Like a magician, who pulls the curtain aside and allows his audience to glimpse the secret workings behind his grand illusions, event designer Preston Bailey offers fans unprecedented access to his creative process in “Designing with Flowers” his sixth book. Amid breathtaking images of the elaborate floral installations for which he’s renowned, for the first time, Bailey includes photos of brides and grooms. And he reveals not only their stories, but rich details of how each featured celebration sprang to life.
“You’re working with perfection,” Bailey says of his blooming building blocks. His trick? Thinking “outside the vase” and fashioning sculptures, structures and other convention-defying artistic statements that “transport people to another world.”
“I always want guests to feel surrounded and enveloped completely with flowers and say, ‘Oh, my God! This is the most beautiful space I’ve ever been in,’” Bailey explains. The book shows couples what is possible. “I also wanted to speak clearly to my peeps from the industry,” Bailey says, “and walk them through how we go about creating statements that are strong enough to get the ‘Oh, my God!’”
Thirty-four years into a career that constantly challenges him to wow clients who have seen and done it all, Bailey still has moments—in a palace in Abu Dhabi, for example—when, he admits: “I’m pinching myself,” and thinking, “This is not happening.” The Panama-born designer says, “Through the desire to be creative, incredible doors have been opened to me.” Always candid about “mistakes along the way,” particularly on his blog and during workshops he leads, he’s eager to guide colleagues who are just starting and struggling. “At this point in my life and in my journey,” he says, “the idea of teaching others excites me.”
Bailey is still learning, too... from couples whose customs require him to adapt and reinvent and also from his inspiring inner circle. “Two years ago, I got married,” he shares. “I’ve done thousands of weddings. But when I married, I finally got it. You think it’s going to be special, but what you really experience is incredible. Nothing prepares a couple for the joy, the excitement, the amount of love that people freely offer you.” Now, he recognizes: “Wherever I go, and whenever I do a wedding, that couple has the same amount of emotion, which I’ve learned to respect tremendously.”
What’s ahead? “I’ve always been very cautious about creating lists of things I want to do,” Bailey says. “You really have to be attentive to some opportunity or some spark that comes along that you didn’t even think about. And it just happens.” Marriage requires faith in serendipity, too. “You think you know the other person, and then, there’s an entire layer there. There are surprises. And you have to go with it. Make it work.”
What looks like wizardry in glossy images is also the product of trial and error and effort, so Bailey never fears giving too much away. “One of the biggest compliments is when people copy my work,” he says. “It keeps me alive and forces me to start coming up with other new stuff. They cannot copy the craziness I have in my own head!”
> Written By: Kim Knox Beckius