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Maurice Harris

As a child, Maurice Harris was inspired by the floral arrangements his grandmother made for the church pulpit. Today, he’s continuing her legacy—and building his own—by creating extravagant arrangements for communities near and far. Words by Stephanie d’Arc Taylor. Photography by Kourtney Kyung Smith.

Maurice Harris didn’t exactly plan on becoming a florist, but his decision to express his creative voice through flowers was strategic. “I was always figuring out ways to be creative, whether through hair, fashion or makeup,” he says from his office in Los Angeles. “But flowers were a space that wasn’t heavily saturated with black people, black men, black gay men. Those other industries have their fair share of stars. I felt this was the industry where there was the opportunity to breathe new air.”

Under the brand name Bloom and Plume, Harris’s rococo creations are indeed light-years away from the baby’s breath and pastel roses of traditional flower arrangements. On Instagram, his captions are laden with the sort of slang and Internet memes that would make the cardigan set clutch their collective pearls. Social media has been a way for Harris to invite more people to participate in a world that has hitherto been occupied by the (white) ladies who lunch.

His has been a popular invitation. He has over 150,000 followers and growing. “My platform is very interesting,” says Harris. “Most of my clients don’t look like me, but my Instagram following is very diverse.”

Photographs are useful as a visual aid, Harris believes, but they don’t adequately capture the experience of engaging with his arrangements. A new café he’s launched in LA’s Filipinotown will feature his arrangements on each table. He hopes the café will make his art accessible in person to people who’ve perhaps never seen a high-end flower arrangement. “You get to come and be a part of our brand and community,” he says. “You get to feel really seen.”

Harris’s arrangements take cues from his family’s history. Flowers were a big part of his childhood community’s celebrations, both big and small. At church, “my grandmother was in charge of doing the flowers at the pulpit. It was kind of a big deal, and she took a lot of pride in that.” She also made the arrangements for the weddings of her eight children, photographs that Harris studied as a child.

“My grandmother had this design principle that I constantly use: a triangle, which for her represented the Holy Trinity,” Harris says. Asymmetrical triangles are indeed very present in his designs, often in twos or threes.

The angular geometry of the bird-of-paradise flower, the floral emblem of the city of Los Angeles, also captures Harris’s imagination. “It represents blackness for me, in a way,” Harris enthuses. “It stands out above the crowd. It blends in before it blooms; it’s got a weird nose or beak. And that beautiful vibrant blue! That orange!”

This story is from The Kinfolk Garden

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This story is from The Kinfolk Garden

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