Antonio Bond's studio in South Austin doesn't exactly scream floral shop: Instead of delicate sprigs and dainty vases, the space is populated by bone-white horse skulls and small tanks sporting fresh mold. The self-taught florist, who started playing around with arrangements while working in the floral department at Central Market, has cultivated a distinct style, one that could be described as gothic chic or haunted baroque. But really, it's just Transplants Floral, Bond's company that serves as the in-house florist for the Hotel Saint Cecilia, as well as weddings and private events. Late last year, the native Austinite teamed up with photographers Alison Narro and Houshang Ghaharie to produce Transplants: Eclectic Floral Design, a stunning coffee table book showcasing Bond's vivid arrangements. We chatted with the florist about his career path, where he finds his materials and his plans for mold.
What clicked for you in terms of, Oh, this is what I want to do?
It didn’t click for me for a long time. I was 18, 19, 20 working at Central Market, so [being a florist] was the furthest thing from my brain. I always did flower jobs for my friends. At that time, they were all getting married young, and I just said “I’ll do the flowers for you. You just buy the flowers and give me $100.” I liked it, but I didn’t think it was going to be a career until maybe six years ago, when I started doing events for the Hotel Saint Cecilia. I was like, Well shit, these are clients who have money and who are willing to spend a lot.
Did you ever think you’d be your own boss?
Oh, hell no. That structure of a 40-hour week, corporate thing, never jived with me. Amen to everyone who can do it. I watched my parents have that kind of job, and I’m happy that I can do what I love to do. When I get a job, I put on my jams, I make stuff, I get excited about it, and I’m excited to show the client. I love making people happy.
Your floral arrangements are both haunting and ethereal. How did you develop your aesthetic?
It’s a reflection of my past. I got a lot of my aesthetic from my parents; they were very eclectic hippies. [My dad] was also a collector of interesting, weird objects—in my house when I was a kid we had a meteorite and some bones. I want to push the limit on what people think are acceptable for table arrangements. I just like it dark, man. I like the mystery.
Where do you find the materials for your pieces?
Flea markets, antique stores, just collecting in the wild. My family goes on a lot of road trips to Canada, California and New York, and I’ll collect bones along the way. I’ll let my kid piss in the desert and I’ll just look around. I go to Austin Flower Co. for flowers. Their buyer just gets really cool things.
How did your new book, Transplants Eclectic Floral Design, come to fruition?
I got approached by Blue Star Press to do it, and I immediately jumped on it. Pretty much everything I make dies, so this is a good way to preserve it. I have so many memories of arrangements I’ve made that I can now show people.
What are you working on next?
I want to make another book. And I’ve been experimenting with mold arrangements. I would bring home arrangements from weddings and would look at them after a week and they’d be all moldy—and they’d look cool! No one wants mold at their wedding, but I’d love to make prints out of them.
Check out Transplant Floral's Instagram, where Bond posts photos of his prints (available for purchase—just shoot him a message!).