Brooke Lucas mimics the haphazard beauty of nature in her work. The owner and creative director of the New York floral and event design company The Wild Bunch doesn’t traffic in the loud colors and homogenous corporate look that mainstream florists tend to favor. Instead, her creations emphasize natural movement, texture and forms and are inspired by New York’s endless juxtaposition of the organic and man-made.
We recently caught up with Brooke and got her take on stealing flowers, eighties rock n’ roll, and the value of the color green.
Hey Brooke. So let’s start with the basics- what got you into floral design?
I really wanted to do something with my hands. I liked the idea of playing and making a huge mess. I’ve always been into design but I can’t draw.
Did you have any formal training?
I actually did a course in Sydney on Saturdays. I would go to flower school and make all these tragic kind of arrangements that you’d see in train station florists. I was living in Sydney, working in advertising and I was really unhappy, so I thought I’d just take a sabbatical and come here and intern at some floral design firms.
Respect. Did you ever go back, or was that it?
My very first day I got into the studio and was like: ‘This is it’. I straight away knew that this is what I was meant to do. I felt like like everything had prepared me to do this. So I went home packed everything up and quit my job. I had no money, very slim visa prospects and if I had known now what I would go through to do it, I don’t know that I would have been so quick to do it. But at the time it was an easy decision. It’s just what I had to do.
That’s one of the hardest things to do. Why New York though?
I always really loved New York. It just felt like it was the only place I could get away with it. There’s so many opportunities: it just had to be here.
It doesn’t seem like a very floral city…
There are actually so many flowers hanging from lampposts and in the bodegas and in all those beautiful gardens. The flowers really stand out in contrast to the streets and the buildings. They do the balance really, really well for such a dense city.
Are there any spots you particularly like in the city, florally?
I do like going along the East River. There are some really pretty gardens there, especially in spring. There’re some really funny Queen Anne’s Lace-y type things that run along the West Side Highway and sometimes I’ll just sneak over there and steal ’em.
Flower theft, eh?
Foraging. I used to do that in Sydney all the time. I lived in Rushcutters Bay and I would go down and steal all the magnolias.
Sometimes you have to hustle. Do you think you bring a particular style to your arrangements?
I think I have a really distinctive style. I love vines and things that flow. Things that move.
What specifics do you look for in the flora you arrange?
Anything that’s really textural, pods, things that I haven’t seen before. I like flowers that have a little bit of an edge to them. A lot of people just want peonies and dahlias but I see those beautiful flowers everyday, so I like something that’s a little more intriguing. There’s such a variety of grasses and pods and sticks. I love foliage: I would do green arrangements if I could get away with it.
When you have a fully green arrangement, it’s about the texture and the variations in shape. It’s a little bit more subtle.
That makes sense. What you say the end goal of your aesthetic is?
To make something look like it wasn’t designed at all. I don’t think you really need floral arrangements. We’re constantly trying to create something as beautiful as nature just does.
What is the actual arrangement process like?
You’re doing the same thing over and over, so it becomes very meditative.
Do you jam to anything while you’re working?
I listen to podcasts, eighties rock, a lot of Pat Benatar, Joan Jett, hip-hop. I like to counterbalance the florally nature of the work.
Does the arranging ever get repetitive, or is each arrangement a new challenge?
I love working on something I can get really into, do, and get onto the next thing. something that has a start and a finish. I can’t imagine doing the same floral arrangement every day. It’s a good industry because I get bored easily and it’s always changing.
So this really is the dream job, huh?
I never really thought it could be a job. Sometimes I can’t believe it. I’m like, ‘Somebody is paying me to do this? This isn’t a job, this is fun.’