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Florist achieves highest ranking

Cara Prescott works at her floral shop, Don’s House of Flowers, in Jamestown. She recently received the prestigious level A accreditation from the American Institute of Floral Designers. John M. Steiner / The Sun

A Jamestown woman is one of three North Dakota florists to be an accredited member of the American Institute of Floral Designers.

Cara Prescott, owner of Don's House of Flowers, took the AIFD examination in 2017 and received her accreditation officially on July 2, 2018. The other two North Dakota florists with the AIFD accreditation are in Minot, she said.

"I have heard other florists describe the AIFD as 'getting your doctorate in floral design,'" Prescott said. "That about sums it up."

The American Institute of Floral Designers is an international professional development resource for the floral design industry with six chapters in North America. The AIFD offers a certified floral designer program in addition to the more intensive accreditation program.

An accreditation designation requires mastery of floral arrangements and handling of fresh flowers, according to the AIFD accreditation materials. There is training and testing on care of fresh flowers along with interpretation, scale, balance, line, color, creativity, unity, focal emphasis and depth of floral arrangements.

Design involves an understanding of balance, rhythm and depth, she said. It's what makes any arrangement look elegant and pretty, Prescott said.

"When the elements and principles are working properly then everything is in line for an arrangement to turn out," she said. "Even someone who does not know design will say, 'Wow, that looks nice.'"

The accreditation is something that customers look for to be confident in quality products but also that the florist is knowledgeable with the latest trends in bridal flowers, sympathy flowers and other styles and arrangements, she said.

"The AIFD will also open doors for me to go into teaching floral design," Prescott said. "That has alway been a dream of mine to teach design myself."

Working toward the accreditation is intimidating in that it requires a substantial amount of work and travel, she said. There are annual training events around the country and the test is expensive and offered only every two years, she said.

The test is translated into five languages, she said. Around half of those tested in 2017 were from countries in Asia and Latin America, she said.

"When I tested the first time it was in Florida, and this last time in Seattle," she said. "The sympiosim is moved around to different parts of the country and the most recent was in Washington, D.C."

Areas with smaller populations and fewer floral shops tend to have fewer AIFD accredited florists, Prescott said. There are more florists in larger cities who pursue the accreditation because the competition is much stronger in metropolitan areas, she said.

Prescott started working at Don's House of Flowers at age 16, when the store was owned by Don McIlravy. She said Mcllravy taught her floral design in exchange for sweeping and dusting.

"He was true to his word and brought me in the industry," she said.

She left Jamestown for a time and continued developing her floral skills by taking classes, she said. She returned to Don's House of Flowers when she moved back to Jamestown and took over the business in 2011 when Mcllravy retired after 40 years in the business.

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