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  • Writer's pictureTracy Rowbottom

Getting into the Chelsea 2017 Final

I have had the urge to compete at Chelsea again for some time and have dabbled at other Chelsea heats but when I saw this competition brief I knew it was for me, "Create a structural arrangement for a wedding being held at the Tate Modern Gallery".

I attended sculpture classes at the RWA in Clifton Bristol and spent a lovely summer working part time as a sculptors assistant in the Wye Valley to learn some new techniques and to gain an insight into her thought process when creating a new design. I love nothing better than combining my floristry skills with my sculptural ideas.

So to the idea, initially I built two pieces out of lovely textured bark sections that I intended to entwine with lace tendrils constructed from coloured glue, embroidery threads, string and tiny scraps of flower laced hand made paper ready for the first heat in Bath. Unfortunately I couldn't attend this heat and the design got set aside. I travel all over and so I kept missing the heats, time was cracking on and it got to February and I realized if I didn't pin my colours to the mast now I would miss the chance for this year and so I booked a place at the last heat at Myerscough College and frantically got to work.

I found a gorgeous root ball at Country Baskets and my whole idea spiraled (literally) from that. I wanted to bring in the harmony of the five elements of nature, wood, fire, metal, earth and water. I thought not only would this create a great modern piece but the symbolism is appropriate for a wedding. I gathered together my raw materials, mild steel, glass tiles, roots and root balls and headed of to my Dads lovely woodworking and engineering workshop to build my creation.

We bent the steel around the anvil and then I started to form the shape, drilling and bolting at the joins. I wanted an open sphere shape to shadow my root ball base. I added tiny little opaque glass tiles and then suspended a piece of root that we had carved into shape and singed with the blow torch to create a colour and texture to match my root ball. I added the lace sections I made for my previous design in a beautiful flowing curve to shadow the shape of design and add a sense of movement. I had my base ready now to add flowers.

In the week running up to the heat I was working away from home and so I didn't make a start on the floral elements until Friday, I was panicking that this wasn't enough time but actually I think it helped, no faffing around!

The design grew and evolved as I worked on it. I used both cultivated fresh flowers and plants, branches and blossom from my mum's garden. I love to include an element of gathered fresh materials because it allows me to select things that have grown in a way that naturally enhances my designs. When I finished it late on Saturday evening I was delighted with my finished piece but by the time I came to load it into the car on Sunday Morning I was full of self doubt and nearly didn't go on my epic journey to Myerscough College in Preston (a mere four hour drive). Luckily my family bullied me into it and we set off.

I dropped off my design for judging and then we set off to a very windy and cold Blackpool for Fish and Chips! I have never been before so it was lovely to take the opportunity to visit such a wonderful place.

I am so glad I did decide to compete this year. I thoroughly enjoyed working on such a creative project and it bought back lots of lovely memories of my previous Chelsea Medals and all of the wonderful floristry experiences I have had and guess what??


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