Published on December 19, 2018

With anthuriums, multicolored orchids, and pampas grass each claiming their moment in the spotlight across Instagram’s Explore page, 2018 was a year for serious floral design innovation. Traditionality has been overturned, as popular tastes have begun to favor unexpected shapes, vibrant colors, and eccentric pairings over more pared-down, rustic bouquets. Now is a time for innovation and boundary-stretching—and that’s why we’ve scoped out four floral designers who are prepared to make major waves in the New Year.

Below, they share their biggest source of inspiration, their favorite up-and-coming florals, and how they design their dreamiest creations.

Manu Torres, @uunnaamm

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Courtesy of Manu Torres

How would you describe your style?

It’s an expression of freedom more than a style. Definitely not following any rules.

How has your style developed over the past year?

My style is constantly changing within its own form, and I like that. This has been my first year focusing on flowers full-time, and I’ve been learning a lot about what’s growing every season. Finding a way to incorporate seasonal elements into my pieces determines a lot of the style and look of my work.

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Courtesy of Manu Torres

Major highlight of 2018?

There had been so many this year! I had my first solo art show here in Portland. It was definitely a key moment for me. I was given the opportunity to showcase a different way to look at flowers. One of my works in this exhibition was a piece I created with cement and metal pipes as the vessel and dried palms as the natural element—it was the most brutalist I’ve gotten thus far yet I was still able to keep it flamboyant enough, like most of my work.

What’s currently inspiring you?

I am still getting inspired by nature itself. I love discovering rare flora and getting inspired it by it. Also, coral reefs are a big inspiration.

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Courtesy of Manu Torres

What’s your current favorite floral to work with?

I love Pieris Japonica blooms and Garrya Elliptica—favorite duo! They are both very fascinating to me and can’t really put into words how emotional I feel about them.

Goal for 2019?

Travel! Since I started doing flowers, it has always been a dream of mine to travel and get to do what I do in other places with new peers and learn new crafts.

Sophie Parker, @wifenyc

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Courtesy of Sophie Parker

How would you describe your style?

When I begin a new piece, I select plants that captivate my imagination and suggest the possibility of creative interaction. As a painter, I am always seeing color dance through the leaves, weaving in and out of natural patterns in the foliage, revealing a new vision nature that is whimsical and vivid. As I compose a new piece, I’m less interested in classical formulas for floral arrangement, you know, those traditional rules for beauty—I try to resist them and instead create something fresh and simple and wild that grows from the plant itself—something more sculptural and geometric. The gentle tension in the arc of a stem, the negative space between sharp fronds, the variegated surface of a massive leaf—these are the things that pull me to botanicals as an artistic medium and inform my decisions as a designer.

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Courtesy of Sophie Parker

How has your style developed over the past year? Major highlight of 2018?

2018 has been a magical year. I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with so many people who are also captivated by the botanical world—people who see things a little differently and are excited to build a community of artists and designers. One pivotal moment came from my introduction to the amazing women of @flowercultt, a collective of artists looking at plant-life in a really intrepid way and building a community around a shared love of nature.

What’s currently inspiring you?

I’ve really been inspired by the intersection of nature and architecture. I love the idea of bringing texture and pattern from our built environment into the organic realm. We so often place plants into built spaces for warmth and a touch of life, but I want to explore new variations of that equation that play with the boundaries of the natural and the man-made.

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Courtesy of Sophie Parker

What’s your current favorite floral to work with?

Right now, my favorite plant to work with is the Elephant Ear Philodendron. The surface of the leaf feels like a massive canvas. When I paint, I try to let the natural ripples and veins of the leaf inform the brushwork, almost as if I’m revealing new elements of the natural biology of the plant.

Goals for 2019?

2019 is already shaping up to be an exciting one. I’m starting off the year with projects with Opening Ceremony, Regime Des Fleurs, John Hardy Jewelry, and Todd Merrill Studios, and I’ll be exhibiting a new series of work in New York with fellow artist Sadie Starnes about the ecological impact of nuclear contamination.

Jaime McCuaig, @j_aime

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Courtesy of Jaime McCuaig

How would you describe your style?

I would describe my floral design style as an extension of myself. Infinitely inspired by the bizarre; attempting always to strike a balance between an aesthetic that is beautiful and pleasing but equally strange and unexpected. Striving to be bold, and flirting with whimsy, unconventional, quixotic, and playful.

How has your style developed over the past year?

I have made some particularly wacky things throughout the course of this year, making it hard to tell what kind of direction I am evolving toward. I hope that’s a good thing? I think it means an evolution toward greater bravery. I continue to be seduced by the opportunity to challenge traditional expectations of flowers—i.e., the boundaries of shape, vessel, place, and custom. I’m spilling over more often now.

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Courtesy of Jaime McCuaig

Major highlight of 2018?

I feel very grateful for flower projects that have taken me abroad (I’m currently in Saudi Arabia!), as well as ones that keep me coming home. I’m finding a stronger sense of identity within the art community through gallery commissions (Museum of Contemporary Art, Gardiner Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario) and a growing family of collaboration-driven, multidisciplinary designers that keep me busy with a solid stream of editorial and styling opportunities.

What’s currently inspiring you?

I am inspired by my friends. Always. I have an incredible community of creative geniuses surrounding me. Other obsessions include nudibranchia (sea worms), the produce aisle, slime green, and my upcoming solo adventure to Portugal.

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Courtesy of Jaime McCuaig

What’s your current favorite floral to work with?

Lilies are making a big comeback for me. I love their little trumpet faces and the fact that they require patience and open-mindedness to see/imagine them in a new way. The classics always come back around. But in spring, I’d weep over a bearded iris any day and find religion in a wisteria vine.

Goals for 2019?

Be a good friend, daughter, and sister and touch some flowers on my lunch breaks.

Carolina Spencer, @matagalanplantae

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Courtesy of Carolina Spencer

How would you describe your style?

Fresh, graphic, contemporary, power, and colorful. Simple but risky at the same time. Balanced-unbalanced. Integrated.

How has your style developed over the past year?

A year of expansion! I traveled a lot and worked with people from different countries. Each project I do is like a whole new world for me. I push myself to create, to use new materials, and to get new ideas and I’m really happy with the results. I feel grateful.

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Courtesy of Carolina Spencer

What’s currently inspiring you?

Lately, I feel really inspired by incorporating acrylics in my compositions. I like to play with other elements, not just flowers. I’m also starting to love and use some dry flowers—that’s something I would have never imagined.

What’s your current favorite floral to work with?

Currently, I’m a big fan of Cyrtonium blue star, I love the color and shape of the leaves. It reminds me of those paper collages that Jean Arp used to make back in the ’30s. I’m also a big fan of colored and dry Palmito leaves. I found them in a quite old-fashioned florist shop where they only sell dried flowers. They found these long leaves hidden in the basement and gave them to me. They say no one used them since the ’80s, so they were such a treasure for me.

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Courtesy of Carolina Spencer

Goals for 2019?

Keep growing professionally in order to also develop myself. I feel very lucky that I have found my own professional way of expression; everything I do, I do it from my soul, and that makes me happy. I want to be happy.

More florals:

Mandy Moore’s Wedding Florist Predicts This Bloom Will Be Everywhere in 2019

The Freshest Flower Trends of 2018

How Instagram’s Coolest Floral Designer Arranges Her NYC Studio Apartment

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