The Banksy of Floral Design

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The Banksy of Floral Design

By day, the floral designer Lewis Miller creates arrangements of abundance and originality for understated events at such venues as the Maidstone Club, the Stone Barns Center, and the New York Public Library. By night, his Banksy side kicks in. Every month or so, under cover of predawn darkness, he and his team take a van to a different location in the city and swiftly unload treasure: buckets and buckets of flowers. Then, as quickly as they can, they shove the blooms into corner trash cans, or tuck them into the nooks and crannies of construction sites, or drape their garlanded stems around statuary. Miller calls these guerrilla installations Flower Flashes: he puts them together in less than twenty minutes; they vanish within a matter of hours. Instagram saves them for posterity. “So here’s what I want to do,” Miller said last week, at his East Village studio. He was sitting at a worktable, next to a pair of potted orange trees in full fruit, talking to his special-projects director, Irini Arakas. “I want to get a bunch of cardboard boxes of various sizes and just prime them white, then roll on blue stripes—very graphic—and paint some huge red hearts on top of that. Then just have these hedges of carnations in the boxes.” The designer Tory Burch had donated seventeen thousand pink carnations, left over from her Fashion Week show, for the project. “They’re a perfect color,” Arakas observed, the clovish scent of carnations enveloping the studio. “A cross between Pepto-Bismol and Sweet’N Low.” “It’s the ultimate free gift,” Miller said. “I mean, who was lucky enough to see Tory Burch’s show? Only a handful of special people. So now we can take these and do something cheeky, for the everyday New Yorker.” Miller is tallish and trim, with wavy chestnut hair, peony-pink skin, and eyes the color of forget-me-nots. He was wearing a pressed navy chambray shirt over a striped T-shirt with khakis and blue suède sneakers. Arakas was dressed in a long skirt and dangling earrings. At night, Lewis Miller takes to the streets with startling flower displays, installed guerrilla style on subway entrances and construction sites. After scissoring around the periphery of a design he’d sketched with colored Sharpies, Miller laid the cutout over a photograph of the shuttered HSBC bank at Fourteenth Street and Sixth Avenue, finessing it so that the sketch fit perfectly against the bank’s glass doors, which were scrawled with graffiti and featured a sign warning of rat poison. He continued, “So, super-fresh and optimistic and preppy, but it’s Valentine’s Day—so not too sweet.” “And, Toots, are you thinking of adding writing?” Arakas asked, pointing at the bottom of the sketch, where the word “love” was penned in. “Yeah, that’s the message,” Miller said. “It’s not about stupid Valentine’s Day love but ‘I love New York.’ ” “And if people take these carnations they’d better give them to their moms or their sweethearts,” Arakas said. Miller had planned a second Valentine’s […]