An Interview with Tori Terzakis

Down the runway, clad in (formerly) living plant material with a monumental headpiece, Victoria (Tori) Terzakis' (BFA '08) latest installation was part of Fleurotica 2013, Chicago's Garfield Park Conservancy Fall Fundraiser. With work as a floral designer that is equal parts structure and atmosphere, the 2008 BFA grad has worked her way up in Chicago.

Fleurotica 2013 installation. Click to view larger images.

In a sense, it all started with her IP project in 2007-2008 when a group of her peers got together to transform what was the then-vacant Liberty Lofts shed space. Picture a cross between a train shed and a covered market — long and relatively narrow, lined with floor to ceiling windows — this building was the perfect gallery, but it had sat empty for two years.

Tori and a group of twelve other senior BFA students took on the challenge. Contacting the landlord, they secured a short term lease agreement and set to work. Raising support from sponsors, and with sweat equity from friends, faculty and family, the student crew did everything from clear out the construction debris to build their own walls. At the opening, the sculptural garments Tori and her peers (Carrie Mather and Laura Andrews) built over their senior year occupied the runway space that ran down the center.

Today, as Lead Designer for Fragrant Design in Chicago, Tori works on events of all scales from the Garfield Park Benefit to weddings, the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup celebration and everything in between. (Curiously, floral design is a particularly cut-throat business.)

Starting in Special Events at the MCA after graduation, this Chicago native recognized that she loved creating environments more than being a sales person. Capitalizing on her opportunities to meet outside vendors and event designers, Tori applied to countless event design companies and worked her way up from retail flower sales to floral designer.

Even with her visual and sculptural talents, Tori was starting out in a new world, filled with traditions from centuries old technical arrangements to biological processes of decay and chemical interactions among flowers. Bit by bit, Tori learned all about plants and taking care of flowers on the job (she jokes that “I think all I really knew was what I may have learned in 5th grade science class about photosynthesis.”).

The experience of creating, producing and staging that student collective show, called The Warehaus (with a nod to the building's history as well as an allusion to the Bauhaus) was Tori's most intense and rewarding life, art, friendship integration experience (before or since really, Tori added) and a great way to launch from school into the world. “Studying and working at Stamps shaped what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it,” Tori says. “Getting involved on every level, and having the pride and ownership to do something fantastic.”

“All the intro classes really shaped my thinking and working, especially CFC and later, Dressing Up and Down with Rebekah Modrak. The courses that asked you to solve a problem conceptually with either limited materials or an open field of material were the best preparation for working in a creative field, where ultimately you are responsible for your own ideas. I learned then what constraints can do for you. Whether it is time or budget, you learn to make something happen. Not a lot of people have those skills. Because I've gone through art school, I know I can solve a problem, match a vision, and have creative confidence.”



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