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[whitespace] Floral Statues
Photograph by Farika

Sticks and Stones

Dangling branches of pine, carefully arranged mounds of mosses and stones--signs from the Blair Witch? No, you are merely gazing at the exotic plant creations of Jeff Shipley, Gilbert Tripp and their co-workers at Ixia on Market Street

By Mark Ewert

What do you do?

We're floral designers but were both trained as fine artists. Our employer encourages us to be creative and apply our fine-arts skills to our work. It's not just flower arranging, it's an appreciation and manipulation of nature to get our creative point across.

How did you start?

Jeff: I started by schlepping for a floral designer: carrying buckets, cleaning, prepping flowers ...

Gilbert: I started out in floral delivery. ... After I conquered the delivery department I moved on.

How long have you been doing it?

Gilbert: Twelve years at Ixia.

Jeff: Six years.

Who or what was your inspiration to enter this career?

Jeff: I finally found something I could do right. Before I did flowers I was a graphic designer. I didn't like that--I was behind a desk all day. I wanted to move around. Flowers are very interactive.

Gilbert: My grandmother, my grandma's garden. I remember myself as a tiny little kid looking all over her garden for red pansies, which were very rare back then.

Do you have any pet peeves about this career?

Gilbert: Sore fingers at Christmas.

Jeff: Or just cuts all year 'round. Our hands are raw by the end of the Christmas season; we can't enjoy holidays like everyone else.

Gilbert: And Valentine's Day makes all those other holidays pale in comparison. So I personally celebrate Groundhog's Day: no one sends any flowers.

If you weren't doing this, what would you be up to?

Jeff: A professional artist. I'd paint full time and I'd have lots of patrons, and I would always be preparing for my next big show.

Gilbert: An opera singer. But I can't sing.

Are there any perks to the job?

Making people really happy. We get thank-you letters all the time. This has happened a lot: we show a bride the bouquet we made for her and she bursts into tears, it just so exceeded her expectations.

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From the November 22, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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