How to Make Lasting Flower Arrangements – The New York Times | Candle Made Easy

When artist and floral designer Lutfi Janania was a teenager, his parents built a house in a biosphere reserve in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. His father, Omar, a surgeon, oversaw the construction of the house, but he let Janania choose the color of its facade. Janania opted for cherry red. “I can’t believe my parents trusted this decision to a young gay man,” he said on a July afternoon in his studio in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn.

It’s an anecdote told in passing, but it captures the dramatic flair and love of home that drives Rosalila, the design studio he founded in 2020. In addition to designing lush floral arrangements for fashion brand Mara Hoffman, department store Bergdorf Goodman and jewelry line Buccellati, he also creates sculptural work, often incorporating less traditional natural materials such as dehydrated plants and gemstones. Some of these pieces are purely decorative, such as The Centipede Study (2020), a tapestry reimagining the eponymous arthropod mounted on linen with curly sabal palms (whose lush leaves have sharp points conjuring legs), fluffy heliconias, preserved grasses and seashells . Others are functional as well, like a set of large mirrors framed by woven palm fibers manipulated into a multitude of folds and ruffles, which he began making a year ago. The effect is what could be described as Caribbean baroque. “We want to exist beautifully in people’s homes, where it’s romantic and elegant, nostalgic and traditional,” he says.

Whatever the upcoming project, Janania draws inspiration from personal experiences. Last spring he was selected to participate in the Flower Craft exhibition at New York’s Museum of Art and Design, where he presented for the first time several earthenware vessels that he had designed and made in his native country. Many of them bore the silhouette image of the sabal palm tree – Rosalila’s signature motif – cast in relief using smoke burning techniques used by the Lenca, Honduras’ largest indigenous community Connections to the Mayas in pre-Columbian South America. To accompany the ceramics, Janania built a green wall of coconut palm leaves, plumosa ferns and ruscus plants, evoking the mountain forest he encountered daily as a child. Seen as a whole, the installation blended Janania’s own past with a larger one History with which he feels connected for a long time. “I remember visiting the ruins as a kid and being in this almost powerful, energetic space,” he says. For him, the pyramids represented a “fantastic world that is not our own – but at the same time somehow is”.

But while his creations can be whimsical, his path to success has been dictated by hard work. at 23, He moved to New York from Honduras and took a job with menswear designer Carlos Campos. Later, after a stint as a freelance stylist, he began working for Rebecca Shepherd, the Brooklyn-based florist who he credits for teaching him the craft. He went alone in 2019, search projects mainly for their creative potential. (“We either work with someone we believe in and want to support, or we want to create work we’ve never done before,” Janania says of Rosalila’s guiding principles.)

His career took a leap forward when he was commissioned to design the flowers for an event hosted by artist Mickalene Thomas, who he now counts among his friends. “It was an iconic moment for me,” he says. Another such milestone occurred in 2021 when he won the second season of HBO’s Full Bloom, a competition series for avant-garde florists in the form of The Great British Bake Off. “It was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life,” says Janania, but it has led him to discover his voice, which he carefully distinguishes from his vision – which he says has always been there. In that respect, “Full Bloom” was a culmination of all the risks he had taken years earlier. “I came from a conservative area where I wasn’t allowed to be queer,” he says. “And then, as an adult in New York City, I sort of found myself.”

In conversation, Janania often mentions community, something he is always looking for – and wants to keep. He likes his current neighborhood in part because of its black and brown residents. (“I can speak Spanish here for days,” he says.) He remains close to his family in Honduras, even employing his sister Yazmin as part of Rosalila’s management team. The sisal he used for the Flower Craft project came from his mother, also known as Yazmin, who collected it in the countryside of San Pedro Sula. He hopes to one day open another studio in Honduras so he can use plants grown on his family’s land for more of his designs.

However, as he continues to expand his practice, Janania remains focused on the beauty of the details and strives to share his knowledge with others. If someone wants to spruce up their place for a dinner party but can’t afford one of their arrangements, no need to worry. “You can create fun, beautiful things with flowers from the bodega,” he says, recommending carnations. “They are looked down on, but they are such a strong flower. They stay there for about three weeks.” He also suggests the classic bud vase, which on a smaller scale can create the illusion of abundance. If you fill it, you could try channeling Janania’s spirit instead of mimicking his designs. “I’m interested in seeing the similarities in things between what’s human and what’s animal and what’s botanical,” he says. “I like to connect the dots and create something that people can feel.”

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