of a florist or illustrate emotions of a person who wants to say something through flowers. It’s so interesting, because it allows showing some capabilities of plants in a new view, as a new solution.
Many outstanding florists from various cities and countries – for example, from China – will take part in the competition: it will be exciting for them to take a foray in Russia. It’s intriguing: everyone has their own national tradition and the topic of emotions is complicated, so will they manage to convey them? I’m looking forward.
– Who will evaluate participants of the competition?
– We have a stellar jury of worldwide-known florists and designers: Natalya Zhizhko, Vice-Champion of the Russian Championship on Professional Floristics; Vadim Kazansky, Head and trainer of the New Floristry School; Tatyana Voronina and Elena Dmitrieva, founders of the Magenta Floristic Design Academy, and a world-known Japanese floristry trainer Tanaka Kazuhiko. I’m a president of the jury, so I coordinate all the nuances.
There will also be a Technical Commission, just like at any sport competition: we have a lot in common, e.g. points, artistic, compulsory and free programs. And a ‘surprise work’ – actually, every competition has one.
Evaluation criteria will be equated with European and global standards, and requirements will be the same as at the most high-profile competitions.
– How will the competition be arranged?
– It will not be just a competition, it will be a great show! Famous florists will take part in a nonstop performance; workshops by florists of international fame will be held on the stage. High-profile florists from various cities will demonstrate their talents as well – all of them are winners, awardees or participants of all kinds of competitions, such as Russian, European or World championships, championships of Siberia and the Far East. I guess, there will be a numerous audience, as all participants of the competition lead their own schools, give seminars and shows moving across Russia. All of them are very famous, and many of their admirers will intentionally come to Moscow.
– People are often asked about their plans for future. Do you have a dream?
– My dream is to hold the European Florist Championship and the World Cup in Russia. It would be something incredible, a crazy festival! But VDNH needs to take the lead – it will be a tribute to the tradition. How possible is it? There are multiple nuances; the issue is to be discussed with the European Florist Association, the global association that decide on a city and the place to hold the next championship.
I think, we might succeed, so that the Championship was held in Russia, despite a rapid rise of our florists from scratch in the last 20 years only. As in any other case, generations are changing, new people come to the field – most of them are young graduates of floristry schools. We have an entire established network of floristry schools that attract even students from other countries, while our people in their turn study under the finest florists in the world and visit their seminars. Therefore, now our lives are in full swing!