Simone Shubuck.

“This is my desk on an average day. I work in a small studio that is attached but separate from my apartment. It faces the garden and what it lacks in space, it makes up for with really pretty light.”

“Above is a recent drawing at an odd angle that is looking down on my desk (with a geranium flower on it that informed a color choice)”

“This was my desk last Saturday as I arranged flowers for a wedding- the drawings and art materials get moved aside. This is a dinner-plate dahlia, viburnum, lady’s mantle and chamomile.”

“A painting by my son who is 3 and a half.”

Simone Shubuck received her BFA from the San Francisco Art institute in 1993. She is a self-taught florist and working artist. She got her start in floral design thirteen years ago when she began arranging flowers for Babbo Ristorante in New York’s West Village. She is one of a number of artists who is devoted to drawing and works on paper almost exclusively. She has had solo exhibitions in New York at Alleged Gallery and LFL (Zach Feuer) as well as Jack Hanley Gallery in San Francisco and Kantor Feuer, Los Angeles. Her work is in the Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawing Collection at The Museum of Modern Art and The New York Public library. She works and lives in Chelsea, NYC with her husband and son.

FROM YOUR DESKS: How do you work?

SIMONE SHUBUCK:  have to keep a schedule and just show up and try to make something I like or die trying. On bad days I procrastinate a painful amount—this is terms of making art, which I do the majority of time. On good days, I can be present and accept that even though I have like four too many things on my plate, I’m doing what I can do.

FYD: After a brief hiatus, are you back to drawing?

SS: I never really stopped working but did slow down substantially when I had my son—I was just getting back in a good place when I fell down a massive real estate hole and sunk a lot of my energy into buying and fixing up a complicated NY story. Well worth it in the end but a harrowing process that required me to make huge sacrifices of my time.

FYD: Since 2003, I’ve been a huge fan of your mixed media work. Everything appears like a fairytale; what is going on inside those drawings?

SS: I wish I knew. Ha. Actually, I’ve moved away from a lot of that kind of imagery in the last few years. The new work is still full of detail and a kind of mark making that resembles my older work but a shift in the direction of more abstract and gestural—cruder, less literal. Right now I’m also making books—full of drawings—and ceramics to be used in conjunction with flowers.

There is a very intense isolation that comes with being a loner artist holed up all day at work and having a place to pop by…

FYD: I detest labels but are you a nature girl with street edge?

SS: Ha ha—that sounds like something a magazine writer would say because it sounds clever. While it’s not untrue—I am a mom and a wife and I used to definitely be more out there than I am—it’s not like I was a Crip or anything. I had a tag in art school and for a while after because that’s what kids did in art school back in the early ’90s, especially in San Francisco where the climate for graffiti was very permissive. I had a teacher at the San Francisco Art Institute who started sticker bombing because I showed him a bunch of stuff I was doing and he got interested in it.

FYD: You are old school Babbo. How did you two find one another?

SS: I knew Mario (Batali) and was looking for a creative job and asked him if I could try my hand at flowers when they first opened back in ’98. (He said yes but I had to be a waitress too.) They didn’t have anybody else yet so I did and learned as I went what worked and what didn’t. I still do it actually. It has been a very interesting part-time “structure” to my life. I think artists struggle with how to balance paying work and art until they can make art (hopefully) a paying job. There is a very intense isolation that comes with being a loner artist holed up all day at work and having a place to pop by and do a chore then be on my way provided a lot of structure that I never realized till I got older. I also met my husband while working there and learned how to make pasta and a ton about business I would’ve never known otherwise.

I had a teacher at the San Francisco Art Institute who started sticker bombing because I showed him a bunch of stuff I was doing…
FYD: What is your flower beat?
SS: I have down shifted considerably in terms of what the scale of my flower biz is. Juggling motherhood, art practice, flowers and the attendant business that accompanies it all was just downright schizophrenic. I love having my hands on the flowers – but right now I keep Babbo as a regular client out of habit and that is weekly or bi-weekly at best and whatever private event that pops up that interests me.

FYD: What’s going on at flower market these days; do you have a routine and stage it back at your studio?
SS: Over the decade and a half I’ve been involved I’ve watched the market shrink to less than half its size. The City had a chance to protect and move the market in the way that the fish market was but the deals (years of them) fell through and now when you walk down “the block” it is peppered with hideous cheap ‘garden themed’ hotels. I go there often and most days I look at beautiful things and smell them and generally exist in a cloud of denial (the same way you do when you take out your recycling, if you take it all on every single time, it becomes hard to function–for me at least). I know the market is not long for this city and so I’ve had a goal for 10 years that I want to be out of the business before the market becomes too depressing to bear. (Simone Shubuck on 28th street: courtesy of photographer Aaron Wojack)

FYD: Any flowers overtrendified or completely tapped out?

SS: One of the things that I did at Babbo (circa ’98) was just use really tall branches. Not that I invented this look at all but I was certainly adopting way early on the branch tip, which I think is now so overused—every hair salon, boutique, everyone does this and I just don’t find it that special anymore. That said, I have tall ceilings at home and when cherry blossoms or really dramatic crab apple are in season, I can’t resist having some at home to enjoy.

FYD: What is a forgotten flower people should reconsider?

SSI’m a big fan of geranium plants and using their leaves with cut flowers. Maybe flower nerds and Martha fans know all the unusual and pretty varieties out there—they are  called fancy leaf geraniums and they have many amazing scented varieties as well…the leaves more so than the flowers have all of this beautiful variegation in them. 

Rule no 9*: be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.

FYD: Who are your current muses in the vein of artists, clothes, looking outside your window?

SS: I just bought two new pieces by the artist Gerone Spruill (see right) who I already collected and adore. Also having a major moment with the current season of the clothing line A Detacher. My garden, an inspiration, a metaphor for everything and place to work and try and relax (and huge bottomless pit of work and hours just futzing). Painting with my son, who is a natural Fauve—full body finger painting…

FYD: What is your summer motto?

SS: Rule no 9*: be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think. (Once Fall comes I’ll shift back to Rule #7*: the only rule is work.)

* from Immaculate Heart College Art dept ( Sister Corita Kent)

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