Sneakerhead or not, a beautiful pair of shoes easily grabs attention, and when they are made completely of flowers you can’t help but do a double take— or in this case a double tap.
One glance at Mr. Flower Fantastic’s Instagram page will wow and inspire. The New York-based artist recreates some of today’s most sought-after sneakers made entirely of florals, think of Serena Williams and Virgil Abloh’s “QUEEN” Air Max 97 (which Mr. Flower Fantastic delivered to the Queen herself), Sean Wotherspoon’s Nike Air Max 1/97, and classics like the Air Jordan I and III’s. Mr. Flower Fantastic’s (MFF) images have been re-grammed by the social platform’s biggest accounts and have even gained the attention of big brands and celebrities.
While he shares his art online, he gives back in real life also, sometimes leaving or dropping off his works of art in random locations in New York and other cities he visits. Mr. Flower Fantastic offers followers a location and visual clues through his Instagram stories and just like that, finders keepers – he also does all this anonymously. Intrigued? So were we.
Swagger had the opportunity to ask Mr. Flower Fantastic, who asked to keep his true identity undisclosed, a few questions, get to know the artist a bit better:
1. What drew you to floral artistry, and how did you get started?
Mr. Flower Fantastic: I grew up in a gardening household, so I guess that helped develop my respect for nature. My mother took great pride in her home garden. To some people it may not have seemed like much, but to me it was a small oasis in our front yard. When I was a kid, I would help her plant all sorts of things. Maintaining it sometimes felt like a chore, and the kids in the neighborhood always had something stupid to say about me with flowers, but in the end, it made me who I am today.
2. How long will one piece typically take you?
MFF: I once worked on a piece for one week straight trying to get the balance right. When working with flowers there are so many different factors to take into consideration. Some that cause me to make changes at a moment’s notice. This sometimes makes it very challenging… Ultimately, I try not to focus on the time it takes, otherwise I’ll get impatient. I have a sign in front of my desk that says, “Take your time!” It reminds me to take it easy and go with the flow. Besides, my work is supposed to be fun. If I rush my work I’ll end up unhappy with it in the end, and I never want to lose the love I have for what I do. I’m always learning new things and developing new techniques. This is one big experiment. I never know how a piece is going to turn out, but I guess that’s part of the beauty of my medium. There’s a mystery and uncertainty to it but in the end, you’re working with beautiful art created by God.
3. How do you decide what to create and why the focus on sneakers? (Early in your Instagram page there was a variety of characters and objects)
MFF: I create based on what I love. If I created by force or if I created for money or some other thing, that adds enormous pressure (and) my work would suffer. Emojis are one of those things I happen to love. They’re so simple yet incredibly substantial. If you really take a moment to look at the magnitude of how they’ve impacted our world, it’s phenomenal. I use emojis in my everyday communication like so many other people do. It was also a great source of inspiration for my first series and a great challenge for me.
In regard to my latest ‘Sneaker’ series, the love there is all too real. I’ve always had a connection with sneakers, since I was a kid. I am and will forever be a “sneakerhead”—proudly. On a deeper note, I felt that sneakers and flowers were connected in an interesting way. I won’t get too much into detail with it, but to sum it up, your feet are closest to the ground, the ground is where flowers grow. In some cosmic-universal way, the idea harmonizes in my mind which helps me to create. Before I start anything, I research to see if anyone had attempted it. Surprisingly I didn’t find anything that compared to what I did with the AJ1, so I got to work. I wanted it to exist so badly the only way to see it come to life would be to create it. After all, it’s not like it was going to make itself.
4. Do you have a favorite sneaker?
MFF: Since I began the Sneaker Series, it’s hard to choose one particular work as my favorite. They’re all so different from how they look, to how they smell; But to be fair, the very first floral sculpture I ever made was the AJ1, it’s the first one I posted in Instagram and that is and forever will be a special moment in my life. It can also be considered my favorite shoe.
5. How much prep goes into one piece and where do you get your flowers?
MFF: Preparation in anything is everything. For me, when starting a piece, I believe the better I am prepared, the better the piece will be. I try to make sure I am fully organized and that all my tools are within reach. Once I start working on a piece I generally don’t like to stop, especially for something like a lack of materials.
I like to buy my flowers from local flower shops. Don’t get me wrong, wholesalers are great too, but it’s important to support the mom and pop shops as much as you can. That’s just my personal preference. Many of the flowers that I use in my work come from all over the world; Holland, Argentina, Japan, even the Caribbean. The list goes on and on.
6. I’ve read that you’re allergic to some flowers and pollens, how do you overcome any reactions?
MFF: When I was younger I would take prescribed allergy medications to cope with being outdoors. I deal with eczema a great deal too, that’s why the gloves help tremendously. As I’ve gotten older I’ve had to take higher dosages at times, which can be frustrating because the side effects from the medications I’ve used can sometimes be worse then symptoms. It also prohibits me from creating to the best of my ability. Lately I’ve been working without prescription medicine. I feel so much better. I just make sure that when handling many of the florals, I keep my hands and face protected at all times.
7. How has Instagram/social media influenced your work? And why is it important for you to hide your identity?
MFF: For many of us, starting something new can be scary. I’m no different. I had lots of anxiety in the beginning, and I still do in some cases. I’ve learned that if you don’t have a strong support system you can end up second guessing yourself into a sunken place. That’s the worst thing that can happen because if you give up you’ll never know what you would’ve accomplished. Social media has been a meaningful place for me to connect with people and display my work. It’s also been a great way to get important feedback. Occasionally you’ll get that bitter SOB that just wants to crush your dreams because they’re unhappy with themselves, but the majority of my followers have been extremely supportive and motivating. I value that tremendously. It helps me to continue on my path even through the challenging times.
It isn’t so much about hiding my identity as it is more about directing all the attention to the true creator here. I did not create flowers so how can I take the credit? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how I position the florals, or what the sculpture may or may not resemble, the true beauty of each piece is found in nature. The gloves and mask not only serve as protection for me, but as a reminder that amazing things can happen when you take your weakness and make it your strength.
8. What’s the reaction you get when you share drop-off locations for your work? How much demand have you seen for custom pieces?
MFF: There has been an overwhelmingly warm reception to my ‘Special Deliveries’ on IG and I am so grateful. I never expected it be what it has become. I give my sculptures away because it feeds my spirit. It’s a scent that only the soul can smell. There was a special time in our world when people picked fresh flowers and created arrangements not to sell but to share, simply because it brought peace to whoever was on the receiving end. We live in a world where there is so much negativity and so much propaganda put in place to divide us as a human family. I’m just doing my part to counter that negativity with positivity in the best way I know how.
Yes, the demand for my work has increased, but that is what led to the creation of my print series. With my printed works, I am able to share my work with more people. I never thought that I would see the day when my work would be displayed in a frame, but it serves as a beautiful solution to a beautiful problem to have. Ultimately the goal is to bring peace to someone’s life, so whether I’m doing it with fresh florals (or) a fresh print, my spirit is for fulfilled.
9. Do you have a favorite piece so far? And is there a sneaker or shoe that you’re most excited to work on next?
MFF: I really enjoy working on the Sneaker Series at the moment because I believe that there is so much more for me to learn. There isn’t a particular sneaker that I look forward to more than the other because they are all so different. Even when it comes to the more simple designed sneakers like (the) Nike Air Force One in comparison to the Nike Acronym, they can be bigger challenges for me to overcome. I learn something new from each of them. There are lots of other styles that I have done and have never posted because they came out terrible. But sometimes it’s not about the end result, but what it took to get there.
I look forward to my next series, whatever that may be.
10. The act or gesture of giving flowers lives on in our culture, any advice for those who’d like to gift them to a romantic partner or friend?
MFF: The best advice I can give is when gifting flowers to someone, you choose the flowers. Don’t let someone, or a “professional” choose for you. After all, you’re the one giving the bouquet, not someone else. It’s important to put as much of your spirit into the process as you can, and if you’re up for the challenge try making the arrangement yourself. It all goes back to the intended purpose, to bring peace, and it’s those small acts of kindness that make this world a better place to live in.
Check out Mr. Flower Fantastic’s instagram page, and prepare to be amazed.