Local floral artist wins top prize

Published 3:36 pm Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sherrye Gilman hones her floral skills working on arrangements at Coley's Petals and Parties

Whether it is meticulously designed, large-scale productions or a floral arrangement made in a mere two hours, Sherrye Gilman can do it all. Earlier this month, Gilman, who is part of the team at Coley’s Petals and Parties, walked away from Montgomery with the coveted Alabama Cup from the Alabama State Florists Association.

As part of Gilman’s win, she gets to hold the traveling trophy for the next year. The trophy has the names of past winners dating back to 1989 engraved on it. Next year, Gilman’s name will be added to the trophy.

Cathy Coley said Gilman’s win reflects positively on the company and all of its employees.

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“We’re just so proud of her accomplishment,” Coley said.

In order to win the Alabama Cup, the instructions were explicit and the time window was two hours.

“It is stressful, but you just kind of do it,” Gilman said. “You just take all of your experience that you’ve had.”

While two hours sounds intimidating, some competitions make floral designers do their work literally on the spot. With the Alabama Cup, they were given some advance notice.

“We were given the theme only a week in advance, so you do have a week to kind of get it together,” Gilman said.

Nevertheless, guidelines required contestants to provide all their own materials, to include a combination of fresh flowers, greens and plant materials as the main part of the design, a three inch by five inch index card expressing the designer’s interpretation of the theme, and the design could only take up a certain amount of space or it would be disqualified.

Gilman said Coley makes a concerted effort that all employees have a chance to learn and grow.

“The business has grown. Every year, we go to state conventions,” Gilman said. “It’s a really good time for learning.”

The conventions and workshops provide information on new and up-and-coming items of interest in the floral industry. According to Gilman, the conventions give everyone a shared sense of unity.

“It’s a growing thing and if you grow together, it helps the entire industry,” Gilman said.

In addition to Gilman’s first place win in interpretive design, she also came away with third place honors in the wreath competition.

Gilman said attending competitions has also been a way for her to grow as a floral designer.

“It’s nice when you can step out there and compete,” Gilman. “Doing that helps you hone your real-world talent.”

Gilman enjoys the frantic nature of being involved in a competition.

“It’s this feeling you get,” Gilman said. “It’s kind of a rush.”

While competition can bring out the best in Gilman, she said she also benefitted greatly from feedback provided by judges. Floral designers were given a score based on a total of 100 points with multiple categories included.

“I was really interested in having all of their feedback,” Gilman said. “It was very valuable. It only helps you improve.”

Being able to perform well under pressure is helpful when you have only a short amount of time to fill an order with little room for error.

Gilman said that is a frequent occurrence in her line of work.

She first started performing floral design while working in Gulf Breeze. It was an outlet that helped relieve stress from her other job. Her interest in floral design is nothing new.

“I have loved it for many, many years,” Gilman said. “It’s fulfilling and coming to work and smelling flowers is really nice.”

In addition to a therapeutic quality, floral design has also helped stimulate her creativity.

“It’s fun to use other pieces of nature in your work,” Gilman said. “It’s kind of fun to find things and think in your mind ‘how can I use that?’”

Gilman first moved to Atmore in 2007. Several years later, she’s a firm believer in the town.

“I like the fact that it’s a close-knit little town where people know people,” Gilman said. “People will help you.”

She added that people not only look out for each other, they also celebrate together and such a sense of community is heartening to see.

As for what her favorite type of floral design is, Gilman said, “I like to design centerpieces, big- scale birthday parties. I like to do church pieces. I like anything. It is fun to try new things.”

For the competition, Gilman wrote on her note card, “When we embrace our passion, we are truly home.”

Gilman, then, is assuredly home.