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20 May - A Lesson in Floral Arrangements with Manu Torres

New York

Manu Torres’ flower arrangements are otherworldly works of art, full of bright pops of color and unexpected materials. That’s why we invited the Portland-based artist to Freehand New York to teach a workshop on flower arranging. We were lucky enough to get the chance to accompany him while he shopped for materials, and pick his brain about how he has developed his out-of-the-box style. Read on for Manu’s flower arranging words of wisdom, favorite colors, and go-to shops in both New York at Portland.

FHNY: What are the materials that have become your signature, both natural and artificial?

MT: Spray paint! I feel like whenever someone I know sees an arrangement that has been sprayed painted, they always check with me if I made it. Most of the materials I use are not exclusive to me. They are widely used in the industry. It’s your point of view and aesthetic that makes you stand out.

FHNY: How would you describe your style?

MT: My friend Phillip back when I made one of my first arrangements saw right through it and described my arrangement and my style as “Baroque beautiful, Jeff Koons meets Marie Antoinette in Versailles, the Sofia Coppola version.” And I think that is very fitting.

FHNY: We took a trip with you to the flower market one morning as you prepped for your Earth Day weekend “How to….” workshop with us at Freehand NY. We were amazed and excited at your knowledge of various flowers, leafs, and plants! It was such an informative and fun excursion as well as a sneak peek into the life of Manu!
So how did you pick the materials for the Floral Fantasy workshop? Do you have a pre-determined theme for each workshop you teach?

MT: I do. I pick a color story and depending on the season, and I pick some essentials and favorites. I also leave room for random florals that catch my eye the day I go sourcing.

FHNY: Are you self-taught in your scientific knowledge of plant life? Do you think this subject is important to know in the field of floral artistry?

MT: Yes, but it learned it through working with all the flowers and foliage. I still don’t know nearly as much as most of my peers. I always ask the name of the flowers I am using if I don’t already know it. Sometimes it does take me a couple of times to memorize it.

FHNY: What do you advise for the first time floral arrangement class taker?

MT: Relax, have a good time!

FHNY: Floral Art is becoming a highly recognized art form now. Why do you think the time is now, and does social media play a part in this medium catching on with the mainstream?

MT: Definitely. I mean, I do everything through social media. That’s how I started my business. It’s just so much simpler, and everyone has the apps, which makes it easier to keep up with the things you like.

FHNY: It was so fun and so inspiring to watch you teach the students at your workshop with us — everyone had their own style and created unique pieces with the same ingredients. Do you encourage people to create within their own personal aesthetic?

MT: Absolutely. It is important for people to create something that they feel it represents them and empowers them. Plus, workshops are supposed to be fun and I feel that if you’re trying to create something and have to follow instructions step by step, it’s easy to get frustrated if things aren’t working the way they supposed to. It’s best to work with what you have and create something more organic and more you.

FHNY: What is your favorite part about teaching?

MT: I enjoy seeing people embracing their artistic side and really enjoying themselves.

FHNY: Quickfire time!

3 favorite flowers? Garden roses, tulips and poppies
3 favorite artificial elements to use? Feathers, decorative paper, and rhinestones
3 favorite colors? Pink, blue and yellow
3 favorite places to shop for materials in NYC? Dutch Flower Line, Caribbean Cuts, and JRose
3 favorite places in Portland? Portland Flower Market, Mills End fabrics, and the art store.
3 favorite things to eat, see or visit in NYC? Pizza, bagels and Vanessa’s dumplings
Favorite season? Spring
Favorite thing about staying with us at Freehand NY? The amazing hospitality and the apples in the room were a life saver