Wednesday, August 14, 2019

musings on the shifting landscape of FLORISTRY



There is so much I have to tell you. But before I do, I have to say something about a comment I wrote on Instagram that seemed to hit a lot of nerves with people; you want to know more about what I think about the 'end of floristry.'  

A year and a half ago I was at breakfast in NYC with a mentor of mine bemoaning a talk I had to give on floristry and flower farming. This friend - a veteran of flower and gardening publishing - joked that I should just declare the END OF FLORISTRY; which gave us a good laugh. Perhaps we both were feeling exhausted by the tremendous arc of trends ranging from 'back to nature' florals, floral workshops, farmer/florists, dutch masters inspired decadence with peeled back tulips and roses, the celebration of weeds, anthuriums, spray-painted tropicals, dyed flowers, etc.

Where could the trends possibly take us from here except back to flowers in a vase...in water?

Dill, hollyhocks, phlox, crespedia, wild clematis, astilbe, yarrow and scabiosa
Over the years many students of mine have been desperate to find their own 'unique style' as they prepare to make a business for themselves and enter the enormous global arena of the internet. It's a lot of pressure to put on one's relationship to art and nature. I think about this way of artistry as being very much associated with an old view of art - the artist as singular. The artist toiling alone to channel the evocative for sale to the public. I think it's no wonder that 87% of artists in permanent collections are men - art and our formations around much of it's practice are riddled with patriarchy. 

Zoe Wonfor's sourdough cracker art.
I like to imagine a world where there is more blending of art into everyday work and practice. A friend came to visit this summer - I met him over a decade ago when he was a young performance artist and I was a curator in NYC. Now he's a teacher and I'm a farmer. We went for a walk in the woods.

As someone newly interested in teaching children, I was thirsty to hear about his classroom. He described in detail one of his lessons which led students through a reading of a classic Buddhist text to a sing-along of Fleetwood Mac's The Chain. It was a lesson about relationships. I realized his teaching practice is his art practice now. That's what I want in my life everywhere here. 


My trouble with floristry is this; as a profession, it perpetuates the idea that there is a correct way, a specific process for adoration and decoration with nature. I can show someone how to make an arrangement, I can show someone how to make a casket spray, but it's all mechanics and practice. You could just the same learn how to work an excel sheet or fill a cavity. 

I've watched countless students be afraid to handle flowers - hesitant to explore their own intuitions around color, form and texture because they believe there is a 'correct' way of doing it. What I want to teach, and make room to teach here at our new school at Worlds End is not how to arrange flowers or how to cook or how to make a garden. I want to give people an immersive experience of this place and the opportunity to connect with their own sense intuition.

Instead of asking is this good? I want them to ask do I like this?


Creating and making something from your own sense of knowing is to step inside the stream of mystery. It is a leap. It is to begin something without a plan, to feel through a process of making without expecting an outcome. Knowing and simultaneously not knowing. Thats when all the molecules line up, the waves multiply, a harmony emerges. 

We all need to have the courage to make new for ourselves. Continually and collectively. 

I'm not making an argument for florists to close up shop. In fact the opposite - I think more people should set up shop with flowers and food and nature based businesses. I think we need more people to do business differently and more importantly do business together. Networks of businesses in communities have compounded power and are better poised to tease apart the fabric of our systems in order for something new to emerge. Small businesses can share resources like freelancers, graphic designers, supply chains, bookkeepers, etc. They can form their own health insurance collectives, their own food coops. They can take care of each other better. This is a feminine economy.

Centauria Imperialis.

It's already happening in facets of the flower world. I see and talk to so many growers who are connecting with each other, helping one another and doing business together.

I see businesses like Fox Fodder Farm for example setting out to shift more resources to local small farms by reshaping the NYC flower market and attempting to blur the lines between retail and wholesale. And I'm in the process of helping some of my favorite Saipua veterans launch a new business called Et Vernal which will deliver more of our work here at Worlds End to city events. 

I've considered that perhaps my irritability with the floral world is simply a reaction to me not knowing or wanting to be a part of it anymore. I still introduce myself to strangers occasionally as a 'Florist.' But less and less.

I'm sort of making a new world for us over here now. 

Pickled celery from our garden.
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FINE PRINT! I need to write more about all this, and I will. My astrologer, in my yearly leo checkup said I need to communicate more, and I will really try to do that. I want to do that. I have not found a rhythm of working on the farm and writing amidst our high season here which is so full of visitors who I want to spend time with. 

Thank you to those of you who are buying our monthly soap subscription online. A lot of effort has gone into trying to figure out how to make our farm and business more sustainable financially as we give up city event work (only 5 more, crazy)...and selling more soap is key to us being able to experiment here. So thank you. 

Thank you also to those of you who came to SUPERNATURE, the lamb meatball dinner disco. It was the best party we've ever thrown by far - all of you were so fun, such good dancers, jesus - and also so respectful of our farm and land here. The campground the next day was spotless. Save the date for SUPERNATURE 2020 -- July 25th.

And lastly; those of you who are considering our year long Gardening Course: this is going to be a real life changing commitment, and I encourage you to make the leap. You will emerge from the year confident in your own ability to grow your own food (and flowers) and have a new way of looking at your creative practice in nature. This is everything to us right now -- getting you here to show you how we're gardening and living, and then taking parts of that home to make good living and eating for your own families and communities.