Plants are not the first things that spring to mind when we think of art. But the artistic power of the Airplantman has changed the way we look at plants forever. The creative Californian with a passion for these alien-like airplants tells us how it’s done.
“Their ability to survive in a variety of environments with no soil is what makes them unique.”
Tell us a little bit about your background and love for Tillansdia’s?
When I first saw airplants they immediately captured my attention with their striking sculptural shapes that reminded me of adorable alien creatures. Their amazing diversity made me want to collect them all (there are over 600 species) and unique ability to live without soil created a lifelong obsession. I’ve been collecting and designing with them ever since.
Tell us more about these fascinating plants.
Airplants or tillandsia evolved in nature to inhabit niches where other plants were not able to survive such as cliff faces, treetops, and even bare sand dunes. In human influenced environments they can be seen growing on telephone wires or chain link fences. Their ability to survive in a variety of environments with no soil is what makes them unique. All moisture and nutrients are absorbed directly through tillandsia’s (genus all airplants fall into) leaves.
In other words, Airplants are an incredible genus of plants with the ability to live without soil. Their specially adapted leaves absorb water and nutrients from the air and allows them to live in nature suspended anywhere including treetops and bare rock. Found in South America and the southern United States airplants have an amazing variety of shapes, colors, and sizes.
“I’ve always been guided by an underlying love for these plants and their unexpected ability and personality.”
At that time did you think your Airplantman journey would be a successful as it is?
Throughout the creation of the Airplantman brand I’ve always been guided by an underlying love for these plants and their unexpected ability and personality. The reaction almost everyone has when encountering them is curiosity and desire to know more. It’s this moment where we step outside of the everyday way of looking at things and this is what I admire most. This is why I think my work continues to inspire and be successful.
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Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
I am inspired by the natural beauty of airplants to create products that embody a simple clean design aesthetic which highlights the plants uniqueness. A few guiding principals are behind our products. First the design must showcase the key unique feature of tillandsia, which is that they thrive suspended in air. Second the product must make is easy to give the airplant what it requires to survive, including ease of watering and air circulation. All our products are also 100% made in California of sustainable and recyclable materials.
You have worked with some big brands in fine restaurants, luxury hotels and commercial spaces on commissioned projects. What has been your most exciting / unusual project to date?
That is a difficult question as they have all been interesting in their own ways. One particularly fun one was problem solving for a client who had a beautiful Ray Kappe designed house that recently had solar panels added to a roof. This roof was visible from floor to ceiling windows and had a nice view beyond. To maintain the view while screening the solar panels we created a spectacular tillandsia wall featuring a sea of Spanish moss with a series of AirplantFrames floating in a loose grid form. The result was spectacular and unlike any other of our installations to date.
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If you could hang an airplant display anywhere in the world where would it be and why?
I think it would be really fun to have one of our AirplantFrame installations featured in a fine art museum like LACMA or MOMA. When creating one the layout of textures and colors reminds me a lot of when I used to paint, and the added depth and complexity that comes with working with plants, particularly tillandsia, would really look striking in a gallery setting. One day….
Do you know if there is any psychological / physiological benefits to being surrounded by plants as decorations?
Absolutely. Tillandsia have been shown to absorb toxins in the air and also provide oxygen as all plants do. Most importantly they connect our mind with nature’s whimsical ability to create the unexpected and the endless variation it contains are both important lessons to be reminded of.
25 – 35 year old
Getting lost in the world of airplants
Be in the moment