S:How much does the vessel you fill with flora inform the creation itself, and vice versa? Do you have any favorites?
B:It is hugely informative. I am very particular about vessels. I often like to work with a very discreet vessel so that the flowers can do their thing. There are other instances where I like to let the vessel speak loudest and use only delicate flowers. It is usually the vases that are the most beautiful that are the most impractical for me to use, but I don't have favorites. Favorites can be stunting.
S:To accompany the launch of Pleasure Garden's latest issue, which is all about the rose, you created an impactful ‘rose garden’ display. How did you approach the idea of the rose, a flower so steeped in symbolism and emotion — and sometimes cheesiness — with fresh eyes?
B:I had ordered these rambling rose bushes, but it was too early in the season for the them to be in flower, and the leaves had crisped up, so the whole display became more delicate by default. You have no control over these things. I always just approach things with determining what they mean to me. The rose is one of my favorite flowers. I love the fragrance, the countless varieties, and that she is full of thorns. I find her to be the epitome of strength for some reason, and have never quite understood the cheesy component, because in her wild natural state she is anything but. Some of my favorite places are rose farms and rose gardens. I doubt I will ever tire of or overdose on the rose. Once you become aware of how vast the species is, there is endless discovery.
S:Also accompanying the launch was a limited run of silk scarves by Software Studios featuring a photographic print of one of your creations. Do you find yourself wearing florals, or do you prefer to keep flowers to real life?
B:I prefer them in real life. But I usually don’t go for wearing flower prints. I love the one we did, as it's not your typical pattern repeat. I always find the coloring in flower prints a bit strange too, too safe. Something about them always feels a bit aged, and not in the romantic Pre-Raphaelite way, so I feel ours is of its time.
S:Over the past five or ten years, floristry has seen a sea change in its very makeup, becoming known less as a traditional craft and more as a highly expressive and individualistic art form. As a prominent figure in this movement, how do you see floral art evolving in the future?
B:In Western culture, yes, there is a shift, but I feel that ikebana and specifically Sōfu Teshigahara was the precursor to that. There are certain artists who have worked with flowers to deliver their expression (Mapplethorpe, Ana Mendieta, Araki, Camille Henrot, Willem de Rooij) but I've not seen someone who works so closely with flowers as their day-to-day practice get to exhibit in an art arena outside of the teachings of ikebana. When I realized that about four years ago, it was confusing. I would question why I was being hired to fabricate pieces for other artists when I had ideas of my own that I could produce myself. But it's all perception. To the art world, I was a trade worker. I have great respect for the trade, but personally, I find it very restricting — it does not fit into my life in the way it might service others. I've done my best work to try to muddle up that line for all of us who resonate beyond the confines, which in recent years it seems maybe there are many. I oddly don't identify as a florist at all. I don't have a shop and I don't really do weddings anymore.
I'm not sure how it will all progress. I have a lot of hopes, though. I hope people start to think for themselves instead of just regurgitating. I hope people start to respect the process more and all of the back-breaking work involved. I hope people honor their influences. I hope curators invite floral artists into their exhibitions. I hope people allow for this continuation of flowers to exist beyond weddings and funerals.