2023 Speaker Profile: GINA LETT-SHREWSBERRY
SOURCING LOCAL FLOWERS FOR YOUR WEDDING DESIGNS: Gina Lett-Shrewsberry is a Northern California-based wedding florist and owner of Inspirations by Gina. She is the first Black florist on San Francisco's City Hall's preferred vendor list and she is frequently seen on local television as a floral lifestyle expert. Gina works closely with Sacramento area flower farmers to source botanicals for her designs and she will discuss how to build relationships with flower farmers to create a distinct aesthetic for your portfolio.
Portraits (c) Bloom Photography Gina Lett-Shrewsberry’s business associate Bob is shedding and it’s time for him to retire. “Bob is gone, Barry is going to be the next one,” Gina says with a laugh. Bob is a large installation piece—a chicken wire frame “burrito” stuffed with foliage—she’s been using in her wedding and event work. Reusing, repurposing, and reimagining underpin the florist’s business Inspirations by Gina, as do her great sense of humor and a willingness to leap in where others may hesitate. Take her most recent client, for instance. She’s just taken on the dream project, a sort of “over the top” wedding she’s been hoping to tackle one day, and the 300-guest high-profile event is just 30 days out. Gina’s background as a wedding planner, her profession before she became a full-time florist, will come in handy, as will her familiarity with the venue—San Francisco City Hall, where she is a preferred vendor.
“People used to think that sustainability means you’re a hippie, or that [your designs are] cheap or use all greenery,” she says, “but sustainable can also be luxurious.”
The splashiness of the event, and her commitment to sustainability, is testament to Gina’s vision that being eco-friendly can be elegant and scaled up. “People used to think that sustainability means you’re a hippie, or that [your designs are] cheap or use all greenery,” she says, “but sustainable can also be luxurious.”
For Gina, sustainability starts at home—“I have to take care of myself,” she says—and extends to the end of the event where she tries to ensure that nothing goes to the landfill. If the bride and groom are not going to take the flowers, she’ll create bouquets for nursing homes or shares extra blooms with neighbors. “I want that love to spread,” says Gina, “That’s what sustainability means to me, that it’s not just for one day, that it’s extended out.”
Making the shift from wedding planning to floristry came to Gina as a result of that commitment to self-sustainability. “I was getting burned out, so I started to try to understand my ‘why.’ Why did I get into wedding planning in the first place?” With introspection she determined that what she really loved was the design part of the business, so she enrolled in floral design courses at the local community college. After trying to do both planning and floral design for a while, she knew she had to choose one path. “I was scared that no one would hire me as a floral designer, but I just manifested it and stepped out on faith,” she says.
She did her last wedding contract in October 2019 and was in the process of shifting to floral design when the pandemic hit. Although she couldn’t see it clearly at first, the crisis opened up possibilities that being a wedding planner never would have—after all, venues were closing and weddings were off, but socially distanced floral delivery was still possible. Between birthdays, funerals, and other events, including a big boost at Mother’s Day 2020, she stayed afloat and Inspirations by Gina was launched.
Today, Gina is a much sought-after designer who does a bulk of her wedding work at San Francisco City Hall. There’s a steep vetting process to get on the preferred vendor list, which includes detailed background checks and also evidence of a commitment to understanding and respecting historical sites. “They want to make sure that you know how to work in a historical building,” she says, “and you also need to sign an agreement that you’re not going to bring in plastic water bottles and that you will recycle.” That’s no problem for Gina, with sustainable practices baked into her business model.
Creating memories in a building with such a storied history also resonates with Gina’s love of story. She has a particularly affinity for orange roses, for instance, which were a favorite of her aunt’s, and she loves thrifting for vases, both as a way to reuse perfectly good vessels, but also to give them other lives. “I love looking for different containers,” she says, “it just adds a story to my work.” Plus, she says, “it’s different; it’s not your FTD look.”
Thoughtful foraging is another way for Gina to infuse stories into her designs. Foraging for her is not scouring the roadsides or vacant lots, instead she makes note of flowers and foliage she sees on her travels around home. “I have a forager journal where I record when a plant is blooming and on what street,” she says. Then, when the plant is in its prime, she knocks on the homeowner’s door and asks if she can take few sprigs. As a thank you she’ll deliver a small bouquet. The whole process brings her joy, she says.
At the Slow Flowers Summit, Gina will talk about sustainability, responsible foraging, and how to work with flower farmers to create the aesthetic that makes a designer’s personal style shine. But she’s mindful that her presentation is right after lunch. “I’m going to make it very entertaining and interactive,” she says, and, no doubt, it will be peppered with lots of stories and laughter.
Slow Flowers Summit welcomes Adrienne Mason as our profile contributor for the 2023 season. Adrienne Mason is a writer and editor based on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. She specializes in writing about science, nature, and the cultural history of the west coast. She is the author of over 30 books for both adults and children, the most recent of which is Whales to the Rescue. Adrienne also specializes in writing for museums, parks, and interpretive centers, and her work is in dozens of exhibits across Canada. When she’s not at her desk, Adrienne spends as much time as possible outdoors—hiking, camping, beachcombing, and in her garden, to which she recently added two large cut flower beds. Visit Adrienne at adriennemason.com.