Flowers are among the most vital cash crops in agriculture worldwide. In Taiwan, the flower industry has flourished in the past 30 years. According to the tax agency, the number of flower shops registered as a profit-seeking business since 1970 is ≈8500 (Taiwan Ministry of Finance, 2017). In 2016, however, the transaction volume of the flower market declined by 10% (Chen, 2017), and the number of flower shops in operation decreased to ≈3500 (Taiwan Ministry of Finance, 2017). The main causes of the decreased transaction volume were climate change, economic recession, and low professional competence of florists (Chen, 2017; Chou, 2017). The main services currently provided by Taiwan flower shops include general table flower design, bouquet packaging, and venue decoration for weddings or funerals. Relevant floriculture courses are rarely offered as part of formal education; therefore, most practitioners acquire their basic design skills through apprenticeships, nongovernmental organizations, or institutes that promote adult education. Additionally, the Taiwan government has not implemented a system for testing the skills of floriculture practitioners (Chou, 2017). All of these factors have contributed to the limited ability of florists to design floral products that attract the interest of consumers, which, in turn, has contributed to the weak consumer market. Therefore, how to enhance the professionalism of florists is a topic that should be explored to revitalize the flower industry in Taiwan.
Creativity of floral designers can substantially affect the attractiveness and values of floral products. Studies have shown that when consumers purchase products, their choices are based on the image created by the products (Khalid, 2006), and that image is determined by shaping. Shaping is a key determinant of the appeal of a floral product because of its large effects on the purchase intention and satisfaction of the consumer (Schmitt and Simonson, 1997). For example, large wholesale flower markets in Taiwan sell a bouquet of 20 roses (Rosa hybrida) for ≈$9 (US dollars) (Taiwan Agriculture and Food Agency, 2017). However, after shaping and packaging in flower shops operated by prominent floral designers, those same roses are sold for up to $126 (US dollars) (Taipei Florist, 2017). Therefore, shaping can increase the value of a floral product by up to 10-fold after packaging costs are deducted. By using their ingenuity, designers can transform low-price flowers into sophisticated shapes and combinations, which can decrease the price sensitivity of consumers and increase sales profits (Floristware, 2017). Therefore, shaping of floral materials is an essential skill for floriculture designers and an essential component of a floriculture curriculum.
Floriculture design is a visual art (Henss et al., 2006). Shaping in floral design is the use of techniques such as trimming, weaving, pasting, tying, wrapping, layering, and threading to transform the original shape of floral materials to express an abstract idea (Chou, 2017); therefore, shaping is considered a creative activity (Sotirova-Kohli, 2009). Creativity has been described as an aggregation of multiple personal characteristics, including personality traits (Sternberg and Lubart, 1995) and spatial abilities (Gardner, 1983). For example, studies have shown that individuals who have highly creative personality traits (e.g., independent thinking and curiosity) tend to not only exhibit good shaping ability in arts and crafts but also perform well in mathematics and science (Mallappa and Upadhyaya, 1977). Additionally, workers with excellent spatial abilities tend to have superior professional and technical performance (Wanzel et al., 2002).
In the past, introductory training in floriculture design commonly included practice in the use of geometric figures such as semi-circles, triangles, horizontal shapes, C shapes, and S shapes to cultivate skills in judging angles and spatial abilities (Alexander, 2010). Researchers have also used floriculture design activities to improve the visuospatial working memory of patients with schizophrenia and have demonstrated associations between floricultural design skills and spatial abilities (Mochizuki-Kawai et al., 2016). Creative personality traits and spatial ability are positively associated with academic performance (Ai, 1999; Ganley and Vasilyeva, 2011) and socioeconomic status (Castillo-Vergara et al., 2018; Levine et al., 2005); however, spatial ability is positively associated with age during childhood but negatively associated with age during adulthood (Techentin et al., 2014). Although spatial ability tends to be superior in men compared with women (Wei et al., 2016), gender differences in creative personality traits have not been established (Prado and Fleith, 2016).
Based on the aforementioned research, the variables explored in this study were the creative personality traits and spatial abilities of university students. A clear understanding of the relationships between creativity in shaping floriculture materials and shaping skills would have practical applications for floriculture teachers interested in using diverse teaching methods to attract the interest of students.
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