Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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A new design endeavor for Linn woman

by Steve Targo

April 26, 2012

Linn Township woman Stefanie Rasch called her floral creation a "sympathy piece."

It was her entry into a category in the Wisconsin and Upper Michigan Florists Association's recent contest in Milwaukee.

In this category, contestants had to design a floral tribute to Frank Fritz, of the reality TV show "American Pickers." In the show, Fritz and Mike Wolf travel across the junkyards, basements and garages of the U.S. to find antiques and restore them.

According to the association's contest rules, the premise is that Fritz died, and entrants had to design a floral tribute to his life, including up to three items he may have picked up in the course of his travels.

"What excited me about this, designing flowers aside, is I could come up with some cool things to put in my design that no one else would have," she said.

So Rasch did some "picking" of her own. Knowing Fritz's love of motorcycles, she said she contacted Dale Matteson, who has a motorcycle shop in Linn.

"I told him I wanted handlebars," she said. "He has parts from all different kinds of motorcycles. (His shop) is where I found an old Triumph logo and a headlight for my piece. Dale and I picked some cool parts."

The arts of floral design and picking merged.

Rasch incorporated the motorcycle parts into her floral design, which had to consist of at least 80 percent fresh product. Floral design "is not just throwing flowers in a vase," she said, adding one has to learn about all the different types of flowers, how long they last, how to "process" or take care of them.

"In my piece, I had football mums," Rasch said. "It's a bigger flower that takes up room in the design."

She placed third out of seven entries, but she said she placed higher than other designers who have been "doing this a lot longer than me."

She said she was taking a floral design class in Milwaukee when someone suggested she enter the contest. Although Rasch said the theme inspired her to try it, each place earns a designer points toward admission into the Academy of Designers.

According to the Wisconsin and Upper Michigan Florists Association's contest rules, one must receive 50 points to enter the academy. Twenty of those points must have been earned by taking first place in any association competition.

Rasch said her goal is to enter the academy, which she said is the equivalent of becoming accredited in any profession. With a third-place score at her first contest, Rasch received five points.

In that respect, third place was as good as first.

"When I placed third, I was shocked," Rasch said. "But this was confirmation that my work was special."

So she's on her way.

A life of creativity

Rasch has been making a living being creative. She's also an interior designer. For nine years, she has run her own design business, Creative Designs.

"Ever since I was a little kid, I've been arranging furniture and moving pictures," Rasch said. "My mom (Fran Rodgers) and I would rearrange the living room for fun. Now, I just basically see floral design as another outlet to be creative."

But interior and floral design seem to go hand in hand, she said.

"Even through my interior design work for clients, I would (make) outdoor floral creations," Rasch said.

She said a "sense of design" is important, but doesn't seem to carry much stock in the institution of design. It's more about results than the process.

"I'm not the typical by-the-book designer," Rasch said. "I don't follow all the rules."

But she added people seem to recognize her abilities.

"I was told that some people you have to teach to be a floral designer, but I was told I have it naturally," Rasch said. "I was told that by another designer."

However, it wasn't a case of simply waking up one morning and deciding to apply the title in front of her name. Rasch said she was hired part-time three years ago at Gooseberries Fresh Food Market, Burlington, but "I didn't start out designing."

She said she had to learn the trade.

"I'm grateful to Gooseberries," Rasch said. "They gave me the opportunity to learn hand's-on, which really is the best way."

But one can't learn to be creative, or can they? In a way, several elements of this story can be traced back to one person.

When Rasch talked about why she likes "American Pickers," she said she grew up around antiques. When asked why she likes floral design, she said she grew up around plants and gardens.

"I credit my creativity to my mother," Rasch said, adding her mom has no problem taking that credit. "She always tells people I get my creativity from her."