Meet Dynamic Denver Designer Kari Smith, AIFD

Earlier this month, the American Institute of Floral Designers inducted 67 new members into its prestigious ranks. To earn the coveted acronym, florists must first pass a two-part test (the Professional Florist Design Evaluation) with flying colors and then receive three letters of recommendation. Florists are inducted at the AIFD symposium the summer following their testing. To maintain AIFD status, members must complete continuing education units.

We caught up with a newly minted AIFD designer, Kari Smith, of Bouquets in Denver. Below is the abbreviated story of her journey:

Kari Smith, AIFD, embraces her boss, BJ Dyer, AIFD, CFP, the night of her induction
Kari Smith, AIFD, embraces her boss, BJ Dyer, AIFD, CFP, the night of her induction

From the moment I heard of AIFD, I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to know the secrets behind what the world’s top designers think and practice. Having been in the floral industry for more than 10 years, working with every aspect of the business, I wondered what had taken me so long to learn of this organization.

I’ve worked with BJ Dyer, AIFD, CPF, for years and never questioned his initials. That all changed when I became his lead designer and he decided to invite me to attend a Hitomi Gilliam, AIFD, EMC, work shop at Denver Wholesale Florist. From that point on, I had the bug and wanted to master the techniques she demonstrated. I craved knowledge to branch out into new and modern designs without ruining the integrity of my creations. That year I applied for the Tredway scholarship from the South Central chapter of AIFD and was awarded a full registration.

My first symposium (2013 in Las Vegas) was a life altering experience. From the moment Derek Woodruff, AIFD, stepped on stage, I was amazed. I’d never seen flowers used in a musical number, never thought about this box I had seen flowers in before. Later, the mind-blowing show that Ron Mulray, AIFD, put on inspired me to become part of this amazing flower bubble. After that first symposium, I put this goal in my sights and started to prepare for testing.

I had only recently begun competing and was still very unsure about how to approach design in a way that would not be misunderstood when it came to a score sheet. With trembling anxiety, I spent the year studying my handbook and practicing techniques, so I’d stay true to the design principles. I scored highly enough to receive the American Institute of Floral Design’s designation of Certified Floral Designer. I was pleased, but not satisfied to stop there. I went back to the drawing board. I branched out by studying with other designers who had tested with me and were inducted, such as my dear friend, Arthur Williams, AIFD.

At the next symposium—here in Denver with the support of my boss—I boldly and confidently tested again. Pushing past the self-doubt that plagued me the previous year, I flew through this evaluation. I understood my previous mistakes. My practice had paid off and I knew, without a doubt, I did a better job making my color story, lines and focals clear so my evaluators did not have to struggle interpreting my designs.

Standing behind the stage at Symposium in Anaheim, I swelled with tremendous pride for being accepted into my new floral family, to stand amongst so many florists I hold with such esteem. Once again, the program had expanded my mind and stirred my emotions. My joy that night made time seem to both fly by and simultaneously stand still. No matter where life takes me, I will be able to put myself back into this pivotal moment and revel in the beauty that AIFD shares with us all.

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