John Grady Burns, Our Primary Instructor
John is a native of Natchez, Mississippi, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Horticulture and Floral Management from Mississippi State University.
Upon graduating, he was invited to travel to Washington, D.C. to create floral designs for the White House, The Blair House, numerous embassies, and other assorted foreign and domestic dignitaries.
In the mid-1980’s John moved to Atlanta, where he successfully pursued a career in both retail and special event design. His prestige and skill allowed him to enlist numerous famous individual clients, and corporate accounts like the Ritz Carlton Atlanta. In 1992 he was contacted by Kennesaw State University to begin his teaching career, and has enjoyed 14 years of teaching students the art of floral design. 5 years ago HAFDS was lucky enough to be able to entice him away from KSU, and proudly install him as our Primary Instructor. He has immensely enjoyed the last 5 years here, and is proud to have personally taught more than 900 of our students to date.
He has worked with cutting-edge designers internationally, including Kenneth Turner (London), and is often featured in major floral and design publications. Recently, John won Best in Show; Professional Division in the Southeastern regional flower show in Atlanta, Ga. He continues to lecture and lead demonstrations and flower programs across the country.
John’s two current books are amazing exposés of his floral artistry. Personally Yours is filled with amazing floral creations for weddings and social events. You can peruse Personally Yours at PersonallyYoursFlowers.
John’s other current book is simply entitled Evergreen, and is a comprehensive look at Christmas and holiday opulence. Filled cover to cover with stunning photos and amazing displays, it can be viewed and purchased at EvergreenColoursoftheSeason.
Laura Taylor received her Certification in Floral Design from the famed New York Botanical Garden and has worked with some of the most distinguished and cutting edge designers from around the world. While trained in many styles of design, it is Laura’s ability to capture the personality of her clients and add a dash of fun that makes every event unique and special.
After moving from New York City to Atlanta, Laura opened The Perfect Stem Floral and Event Design. Clients include celebrities, professional athletes, Fortune 100 companies, and discerning brides. Her events have ranged from Halloween displays for NBC in New York to awards banquets for 35,000 attendees in Dallas to fabulous, culturally diverse weddings in Atlanta.
Laura’s many awards include: The Knot magazine’s ‘Best of’ award for 2007, 2008, 2009 and the recently announced current year ‘Best of’ award for 2011 as voted by Georgia brides. She is a two time winner of the Industry Visionary award and a Professional of the Year recipient from Atlanta’s Professional Wedding Guild. Her work has been featured in several issues of The Perfect Wedding Guide, Atlanta Bride and The Knot magazines and she has been featured as a ‘trend expert’ in multiple episodes of the nationally syndicated Get Married television program.
“I love the flowers, the unlimited ideas that come to fruition, and the amazing connections I make with my clients and associates,” Laura always says. “At the end of the day, my face hurts from smiling.”
Valarie Bell is a 25 year floral industry veteran with thousands of award winning weddings and corporate events in her portfolio. Her love of flowers began with her retail floral work, and culminated in a 10 year career with Event Design Group (then a $16.5 million dollar per year Atlanta based event company).
A specialist in designing large scale events, Valarie has designed, directed, and executed affairs nationwide with corporate clients such as Home Depot, Georgia Tech, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), Susan G. Komen Foundation, King and Spalding, ACOG (Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games ’96), and many more.
Her wedding clients have been brides from all walks of life, with budgets ranging from thousands to millions of dollars. Lavish receptions, stunning ceremonies, and exquisite floral design tastefully suited to each and every bride are trademarks of Valarie’s work. Each new event is greeted with open arms, a warm smile, and shrewd business sense.
Her design skills are secondary only to her business acumen in what is one of the more difficult perishable luxury enterprises. Her class “Proposals and Profitability” is one of HAFDS’ most sought after programs and has taught a generation of floral designers how to satisfy their clients while maintaining a high profit ratio.
Valarie currently operates a successful floral design firm (With Bells On) with her daughter Jessica Bell , and spends her weekends teaching classes with Halls Atlanta Floral Design School.