A new career is set to blossom
Arranging flowers is not a job exclusively for genteel ladies; it is also a field in which gifted males can display their talent.
Lu Yiwei, a 19-year-old from Shanghai, proved his floristry skills by winning the gold medal at the 45th WorldSkills Competition in Kazan, Russia, last month.
"The stereotype is that floristry is a profession suitable for girls," he said. "But actually, it's not an easy job because it requires physical work, such as moving wood and large, heavy flowerpots-things that are used when creating works-which requires strength."
Born in December 2000, Lu was accepted by the Shanghai Construction Engineering School-a key State vocational establishment-in 2017, a year after he graduated from junior high school at age 16.
"When I enrolled in the school, the first thing I learned was landscape architecture. Then my teacher told me that maybe I should study floristry because he felt I was gifted in that area," he said with a laugh.
Lu said he was unsure about the suggestion because he knew nothing about the topic. "All I knew at the time was that my upperclassman (in the floristry major) had won the 44th WorldSkills Competition in Abu Dhabi in 2017."
His trip to Kazan was exciting and stressful, but he treasures the memory.
"I didn't stand out during the World-Skills trials, which were held in March last year, as there were so many experienced and superior competitors," he said. "But I was always optimistic about my performances and results. I think my sanguine attitude brought me opportunities and the final honor."
According to Lu, he was selected as one of 10 candidates in the national team for the floristry project in September last year after winning the knock-out stage at the end of March. That success gave him the opportunity to compete in the 45th World-Skills.
He said he had an ever-present fear during the competition because the pressure grew as the event progressed.
He added that the competitors were required to complete nine sections in 1,340 minutes during the four-day competition, including designing table fleurs, chaplets and cut-flower decorations.
"Because the competition was held in Russia, the works we designed had to include Russian elements. We were given all our assignments about 15 minutes before the competition started, which was highly demanding because we had to come up with design proposals for all the sections in such a short time," he said.
"It was also a test of the contestants' physical strength as you had to stand there doing the work for such a long time."
The master flower-arranger was at a low ebb as he prepared for the competition.
"I had undergone several trials since the first city-level tryout in Shanghai in March last year. In fact, I got really good results during the trials, and I swelled with pride when I got the opportunity to represent the national team at the 45th WorldSkills," he said.
"However, almost two weeks before I was involved in the final training session in July, I was starved of ideas, which was terrible for a competitor whose project required new ideas, not just skills. I adapted to my new identity in time, thanks to my coaches who guided me with their patience and scientific training courses."
Lu has not become complacent about his performance or winning the competition. Since returning from Russia, he has started a new life at the Shanghai Institute of Technology, again studying landscape architecture.
"Knowledge is of great importance from my perspective, even though I have the skills. If a person has the skills, but lacks knowledge, he won't be a qualified talent," he said.
"Many of my peers were pleased after winning medals at the competition, but they lost their drive. I won the world championship at the age of 19, but I know that it's not my final destination. I want to explore more new talents within myself."
He said he plans to start his own floristry workshop after graduation. "There is a great shortage of top-notch floristry workshops in China due to a lack of world-class mentors. I hope I can start my workshop in the near future to help produce more talent in the field."