What It’s Like to Be a Florist During the MFA’s Art in Bloom Festival

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What It’s Like to Be a Florist During the MFA’s Art in Bloom Festival

Arts We tagged along with floral artist Joseph Massie on a trip to the New England Flower Exchange. Joseph Massie selects flowers for the MFA’s Art in Bloom festival / Photo by Antonia DeBianchi It’s 5:53 a.m. on a rainy Wednesday morning at the New England Flower Exchange. Grey clouds loom eerily above the brick warehouse in Chelsea. The forecast, paired with the industrial setting, makes it hard to believe there are hundreds of brightly colored blossoms waiting inside. I enter through two large automatic doors to wait for Joseph Massie, a renowned British botanical artist. He’s here in Boston to participate in the Museum of Fine Art’s Art in Bloom , an annual festival that invites florists to create arrangements based on works of fine art. On Saturday, April 28, Massie will debut his highly anticipated arrangement in the museum’s lower rotunda, made from flowers sourced from Chelsea’s Flower Exchange. Looking around the market, I see endless rows of yellow and black buckets filled with roses. Beside them, crates carry Gerbera daisies of every color of the rainbow. I feel under-dressed in the black bell-sleeved top I’m wearing—it’s a bit drab compared to these vibrant hues. Vendors and customers are bustling around and—given it’s barely 6 a.m.—seem to be wide awake. One Flower Exchange flower processor, Andre Stpink, stands in the back corner, taping up paper around a bouquet. “I get up at 3 a.m. every morning, and then we start at 4 a.m..” he says. “The large vendor trucks come mostly every day, and most flowers come on Sunday and Wednesday.” As I try to take it all in—staring in awe at the stark contrast between the bright blue hydrangeas and the industrial warehouse floors—Massie arrives at 6:10 a.m, ready to sift through the piles and piles of flowers. He looks around eagerly, clearly excited to immerse himself in the process of flower-picking. At Art in Bloom, Massie will put his five consecutive Gold Medals at England’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show to the test. (He’s also teaching a few classes at the MFA and presenting an “Art of Classic and Contemporary Floral Design” lecture.) Massie says he’s most excited for the signature installation he’s assembling in the museum’s airy rotunda, which will be accented with seven pedestals. “The installation is a sculpture piece with a lot of stems,” he says. “It features white pear branch. They blossom when they open, so we have to get it a few days before.” While most of the plants Massie needs have already been ordered from the Flower Exchange—including the white pear branch—Massie tells me the purpose of the trip this morning is to purchase some finishing touches. As I follow behind him, making my way through the small spaces in between rows of flowers, I ask him why he decided on using mostly white petals. “The museum is going to be so busy with so much color,” Massie says. “My work in general—I try to be true to the space […]