Cloquet woman takes floral skills to new heights
While most folks barely know a hyacinth from a hydrangea, a Cloquet woman is about to elevate her skill at floristry to a national level.
Gretchen Rogers of Moose Lake Florists will compete on Sept. 21 in the 46th Annual Sylvia Cup Design Competition during the Society of American Florists' (SAF's) 129th Annual Convention in Phoenix. The grand prize winner receives $3,000; first runner-up wins $500 and second runner-up will be awarded $250.
The Sylvia Cup Design Competition is similar to Food Network's "Iron Chef." Contestants are given two hours, the same amount of flowers and supplies, and a surprise task. A panel of three design experts will then evaluate the contestants' work on several factors, including originality, color and mechanics.
The competition is open to florists and designers across the country and they must be sponsored to compete.
"Ardith Beveridge of Koehler and Dramm Institute of Floristry believed that this was something I was capable of and told me that the Institute of Floristry would sponsor me," said Rogers. "It is an honor to be one of the 23 designers chosen to be a part of this competition."
Though Rogers has not competed or seen this event in person before, she has competed four times at the state level: three times at the Koehler & Dramm Designer of the Year competition -- where she has received the People's Choice award three times and has finished as high as second runner up -- and once at the Minnesota State Fair, where she placed in the top 10.
"I think people are surprised sometimes that there are competitions for floral design," Rogers acknowledged. "I have done similar style competitions, where you don't know what you will be designing with until you are on stage, with lots of people watching. At the Koehler Designer of the Year competition we have five minutes to look at the product and theme and 25 minutes to create a design for that theme. It is stressful, but I really enjoy doing it."
Though Rogers admitted it is pretty hard to prepare for this time of event ahead of time since contestants don't know what flowers, products or themes they will be given until the time of the competition, she said she does try to stay up to date on current trends in the industry.
"I am continually trying out new ideas," she said.
This is Rogers' eighth year at Moose Lake Florists. Prior to that time she had done some wedding work for friends using artificials but had no formal training.
"I never thought I would actually get a chance to work at a florist's shop," she said, "but God worked that out. I was looking for a change in jobs and I thought I would check out the area shops and see if any were hiring. I was told I should check out Carlton Floral, owned by Lana and Keith Newman. (They now own Moose Lake Florists.) As it turned out, the previous employee's last day was two days before I called. I am so thankful that Lana took a chance on me!"
Rogers, a Cloquet resident, said her favorite type of floral design it the Japanese art form known as Ikebana, a minimalist form of floral design that emphasizes the shape, line and form of all parts of the materials.
"I love the unusual and unique," she said.
That flair should serve her well in the prestigious competition, and Rogers said she is up for the challenge.
"I am very excited!" she said. "I will also be attending the Society of American Florists Convention so I will have the opportunity to learn so much. I am also nervous because I am competing with some very talented designers from across the country!"