We just had to share this interview with Tony Palmieri of Datura: A Modern Garden originally posted byÂ Gourmet GalleyÂ .Â Tony is an inspiration and a creative genius that we have the honor to work with on a regular basis.
Â Tony was recently named as Floral Designer of the year!Â We asked him about how that came about and here was his response:
Â [Tony]:Â Back in March of 2011,Â I took part in a regional competition in Massachusetts at the Northeast Floral Expo. The theme was a fantastic challenge - to be inspired by a piece of art and to create a floral interpretation of it. I was particularly moved by a large allegorical painting by Graydon Parrish at the New Britain Museum of American Art depicting his vision of the events of September 11th - a heavy subject to interpret with flowers and a real challenge, but the painting caused an emotional reaction in me that was unexpected and I wanted to create a piece of sculpture that delivered that same emotional punch. Having just returned from a creative awakening workshop with artist Jef Johnson in Mexico City, I approached this competition from a place of instinct rather than detailed planning. The result was a sculpture unlike any I'd created before which took first place honors. This win afforded me the opportunity to travel to Minneapolis to compete in the national leg of the competition - a two hour 'design-off' (Project Runway style) in the middle of the Mall of America. Designers from all over the U.S. were given the same floral material and tasked with creating 3 designs. I relied on many of the lessons I'd learned from Jef to ground myself amid the noise, the crowds and the constant stimulus and created a modern bridal bouquet, sympathy design and a sculptural statement piece. Winners were announced at a dinner party that evening and I was absolutely thrilled when they called my name as the first place winner.
[GG]:Â Did you always know that you wanted to be a professional florist?
[Tony]:Â Nope. I've always been creative and was very lucky to grow up in a family of artists who encouraged me to explore different mediums â graphic design, drawing, sculpture, music, cooking, writing, theater.
[GG]:Â How did you get into the business?
[Tony]:Â Completely by accident. I took a part-time job delivering flowers, which I did for 6 years before I even contemplated picking up a knife and designing. I was resistant to the idea at first, but as soon as I started I knew it was what I was supposed to be doing. Thereâs an intuitive quality to using nature as a tool â each flower is different, from the way a stem bends to the way a bloom chooses to open. Once I realized that floral design is a mode of sculpture, I was able to see the work in a new way and bring elements from other mediums to the design process.
[GG]:Â How long have you been in business and how did your current venture start?
[Tony]:Â If you count the 6 years I spent delivering flowers, Iâve been in the industry for 26 years. I purchased the shop I worked at in 1993, moved its location, changed its name and, in 2008, closed the retail shop to focus on weddings and events only. [GG]:Â Where do you draw inspiration from?
[Tony]:Â Everywhere â fashion, architecture, furniture, music â but mostly from nature. There is a harmony to the imperfection of nature that I strive to achieve in the work that I do. There is beauty everywhere, in the smallest details â the underside of a leaf, the gnarled roots of a tree â these are the things that catch my attention. Artists who inspire me include Alexander McQueen, Salvador Dali, Hitomi Gilliam, Andy Goldsworthy, Tom Waits, Isabella Rossellini, my kids, Holden and Caleb â and my wife Aryn, who shows me every day that life IS art.
[GG]:Â What is your favorite type of couple and venue to work with?
[Tony]:Â I love working with couples who have a clear idea of the feel of their event, but whose minds are open to unusual ways to achieve their vision. I love when a couple gives me some creative leeway so I can create work that inspires me. As far as venues â I love them all. I love taking a blank space and completely transforming it AND I love taking a venue with lots of personality and enhancing the look that is already present. My aesthetic tends to lean toward a more contemporary look, but I still fall in love with classic looks in the right space.
[GG]:Â Whatâs the most memorable wedding you've worked at and why?
[Tony]:Â Itâs a real toss-up for me between Paul and Krystal (of StudioFoto)âs gorgeous outdoor wedding last October and Nichole and Tim (of Coral Pheasant)âs incredible Rhode Island wedding. In both cases, it was the details that the couples provided â the love and bits of themselves that they added to the day that put the weddings over the edge. They each had a solid vision before I became involved, yet they gave me room to interpret that vision. It is this customized and personal feel that I try to bring to the florals for all the weddings I design â I want guests to walk away thinking that the wedding felt as though the couple had designed everything themselves â that it was a true reflection of them.
Â [GG]:Â Whatâs your favorite moment of a wedding to design florals for?
[Tony]:Â I love ceremonies. I love bouquets in particular â the bouquet, for me, is an opportunity not only to complement a particular dress, veil, etc., but to capture a bit of a Brideâs personality â itâs often the first bit of floral that guests will see and sets the tone for the entire event. Of course, I also love to see a reception room finished, candles lit, mood achieved.
[GG]:Â Favorite Non-Wedding Floral Occasion/Arrangement?
[Tony]:Â What I miss most about having a retail shop is designing sympathy flowers â as with weddings, there is real emotion attached to designing for funerals and memorialsâ¦Itâs an honor to be trusted with this sort of work.
[GG]:Â How would you describe your creative process?
[Tony]:Â Iâm an in-the-moment designer. Of course, a good deal of planning goes into the process â meeting with couples, spending time getting to know them, creating mock-ups of centerpieces â all of the usual things, but once the flowers are in my hands, inspiration often takes me in unexpected directions. As with any creative process, I strive to tap into the flux, the river of creative energy to which we all contribute and therefore is always flowing and changing.
[GG]:Â What are the three flowers that you would say best describes yourself and your style?
[Tony]:Â Oooh. Tough question. I love orchids, all varieties, for their adaptability and range. I love foliages of all kinds for the same reasons â they are the unsung heroes of floral design. And branches for their gnarled and twisted qualities. I have to say, though, that my favorite flower of all time is the standard yellow daffodil. They smell like spring and rebirth.
Many of these photos are from TonyâsÂ Flowers as FashionÂ project. Visit hisÂ blog, to see more images!
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