Floral designer Lewis Miller’s approach to a flower arrangement is composure tempered with an air of effortlessness. In his debut book, ‘Styling Nature: A Masterful Approach to Floral Arrangements', he shares how he creates beauty through textured blooms. Each page is the equivalent of studying an art history book that is filled with Dutch still life paintings that are brought to life with flowers. We caught up with the New York-based designer to see how his work has evolved from the beginning, expert tips on creating bouquets and of course, to chat about a mutual love for flowers.
What prompted you to put all of your floral ideas into writing?
My photographer Don Freeman and I have been shooting for ten years. We were offered an opportunity that we just couldn’t turn down. We were always shooting, whether for work or for fun, so we had a lot of material finished. We also wanted to include some fresh content.
When you first began your career you talk about how you were forced to create in a very structured way. Many designers are going against the grain of this aesthetic. Do you think this is a new era in floral design, where there is less perfection and more imperfection?
Absolutely, it is definitely going in the opposite direction. It started happening when everything became more artisanal and arrangements started to became farm-to-table. It has been interesting to witness this shift in the past ten years, from tight roses to something with more movement and less structure.
Each arrangement and vignette in the book is styled and photographed in an inspiring setting. Why was this important to creating the overall mood?
The book is about still lifes, versus just flower arrangements. Flowers are meant to work in a space and to compliment it. Many of the photographs were taken in studios, but it was also important to shoot in a variety of locations, in order to create an environmental approach.
What tips can you offer for navigating the New York flower market?
The way that I shop is inefficient! I begin on one of the street and go into every store a few times. I do this because I want to see what everyone is offering. My recommendation is to go early, so that you can see everything and take a lot of cash.
What are some guidelines that you follow when creating a bouquet?
The most important are the five elements that I recommend in the book - color, composition, movement, shape and texture. The average person should keep it simple, by using three to five elements that add both contrast and structure. Every arrangement can benefit from the addition of greenery.
You talk about the importance of the object that you use to display your creations. What are your favorite sources to find unique and unexpected vessels?
One of my favorites is eBay - I search key words like ‘urn, vintage German pottery and French flower buckets’. Also, junk shops are where I go to look for something unexpected - it doesn’t always have to be fancy.
You create beauty every day. How do you define beauty?
I think it is imperfection; it is nature in its enthusiasm and joy. It is the contrast of something that is not perfect. Beauty has personality; it is that little special element that offers a sense of authenticity.
Photography by Alison