Robin Rose speaks flowers. By that, I mean, the precise language, specific to people who spend their lives in love with flowers.
As Robin notes, flowers are an interesting thing to love, because… well, most people love flowers. But, it’s her attention to detail, her knowledge of botany, her meditative practice and her insistence on a heightened form of artistry that turns quotidian love into pure craft.
We spent the day visiting her studio, Fleurotica, and caught up with her to hear all about her floral fascination…
What does a typical day in the studio look like?
I tumble in early-ish, laden with boxes from the flower market, and take my time settling in. I make jasmine tea and put some piñon incense on while I unpack my supplies. Unwrapping and pruning the flowers is called “processing,” and I love it – it’s meditative and gives me time to get my creative juices flowing for the day.
If I’m arranging for photography, I’ll take my time selecting a vessel from my vintage collection. But if it’s for a delivery, I almost always use a clear glass vase with a kenzan (a Japanese-designed floral-pin base for keeping flowers in place). I arrange quickly and try not to let myself overthink it. I’m working on quitting while i’m ahead, and trusting my gut more with composition. Whenever I spend too much time on something, I end up feeling dissatisfied! I like to blast whatever random song I’ve got on repeat and hunker down. Then, I give the finished product her glamour shot on my little pedestal and, if I’m lucky, walk it on my own two feet to its cutie recipient.
What drew you to flowers and floral arrangements? (Although, I would ascribe the words “floral art” to your elevated take on all things floral!).
Thank you! I’ve always struggled with this question, as I think we’re all drawn to flowers – they’re like pheromones, sugar and a cloudless day in their universal desirability.
I came to a preoccupation with flowers viscerally, thanks to that incredible pull and my weakness for beauty. But, I came to my current occupation with flowers like a pot at the end of a rainbow – something just clicked.
I had always been an artist, and felt total confidence in my identity as such; yet, I’d never felt entirely at home working with any formal artistic medium. The first time I worked with flowers, years ago, helping a florist friend out on a fateful Valentine’s Day, I felt a jolt of creative recognition – like a language in which I was mysteriously fluent, despite never setting foot in its country of origin.
Since, I’ve spent years getting to know flowers, how they are fickle, and sweet, and singular and what they want and need. I try to treat it like working with horses (which I did as a child) – sure, I’m the boss, but it’s about wholeheartedly respecting the animal. I’m always listening and making sure we have a symbiotic relationship. :)
Is there a specific piece of work you’re most proud of?
I’m actually not my own biggest fan – I’m working on it! I’m so in love with the flowers themselves, and it frustrates me that a piece is never as perfect as just one single part of its sum. That said, my pieces that feature more negative space are always my favorite. And, the little absentminded, arty things I’ll throw together with scraps from a big job!
Can you talk a bit about what the transition from full-time to freelance was like, the highs and lows of it?
I’ve worked in the restaurant industry since I was a teenager, managing some really special spots over the last few years. My favorite of which – and dearest to my heart – is DIMES (on Canal Street). I was getting into wine there, and always hoped to open my own little wine bar with simple food and, of course, flowers everywhere. I’ve always done flowers on the side, helping out friends with their own floral practices, and taking on select jobs of my own from time to time.
I only committed to Fleurotica full-time about a year ago, when a crazy opportunity fell into my lap–I was offered my own pop-up space for six months. I went from a full-time job with freelance flowering on the side, to business ownership and 24/7 work, which was physically and emotionally wild. I was used to long hours, but the myriad ways in which stress manifests when you’re handling every single aspect of a baby business is something else.
The pop-up was the luckiest thing and great practice, but its challenges outweighed its benefits. Now, I’m happily settled into my studio, back in Chinatown, where I feel at home. I’m finding that taking care of my psyche, having friends pop in throughout the day, spending lots of time on-site building, and then regrouping in this little oasis is so important for me – it opens me up to better work. I’ve become active in floral sponsorship of environmentally-inclined and QTPOC (Queer and Trans People of Color)-led programs, so I feel lucky to put my energy into social justice collaborations and art-centric work these days, in addition to the events, weddings, and shoots that pay the bills.
What’s next for you and Fleurotica?
I’m putting a lot of energy into fruitful and unusual collaborations right now, and it feels like a powerful force – we creatives are like honeybees. With so much saturation, it feels important to work with those you want to mutually nurture. My preference is working in fashion, editorial, and art on film–I hope to spend more time on set moving forward. And always FOOD. Stay tuned for pop-up dinners at the studio, comin’ atcha this winter – with plenty of delicious flowers, of course!