Founded in 2013, BRRCH Floral is a New York–based project by Brittany Asch that challenges what floral design can mean and become. Asch’s sweet–smelling creations defy categorisation and instead enter abstract, dreamlike worlds of magical realism with pastel–hued palettes. The floral mastermind talked to us about nature’s role in empathy and connection, floral creative rights to freedom, and her own challenges and process in having such a fluid, non–transactional definition of floristry.
How did your relationship with floral arrangements/artistry begin?
I had a moment when it became very clear that working with flowers was something I needed to do- not in some righteous way, but this intense curiosity, and pull. Years ago, after a family death and the dissolving of a long relationship, I had an awakening. I remember being really confused by it and this overwhelming need to create in a non-decorative way and wondering why it was surfacing in my mid 20’s—wondering why I was being so loudly disrupted. I felt I needed to produce work that would question its position in society. Cut flowers reside in an industry full of constraints. I wanted to see if I could try to dismantle those walls. My practice started with using traditionally cheap or phallic flowers and repositioning them through context to adjust reception. I saw flowers not being viewed as an art form in western culture merely a product of circumstance because of its history as a trade, a business—and I felt a need to try and make a path for myself to exist somewhere between both worlds (art and commerce) because I don't entirely belong to either. I knew I wasn't a florist in the traditional sense but I also knew I had no physical proof I was an artist and didn't feel right calling myself so without merit, so it's been interesting.
Your floral work consists of installation work and providing arrangements for editorials, events, and collaborations with artists. One could say you have revolutionised new, interdisciplinary ways of viewing floral arrangements and with more serious creative merit. How would you describe your practice and your view on florist work?
My principle in the beginning was to get people to really look at the flowers. I knew that if I could achieve that, maybe people could see nature differently, care more for it—become more of a participant in their own lives. I still function from that place, but it has evolved and formed many layers around that core. I need more outlets now, which is where all of the collaborations have come in. There are so many things I want to do and I am just trying to create the space and time to execute them. I love magical realism, so this is an overarching theme in my work—this blurred line of what is real and what is a dream—some sociological experiments too. I've found that flowers, like people, get placed into roles and there are expectations that form around them. My practice began in trying to challenge those norms and expectations, which takes time. It took about 3 years for it to catch on because I had no audience. There was so much resistance in the beginning, what I was offering was not popular at the time. We take things that are inherently beautiful and judge them—just as we do ourselves because of these popularised commercial standards. If we can play dress up, why shouldn't the flowers be able to? Some people get mad if they see a manipulated flower but I bet they have dyed or brushed their hair or had a manicure or used mascara or engaged in other variations of beautifying. Neither humans nor flowers really need any of those things, but they are fun so I like to let the flowers express themselves a bit too. We are in these polarised political times and it's important to focus on the points of connection, one of which is nature. I perceive how people perceive nature and it becomes catalytic to my focus.
Where does the name BRRCH come from?
It is derivative of my full name- and a prominent tree in my childhood. I didn't give it any thought, it just popped in my head and I went with it. I wanted it to be more of a symbol, so that contributed to the spelling as well. I knew if it was somewhat indefinable it wouldn't inhibit my growth or self discovery. I also wanted it to be able to become something bigger than myself should my course change and mostly importantly to be fluid.
Do you have any favourites (i.e. top flower for sweetest scent, top flower for eccentric petals)?
An heirloom garden rose puts my heart on a stake. I love to buy Chocolate Cosmos (they smell faintly like chocolate) for myself though I never really use them in my work. Magnolia has an incredible scent too. Gardenia. There are so many. I have a thing for orchids right now- their details and variations are so exquisite. I love working with anthuriums they are like a good friend and I'm obsessed with a lot of tropical flowers. Hibiscus that looks like a satellite storm cloud. Fritillaria Meleagris is insane because its petals are checkered.
Your documentation of your work shows us a bit inside your fragrant, pastel-hued neon-coloured world. Can you tell us a bit more about your inspirations and the process behind your arrangements?
My inspirations are really broad spectrum, film, people, conversation, art, nature, music, environments. I love colour. I have such strong reactions to colour, so I really like to infuse that into my work. My process when making is usually to go in with very little parameters, absorb the colours and start working. Then the dialogue with the flowers begins, my brain shuts off and the arrangement can form itself.
Images courtesy of BRITTANY ASCH
interview PERWANA NAZIF
More to read