In her debut as an exhibitor at the 1999 Philadelphia Flower Show, Shelby Fraser took a second-place ribbon as a novice in the Medium Niche class. Initially a bit intimidated, Shelby commented on her surprise victory, “I was so excited that I could exhibit at the largest flower show in the world - and then to win a ribbon on top of that. It was a thrill.”
Excited by the competition and encouraged by her success, Shelby - photographer and owner of Sweet Pea Flowers in Philadelphia returned to the 2000 show and tripled her entries with three Niche designs. In a departure from her first year's entry, which won with a simple Asian style, Shelby went all out at her second show. Alas, her entries captured no accolades and, looking back, Shelby is keenly aware of the irony implicit in her experience. Fortunately, she's not in it for the ribbons. To her, it's more about creative expression.
For Shelby, working within a specific space represents both a challenge and the satisfaction of artistic achievement in design competition. “I like the challenge of thinking about a theme and running with it. It reminds me of art school projects that are intellectually and visually challenging, but the materials are different. Here, I'm using living things. Ultimately, I'm interested in how it all works within the space.”
Shelby attended the Niche workshops that PHS offers, where experts discuss materials, techniques, and lighting, as well as offer tips for successful artistic floral design within specific dimensions. She also used an adviser provided through the meetings; in fact, she recommends this training and support to all Flower Show novices.
Undaunted, even spurred by her performance at the 2000 show, Shelby is returning to exhibit on a larger scale. This year, in collaboration with veteran exhibitor (and multiple winner) Susan Essick, their entry is a 10 x 12 foot room design. Enthusiastic about their interpretation of the theme “Black, White and Read All Over,” Shelby says, “We're doing