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What's even better than flowers and chocolate for Valentine's Day? Flowers made out of chocolate, of course! Design duo Larry Abel and Raymond McAllister teach us all about this unlikely art form.

At last last month's InStyle Golden Globes Godiva lounge, celebrity guests were dazzled by floor-to-ceiling chocolate flowers, arranged in modern acrylic vases. And last year, the same DIYers who made those flowers designed an entire set made from Godiva chocolates -- from ornate chandeliers to fireplace logs to, of course, flowers. Both displays were grand -- the kind of thing you'd think would take years of intense training.

valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersOversized chocolate flowers at the Godiva lounge at the 2010 Golden Globes. Photo: InStyle

But the event designers behind these works of candy art are actually self-taught crafters. Larry Abel and Raymond McAllister, who now run the event design company "abel mcallister de-signs," were your average 9-to-5-ers before leaving their day jobs to pursue their passion. Abel, formerly the Senior VP of Brand Marketing for Mars, Inc. -- yep, the chocolate company -- and McAllister, who's worked as the Visual Manager for the Chicago Old Navy flagship store, now plan and execute elaborate designs for bold-name events ranging from the People Magazine Grammy Party and Entertainment Weekly's Upfronts to the upcoming Piaget Lounge at the Independent Spirit Awards and the Godiva Bar at the Elton John Oscar Party.

valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowers, godiva lounge, larry abel, raymond mcallisterLarry Abel and Raymond McAllister

Oh, and the duo doesn't just work with chocolate. In fact, Abel and McAllister pride themselves on working with a range of unlikely mediums. We spoke with the designers about their outside-the-box art works, what it's like to work with chocolate -- and what they're getting (and giving) this Valentine's Day (hint: it's not necessarily chocolate).

Want to make a chocolate flower for your sweetie this V-Day? Scroll down to get step-by-step directions -- plus photos! -- for this surprisingly easy (and totally romantic) Valentine's Day project.


DIY Life: How would you define your work -- which is very visual and conceptual -- in words?

Raymond McAllister: We bring vision and concepts to life, and create something out of nothing.

DIY: What is your experience with creating works of art, and how did you transition from your former careers into your current ones?

Larry Abel: Art has always been a hobby and and I've always liked texture and using interesting mediums. When I was a kid, it was macaroni and coffee grounds. Today, it's everything from flip flops to makeup. Our former careers were something we did to make a living until we could get to this point: now, our careers have become synonymous with our art.

RM: I've always been creative. Halloween was (and still is) one of my favorite holidays. I can remember helping my mom make costumes using everything from aluminum foil and cardboard to make The Tin Man to a black-dyed mop-head to make an egyptian wig. In a way my career has been a natural progression; even though I started in a very corporate environment, I always found ways to use my creativity.

DIY: What mediums do you work in? And what draws you to work in unexpected mediums?

LA: We've made art out of toasted chips, Havianas flip-flops, candy, make-up, vegetables, tennis equipment, clothing. What really draws us to these mediums is our clients and their products, and seeing how creative we can get with them.

valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowers, godiva lounge, larry abel, raymond mcallisterInStyle

DIY: What were the circumstances that led you to working with chocolate?

LA: When we started working with Godiva, we wanted to really challenge ourselves to find a creative way to engage people with the brand. It more or less grew from there. But who wouldn't love to work with chocolate? You get to eat your mistakes!

DIY: Is chocolate an easy or difficult medium to work with? How so? What are some of the benefits and drawbacks of chocolate as a building material?

RM: Chocolate is a very difficult medium to work with because it involves a precise understanding of a a number of factors. Chocolate is actually quite delicate, which is what makes it challenging – its not easy to retain the integrity and beauty of each piece. The benefit is it's breathtaking and people respond well to it – the drawback is it's short shelf–life, if you're not careful, it will (literally) melt!

DIY: What tools, materials and conditions are required for working with chocolate?

RM: You need a very cool workspace, tempering pot, brushes, knives, spatulas, chisels -- and patience.

DIY: Is chocolate a medium that an everyday DIYer could work with to some degree? Would you recommend it to people who are crafterly or DIY-minded?

RM: Well I think everyone who's creative can find interesting ways to work with new materials. It just takes patience, creativity and a willingness to work in trial and error.

LA: And a lot of counter space.

DIY: Do you think chocolate is a romantic medium? If so, why? Did you learn more about chocolate since you've been working with it? What did you learn?

LA: Chocolate is a romantic medium because it's very sensuous and indulgent. I've learned quite a few things since we've started working with chocolate. For example, working with white chocolate is actually far more difficult than working with milk or dark chocolate. I've also learned not to put chocolate next to the fireplace.

RM: Working with chocoalte has its own personality. The more you work with it, the more you learn what you can do to it. Different types of chocolate have different melting points, and can react differently as a finished product.

DIY: Are you giving each other Valentines this year?

RM: I already gave Larry his gift: an iPod Nano, in red. A portion of the proceeds benefit Project (RED).

LA: I thought of giving Raymond chocolate.

DIY: What medium would you like to work in that you haven't gotten a chance to yet?

LA and RM: Diamonds, marbles and office supplies!


HOW TO MAKE CHOCOLATE FLOWERS
Want to try your own hand at a chocolate flower for your valentine? Abel and McAllister were kind enough to walk us through the process, petal by petal. We think a gift like this would make anyone sweet on you!

valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymond McAllister

SUGGESTED MATERIALS
1 cup Godiva 72% Dark Melting Chocolate (chocolate chips)
1 cup Godiva Milk Chocolate Covered Cashews (small candies of your choice)
3 Godiva 72% Dark Chocolate Bars (chocolate bars)
8 Godiva Midnight Swirl Chocolates (any similar chocolates)
1 Godiva White Praline Heart (similar chocolate w/ contrasting color)
1 electric skillet
1 ASI clear acrylic vase
1 rubber spatula
Various paint brushes

valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymond McAllister

Step 1: Pour 1 cup melting chocolates into electric skillet.

valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymond McAllister

Step 2: Melt chocolate on low heat, stirring constantly.

valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymond McAllister

Step 3: Use a paintbrush to apply melted chocolate to one end of a chocolate bar.

valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymong McAllister

Step 4: Attach another chocolate bar to the painted area of the first chocolate bar to create the "stem."

valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymond McAllister

Step 5: Break the third chocolate bar into two even pieces.

valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymond McAllister

Step 6: Paint melted chocolate on the face of both pieces of the broken chocolate bar.

valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymond McAllister

Step 7: Attach the broken Chocolate Bar pieces face down to the top of the "Stem" Bars as shown in the photos

valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymond McAllister

Step 8: Paint melted chocolate on the corner of 4 Midnight Swirls

valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymond McAllister

Step 9: Attach the 4 Midnight Swirls as shown in the configuration in the photo

valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymond McAllister

Step 10: Repeat the process of adding melted chocolate to the remaining 4 Midnight Swirls and attach to stem creating the "Petals" as shown in the photo

valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowersLarry Abel and Raymon McAllister

Step 11: Apply melted chocolate to the White Praline Heart and attach in the center of the "Petals"

valentine s day gift ideas, valentine's day, chocolate flowerschocolate flowers

Step 12: Add the Milk Chocolate Covered Cashews to the ASI Vase. Display the flower in the vase as shown



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