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Amber Lu

On arranging and foraging flowers.


Amber Lu

You may have seen Amber Lu’s work around LA at some point. Some of her clients include Marta, David Kordansky Gallery, Hammer Museum, Hauser and Wirth, MAK Center and many more. In her ephemeral work, wild arrangements are balanced into beautiful sculptural compositions. We chatted with her about her work and process.

Where is your studio located?
I mostly make my arrangements at the flower market, but for personal work — in my tiny apartment in Highland Park.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?
What grows all around in different places, it’s the seasons, colors, etc. — but mostly what grows in California because I want to use as much local and seasonal materials as I can (sometimes easier said than done, but I’m trying!). I’m also inspired by the movement that each flower and its parts have and depending on my moods — I definitely find more inspiration when I’m feeling sad — somehow, I feel more inspired and produce more work, oh gosh, haha.

Are there any artists whose work you are drawn to?
So, so many! My favorite photographer is Francesca Woodman. I’m also very drawn to some of my friends’ work. I respect them and their work so much — I’m in awe of them. To name a few — Sasha Netchaev, Riley Joyner Dahlson, Rana Kim, Elle Rotstein, Colin Sussingham, Ren Macdonald Balasia, Alex Reed, Andy Balasia, Jaime McCuaig, Tsz Lo, and Kristin Dickson-Okuda.

Tell us about the book you are working on.
It’s still in the beginning stages of discussion now, but I guess I don’t want it to be another “pretty flower” book. Maybe a series of 20 black and white film of blurry images, long exposure, simple, and an ongoing series of decaying flowers (an idea thought by a friend, Alex). My dear and talented friend, Sasha, will be photographing them and designing the layout. We’ve been trying to work on something together for a while now, so it’ll be a very special project for us.

Where do you go to find the material that you work with?
A lot of places! I mostly get my materials at the flower market, but a few “special ones”, I have a few spots to forage. I really like going on walks because you’ll find some really good hidden gems.

Are there any other mediums that you would ever explore?
Maybe painting — but I think I’d like to get back into film photography at some point again.

Are there any flowers that you dislike? What are your favorite flowers?
I don’t think I dislike any flowers — there are definitely a few that I do not use, but not necessarily because I dislike them, more so because some don’t go well with the other — kind of like certain foods. My favorite flowers (and plants) at the moment are — Datura, Clematis (especially on the vine), Opium Poppies, Passion Vine, Wild Cucumber, Dracula Orchids, and Michelia Alba.

Tell us about Canary Test, the group show you were in.
Canary test is a gallery/program for sound, performance, video and installation work run by two really amazing people — Ben and Kell. It is located at 526 E. 12th (FYI— they also throw really fun raves in between installations.) “Wilt” — the group show I was a part of, was an exhibition of 12 different florists showcasing their unique installs in the span of almost a month (4 florists a week). It was a really cool and fun concept and it’s the first in my experience to witness. So much love and respect for those two! (and their friend Gan, who also is an amazing florist, helped them put together the list of florists). I highly recommend stopping by whenever they have a new install and/or rave — it’s always a good time.

Tell us about foraging.. where do you like to go? Have you ever had any altercations while foraging?
I keep a list of certain things that grow in certain areas and are free to cut, but I try not to cut so much (unless necessary) as it should be for the wildlife. I mostly forage in the east side since I live in the area. There are some good spots on the west side as well. I will always ask someone if there’s something I’d like to cut in their yard — in certain public places, it may be best to ask if it’s close to their building (just in case). I’ve only been yelled at once but it was my fault. It was at a gas station on Los Feliz — there were these tall and lush papyrus growing plentiful on the side of the building and I just started cutting a few. The employees came out, yelled at me, and took the cut papyrus out of my trunk and I was told that I was never allowed to get gas there ever again. I definitely should have asked for permission at the time — it was nerve wrecking! So, if you’re ever foraging, please forage responsibly even if it’s in a public area such as a gas station. Always ask for permission especially if it’s in someone’s yard. If it’s an open space such as a field and free to cut, it’s okay as long as you leave some for those whose who live in it! If it’s invasive, it’s okay to cut a lot and good to pull from its roots, such as wild mustard. If curious, new to foraging and unsure, it would be best to do some research online or books on foraging, to know what’s invasive and what’s native, etc., but always remember to respect the land and the wildlife.

Thank you Amber!