Life gave us all a beautiful gift: the ability to grow and progress. That is the core message of this interview with Tomas de Bruyne, founder and CEO at Tomas De Bruyne Floral Design, and founder, CEO, and lead instructor of European Master Certification (EMC).
An interview with Tomas De Bruyne
Tomas de Bruyne, you are not only the CEO and lead instructor of the program, but also an internationally acclaimed floral designer. You are also a fierce advocate for the need for education in floristry, so let’s dive into your own personal experience first. How did education contribute to your success?
"Success is strongly connected to the right attitude. You can have a poor attitude as not to believe in opportunities. Or even worse - not believing in yourself. We are all born with a divine spark, I truly believe that, and it is up to us to find it, to reveal our passion and transform it into added value for our community. Purpose, then, comes naturally.
I began my career by going to school, I knew early on I need to step up to the challenge by learning from those who already had the know-how. I have had wonderful teachers and mentors and for a long time have absorbed information and inspiration from so many different sources, as I quickly realized it was impossible to learn just one thing and consider myself a master. It is very important to surround yourself with ‘real teachers’, meaning people who know working in the field, went through the struggles, failures, mistakes, and are willing to share their experiences, knowledge rather than just sticking to a theoretical curriculum. Of course, theory counts, but we have to remember that theory is but the foundation of building a creative designer, it’s the basis on which we build upon, not a purpose in itself.
Unconsciously, I started building the later developed EMC curriculum and the decision on starting this program was strongly determined by my desire to share my knowledge and knowing. And furthermore, I chisel that knowledge by the method I always tell my students. As well, that is: practice, practice, practice!"
From the perspective of experience, where do you see floral education now?
"Nowadays, floral education has to be more than just a flower school just as educators have to be more than a teacher. There should be a drive and ambition to lead students to their next level, to truly make a difference in somebody’s personal growth in becoming a designer.
To take and, if needed, to guide or accompany your students on their own educational journey to let them learn and discover the magic of their design process and their infinite possibilities as a designer. Be prepared to help your students to unlock their divine creative spark in order to unleash their infinite potential to become a conscious and successful designer. That’s the very minimum a teacher should be willing to do for the next generation designers."
You often quote Deepak, by saying: "The most creative act you will ever undertake is the act of creating yourself." Where does this concept fit into education now, as we have for so long considered the process of learning as a process of gathering information?
"First of all, creativity is, by far, the most important skill for success in the 21st century. And it does not refer only to design, it expands to everything we do. Creativity must become the most active virus nowadays and it will transform us. There is no such thing as too much creativity, there is no quantification involved as it has infinite potential. One of the secrets of creativity is when we cultivate flexibility in our consciousness, for we allow us to renew ourselves in every moment and in every creation. Creativity is the ability to collect spare ideas and I strongly believe we need to change the idea of how we think about creativity, just as we need to change the way we see education. It is no longer about the craftsmanship, but more about seeing the potential in each element, so the possibilities of combining them become infinite.
Simplicity is not simple. Don't lose yourself in complexity. Photo by Cohim Flower School Beijing
Furthermore, in order to see the creative spark into yourself, you must clean the windows of perception. This is where education comes into place. I do care and embrace momentum in education. Meaning, a student should experience a steady growth towards the goal of reaching the knowledge to finally get to the stage of knowing how to communicate through our medium. That is what designers are, communicators. And that is the spirit they should educate themselves in.
In EMC we talk about conscious learning, which is so much more than only taking in or capturing the information you get. This old approach to the educational process is too horizontal. Everybody speaks about a learning curve, never about the forget-curve. Did you know that after you read a book or follow an educational course, it takes only 2 days for you to actually forget 80% of the knowledge you think you have acquired? So one, naturally, asks where does the investment goes in this case?
Education today should be focused on the process of learning continuously, of implementing information and building up experience in combination with knowledge."
Why should a floral designer have a conscious and infinite mindset?
"The infinite game is played with known and unknown elements. The rules are always changeable. The perspective is to keep playing the game and be the best of you. A finite player plays to win but an infinite player is playing to keep going. This is one of the reasons, for instance, why we don’t give points to our Foundation Class and Coaching Program. We want to keep the students focused on the true value of the course, to prepare them for the Advance Class where the magic happens. In our educational system, the focus is on understanding the needs of the students and the ever-changing infinite game of the industry. Understanding the game of evolution and who is developing it. And understanding is deeper than knowledge. There are many people who know about flowers but few who really understand them and ‘use’ them as communicators. The loudest voices with the biggest impact are the silent ones.
A floral designer has to unleash creativity towards infinity because our business is connected to the general and common mindset of society. Our industry is a barometer of time, showing what’s hot today and what people feel and are interested in. Colors, moods, designs are changing as fast as the perception and mindset of the people do. Infinite players are competing against themselves while finite ones are competing against everybody else.
That’s the reason the floral educational system has to be taught with this in mind. We have to adapt, focus on the uniqueness of each student and his/her creative added value. As the classic quote says: it’s not about the goal, it’s all about the journey. If you can reach to easy your goals this means you don’t put the bar high enough for yourself."
Isn’t that almost like a recipe for failure, setting up your goals too far high?
"Yes it is! But why is that a bad thing? I always say: go with the choice that scares you the most, because that’s the ONE that’s going to help you grow. Failure and disappointment are part of life, an important part of any growth process. It’s not about the action itself, but how you react to the action that makes life feel alive. Everybody wants growth, but few accept even the concept of pain, let alone pain itself. Everybody wants to be happier and more successful, but few ever change anything to achieve that. Evolving from pain to passion is the story we see in every great artist that humankind produced. We should embrace the lessons of the past.
Plus, if you think about it, the intention is nothing without action and action is nothing without intention. Progress happens when your intentions and actions become the same thing. The goal has to be high enough to keep you motivated and your actions always have to work towards that almost unreachable goal."
So EMC is about the journey of students to reach this infinite potential, but how does one guide such a journey in order to make it a success?
"For students it’s important to ‘catch the right wave’. In order to do this, they should first set up their goal. What do you want to do, where do you want to be in a certain period? Who can be your catalysator for this, thus your mentor?
When you make a choice you inevitably change your future. Even not making a choice counts as one! Of course, that might not be the future you wish for so first you must find your vision by finding your compass. Knowledge in itself is not power anymore! Knowledge can come and go, can be captured and lost again. Knowing is power, and profit as well. So in order for our students to succeed, we focus on the WHY learning process. The access to knowledge is there, but our focus in EMC goes towards creativity, problem-solving, thinking differently, customizing solutions, finding a signature style. The best learners are curious, passionate to absorb the knowledge to lift it up to the knowing process and that is what we nourish in our students.
Circles are symbols of perfection and infinity, stimulating us to push out our frontiers. They are a beacon within our own finiteness. Floral design by Tomas De Bruyne Floral Design. Photo credits: studiopsg.be / Kurt Dekeyzer
I cannot state too many times that a student’s focus should be not on what to learn but how and why to learn. This brings them to the next level. The element WHY is given to conscious designers through the process at EMC and what matters to me the most is reaching the authenticity in what you design. That’s why we are very aware of the students' diversity and individuality and use that to center their learning experience.
The guidance is also evolving around building the mindset of not having creativity, but rather doing creative stuff. When losing yourself in the creative process, the free mindset of the child pops up in you, unleashing its natural-born talents to create. Sharping the creative mind is as sharping your saw BEFORE it cuts the wood.
Be prepared and focused to capture the information, but also to create a new building on that information."
How does the learning process of EMC impact the future of a floral designer?
"We start from the premises that there is no competition. It’s just you versus you. Investing in your own progress and self-development isn’t selfish. It’s self-care in order to bloom and flourish. Self-confidence is the key to become successful.
Fear is a reaction and courage is a decision. Take the decision before life or somebody else is doing it for you. Step outside the comfort zone, for uncertainty, is good soil for pure creativity and freedom. Always fresh, always open, with potential for new ideas. Every moment is an opportunity to direct our attention to ideas that inspire us. Just as I teach from experience, I also talk now from experience. From having now the proof, namely in all the designers who have been through the educational process of EMC, that this is the mindset that has to be achieved in order to have a successful future. Education is not about only making contact with your students, but really connecting with them. By connecting you find out their personal creative potential and ability to bring it to the next level.
Creativity is a journey, not a destination as it should be an infinite goal. Art doesn’t allow to be pushed to creation. Art is a process you have to understand and let it flow. Give yourself the time to grow through an educational journey: your educational journey and the future will change in the sense that you will gain control over it, by being a conscious infinite designer and by building a signature style.
Nowadays and for sure in the future, you have to distance yourself from your product or services and focus yourself on what it can do for you or your client.
People are asking: "what’s success in life?". It’s neither about being the best nor numbers one. Success is a passion with a purpose! And that is the future we build in EMC."
-Tomas De Bruyne