Horticulture and crop science students Danielle Ruais, Amanda Lemm and Beth Hall traveled to Sanremo, the flower capital of Italy, in January and received the “Best Historical and Iconographic Research” award at the 2009 Festival dei Fiori.
Cal Poly floral design instructor Melinda Lynch, who coached the team, said that coming from a university to compete against floral design schools was intense.
“Italy is the biggest event that has happened to us so far, it was huge, we were team USA,” she said.
Cal Poly was invited to compete by the Sanremo Flower Market after a recommendation from Carol Caggiano of the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD), a leading non-profit organization of the floral industry.
Caggiano was first introduced to Cal Poly when she worked with the 2007 Cal Poly floral design students at the National AIFD Symposium in Palm Desert.
“That team worked really hard to get us where we are. We were blessed to go,” Lemm said.
Lynch has been taking to her students to the annual National AIFD Symposium for the past 10 years. Students are judged based on their floral designs, and compete against 13 to 15 schools around the country. This year Lynch and her students will travel to Boston, Mass.
“I try to have my students go and work with these top designers in the nation because they are going to learn. I want my students to work with these fabulous designers,” she said.
Cal Poly won the award for the Medieval Myths and Tales competition, which required teams to design a stand and window display representing the city of Sanremo while incorporating a medieval character.
The team used chicken wire, ribbon, flax and other plant materials to build a tapestry for the stand display. A variety of resources were used and a unicorn made of eucalyptus leaves as incorporated into the middle of the design, surrounded by a mosaic of crushed mirrors.
“It was abstract and open for interpretation. It was neat being able to see all the different elements,” Ruais said.
The window display, Lemm said, featured inspiration from the Sanremo Music Festival and water features, palm trees and flowers of the city. Lemm said the team constructed a table and a chair out of curly willow, a pergola weaved with Sanremo flowers and a waterfall made of orchids and ginestra.
“It was pretty. It definitely drew your eye in,” Lemm said.
Lemm and Ruais said that creating the designs was challenging and fun at the same time.
“It was really exciting that we actually won something for all of our hard work. We did as much as we could to make a good impression for Cal Poly future teams,” Ruais said.
Cal Poly, the only U.S. team invited to the international event, competed against schools from Italy, Russia, Sweden, Hungary, Germany, Norway and Solvenia.
The Cal Poly team members also helped designers Per Benjamin, Max van de Sluis and Thomas De Bruyne, known as Life 3 in their compositions in the Festival Dei Fiori. Life 3 designers are worldwide award winners in Europe.
“Everyone else had around 20 years of experience. We held our own and I was really proud of what we did,” Lemm said.