Floral design is an anomaly among art forms. Every stem comes with an expiration date—perhaps it’s not stamped under a petal or mentioned when it’s wrapped up, but some bouquets only technically last 48 hours. They’re a finite form of expression beholden to seasonality and availability. “It’s like a cup of coffee,” Taylor Patterson, the founder and designer behind Williamsburg‘s Fox Fodder Farm, tells CH.
“How long does that last you? An arrangement might last two days or it might last two weeks, but people always ask. I try to explain that you’re buying this actual thing,” she says, referring to the living, breathing bounty on display in her new South 4th Street space. “Flowers are unique in that people appreciate them and love them but may not totally understand them either.”
This isn’t her business’ first physical manifestation but it’s the most comprehensive by far—with more than 1,800 square feet of retail and workshop space, with additional room for events. Brook Klausing, of Brook Landscape, contributed the in-ground stone water installation. The rest of the space affords Patterson and her team the room to manage multiple projects, and customers, at once.
The seed for this particular evolution of her business was likely sown the moment Patterson accepted a position at a floral shop while in school, in her hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. “I really hadn’t thought about that in a while,” she explains while tracing back her roots. The interest resurfaced in 2011 while she waitressed at a restaurant in Manhattan‘s NoHo neighborhood. “I became friendly with the person who did our weekly arrangements there,” Patterson explains. “I basically asked if I could apprentice and I was hired on, initially as one day a week and then two. Then, my then-boyfriend ambitiously suggested that I should open up my own thing. And I did.”
The studio tenured at Canal Street Market and then moved in with Fellow Barber, in Williamsburg, where Butler Bake Shop currently sits. Patterson worked on arrangements for fashion shows, did commissions for extravagant events, and quietly accumulated inspiration from a burgeoning community of floral designers. Now, courtesy of the sizable chunk of square footage she calls her own, all of this work can be done in a space tailored to her needs.
In the front entryway, locally-sourced buds, stems, and base layers can be bought in bunches or individually. A grand mirror toys with the eye’s sense of depth. In the window, long, slender cherry branches occupy a glass vase. In stark black ceramic and pale stone vases red and pink blossoms drape. “This space doesn’t hide how messy and disorganized I can be,” she says. “It’s not perfect. We’re a mess.” Messy or not, it’s an inspiration to see Patterson toil away on an arrangement in the same sunlight that hits the checkout counter.
When she isn’t designing for her rotating roster of fashion and creative clients, she’s busy building arrangements for local restaurants—like Cafe Altro Paradiso, Ignacio Mattos’ elegant Italian offering—or working on pieces to adorn the studio with. It isn’t always the most bountiful bouquets that impress most, but rather “the simple things—like a bunch of cherry branches,” she says, referencing the piece she’s currently putting together. “I’ve spent hours rearranging three stems and other times they come together in seconds. It’s always different.”
In floral design, much remains open ended. There isn’t a precise formula or set parameters for the process. For Patterson, though, her creativity adheres to loose guidelines with plenty of room for experimentation. “You start with your base—which is typically some sort of foliage—and then you add your feature flowers and then your additional ones,” she says, as she begins to build a bouquet off a loose prompt we provide.
“Pink—and something that will last,” we tell her. She weaves between buckets labeled with the particular purveyor and the varietal. She begins with a foundation—a vase or a short piece of twine, if bought in shop—and composes an arrangement that references the guidelines but deviates as needed. We depart with a handheld assortment of pinkish beauties and contrasting characters. For customers wishing to follow in Patterson’s footsteps—either as she makes one for you, or as you build your own—Fox Fodder Farm plans to open ticketed one hour windows where customers can craft their own arrangements from a selection of seasonal flowers and foliage.
Images by Nicole Franzen