"The truth is, I'm so blessed to nurture gifts and use them to facilitate dreams and transform the lives of my amazing clients every day."
"I'm Janel Bailey Keen"
Janel Bailey Keen
Photo credit Echard Wheeler Photography
Executive Director, Principal Event Designer, Certified Floral Designer, Artist, Visionary, Instructor, Hopeless Romantic, Friend, Wife, Mother, Great Hugger, Foodie, and Creative Spirit.
I live for that moment when...
"I live for that moment when I can see pure bliss on a couple's face when they see all their dreams come to life on their big day. I admit, I love knowing I was able to make that happen for them. Also, it's the buzz, gasps, and visceral reactions from a crowd when they step into a room we've designed for the first time and are completely "WOWed" by what we did. And, of course, I love helping my students by inspiring them to discover their vision and nurture their gifts. I never get tire of seeing that look of "ah-ha" light up their faces. I don't take for granted that we literally help people live out their dreams by creating living, breathing artistic experiences of art on a regular basis. I'm so honored to be able to use my gifts to do this but I maybe I'm getting a little ahead of myself. Let me start by sharing with you how I got here."
"I truly believe no two people are the same and neither are their stories - everyone deserves an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime day as unique as they are."
- Janel Bailey Keen
Wait, how did I get here?
So, after decades (yes, over 20 years) in the arts, marketing, entertainment, tourism, education, communications, and technology industries since the early 90’s... how did I get into special events & weddings? Well, like a lot of event professionals, I got into this field after my own wedding. But, UN-LIKE a lot of pros, my wedding took place just hours after the Governor of Virginia issued a "State of Emergency'". Yep, I got married only 2 days after Hurricane Isabel completely devastated Virginia in 2003. Can you imagine? Picture this, 2/3s of the state lost power, there was severe flooding, buildings damaged, trees turned over, and dozens of other heartbreaking obstacles to face just before the day I had dreamed of for nearly a year.
What happened next?
Despite all those crushing challenges we still pulled of an wonderful wedding, I married by best friend, and guests were amazed and told us it was, ‘the most beautiful wedding they'd ever been to’. Now, was it in fact the wedding day experience I'd dreamed of... not at all. And as you can guess pulling it off wasn't easy at all either. In fact, it was one of the most humbling experiences of my life but it did teach me a lot and I'd like to share a little of what I learned.
Demonstration of a "Live Event Painting" by Janel Bailey Keen at Chrysler Museum
Photo credit Fresh look Photography
What did I learn?
Thanks to this near natural disaster I learned so much, especially what it's like to be the client (or in this case, "be the bride"). Weddings are not like a company picnic or holiday party. There won't be a committee meeting 3 months later to talk about "how we can do better next time"... there is no "next time". Just like much of life, it's a "one-time-shot" and it's a highly, emotionally charged day.
So I'll admit, as a Bride I wish I had hired a professional to help me. No, they couldn't have stopped a hurricane but they could have taken a LOT of pressure off of me, my family, and my friends. They could have anticipated problems I didn't know to look for, engineered solutions, handled logistics, and (as I later found out after I became a special events professional myself) could have accessed resources I never knew existed. So, even today this is something I never take for granted and keep in mind from the very beginning of a project.
When she sent me her sketches, I thought I was in love, until I saw the final product and realized that the drawings just couldn't do it justice. The ceremony room was gorgeous, and she had the perfect accessories to accent her beautiful arrangements. My bouquet was out of this world, and managed to capture our wedding colors perfectly. The centerpieces for the reception were jaw-dropping."
- Samantha "Sam" K.,
Discovering a "pretty" problem
As you get to know me you'll find that I really do believe everything happens for a reason and even the most difficult situations have a valuable purpose. Going through this experience taught me few more incredible lessons too. You see, during my own wedding planning I noticed something that was really strange to me. I rarely saw any real "Art & Design" principles being use in the wedding design process. I've been working in the arts for as long as I can remember and it seemed that from design budget management to production schedules to installation logistics, there were huge gasps of practical information. And of course this bothered me. I could only imagine the thousands of exhausted Mothers hiking up their beautiful gowns to climb ladders or spending un-necessary hours handling items they'll never use again instead of happily floating home in the joyous glow of their son or daughter's special day.
Here's what you'll see a lot of. You'll see craft store with lots of party or wedding products, blogs on tips & trends, and a tons of online inspiration. Here's what I didn't see. Actual, professional design industry techniques or that tapped into a process that would cohesively bring things together. It's usually one of two things. First is the "copy & pastes" approach. You know, start gathering or pinning a bunch of pretty pics that may or may not be in the same color scheme because they "like the look of..." Of course, there's the other way which is more often then not it was just buy, orderings or even renting a bunch of random pretty things that may fit a general idea.
What could I do about it?
Now, as an artist I love the idea of self expression. Of taking what you like about something you've seen before and making it your own. Where's the solution for those who wanted to show their own uniqueness or be the designs other people would want to copy?
I wanted to incorporate these techniques to create breathtaking cohesive vision and artistic masterpieces my clients could actually experience. As for my goals, well, I know I'm not the best fit for everyone and honestly, I'm ok with that. I really want everyone to find their perfect match for them, even if it's not with me. After all, if you find the right fit for you then that opens the door for me connect with person I'm meant to work with. As a result, I have the most amazing clients and my clients love my artistic approach, personalized style, and really curating their experience around them.
Neither of us are interested just "copying & pasting" and creating "cookie-cutter" designs. I love to guide them through maximizing the look for their investment to "WOW" their guests and I love helping them orchestrate their unforgettable event or stunningly creative project seamlessly. It's about taking their preferences, style, what inspires them, or event their personal brand to tell their story.
Floral designing in progress by Janel Bailey Keen at Norfolk Botanical Gardens
Photo credit Josh Boone Photography
Work History Snapshot
Janel possesses decades of experience in marketing, tourism, training & instruction, public speaking, technology, entertainment industry, and the arts.
Formally trained Artist (BFA degree in 1995)
Certified Floral Designer (since 2008)
AllSeated floor plan software Certified
Scheduling Assistant (Booking Agent);
Young Audiences of Virginia
Assistant to Dir of Children's Programs;
Virginia Arts Festival
Educational Interpreter (Instructional Guide)
Museum Exhibit Installations;
PR & Marketing Director;
Animax LTD. (Animation Studio)
Decipher Inc. (Entertainment & Gaming Studio)
Contract Corporate Trainer (Sales & IT);
Marketing Contractor (Secret Security Clearance);
U.S. Air Force
Welcome to Vivid Expressions!
And this brings me to the last thing I learned. You see, I truly believe everything happens for a reason and this taught me that many of my past communications skills, development expertise, technical knowledge, organizational skills, and creative talents all came to together under the umbrella of special events. I know what can possibly go wrong and how horrible it feels to worry and get disappointed on what should be one of the most fantastic days of your life. I knew I wanted to help people and use my gifts and if I could help someone not go through what I went through then I definitely wanted to be a part of that too.
So, after 3 years of researching and learning the industry, business, joining top organizations, and really building an amazing network of resources I opened the doors (so to speak) to Vivid Expressions LLC in 2006. Then, it became my full-time job in 2009. In 2016 we moved into our current studio location and I continue to look for ways to to create, grow, teach, and make amazing things happen.