Santa Monica | March 23, 2021
Art: Floral Artist Sophia Moreno-Bunge
Meet Sophia Moreno-Bunge, LA-based artist and floral designer behind ISA ISA studio (…and Proper’s very own florist, responsible for all the beautiful botanical arrangements throughout Santa Monica Proper). We caught up with Sophia to discuss her evolving inspirations, how she communicates emotion through nature, and what she’s looking forward to this season.
Tell us about yourself and how you came to be a floral designer:
I started my floral journey in New York City, where I attended college for art and art history. When I graduated, I assisted a sculptor, and became curious about working with plants and flowers, as I was missing being more connected to nature. I came across an article in The New York Times, about an amazing sculptor-turned-florist named Emily Thompson. I was captivated by her work so I reached out, and ended up interning and then working for her for almost three years. I moved back to Los Angeles in 2014, and slowly built ISA ISA by word of mouth ! I was born and raised in Santa Monica, with two Argentine parents. I spent a lot of time in Argentina each summer—in Patagonia and my grandmother’s farm in the north—wandering , hiking, playing outside in the mountains and lakes. These landscapes, both the South American, and Californian, have very much influenced me as a designer.
What is your creative process?
It feels very intuitive at this point; it’s a mix of being inspired by my surroundings and what’s in season, and the spaces we design for. I love to do a bit of foraging and I find the mundane and unusual materials around me particularly interesting and exciting to highlight (in LA, it’s grasses, palm dates, inflorescences, papyrus, camellia, Passion flower vine, and brugmansia, to name a few). Sometimes we start with a board of visual inspiration for a project, a color palette, space we are working with, or a mood. Sometimes it’s all about what’s in season and showcasing this; sometimes it’s the imagination. Some days are uninspiring and you have to show up anyway and create what you can. We’re human! Sometimes it pours out of you and other days it’s harder.
What draws you to flowers?
They are the ultimate! Divine beauty and inspiration, grounding and otherworldly all at once. They are perfect as they are.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I’m influenced by so much, from the colors and textures of a space, works of art, images I see in the everyday, to the stories we are trying to tell with our designs and people we work with.
When do you make your best work?
When I’ve slept well and am able to work with clients that understand our process, who appreciate surprises or the excitement of materials they’re not used to.
What influence does your environment (Santa Monica Proper, for instance) have on your work?
In Santa Monica we are inspired by the palms and their many beautiful forms, from the textural and pastel tones of the draping Palm inflorescence (the flower of the palm tree), to its big fronds or dry husks. We love their scale and their shape. We’re inspired by the sunrise and sunset palettes we get to witness and use as inspiration, the shells and seaweed on the shore… I love that the Proper is a playground of material and that there are so many detailed and inviting moments for your eyes.
What messages or emotions do you hope to convey through your art?
Joy, curiosity, awareness, presence, sometimes the darker emotions as well! There’s a place for all of it.
Who are some creative people who have influenced you?
My mentor Emily Thompson, without a doubt. Kelly Wearstler of course, has been a big influence and is a dream to collaborate with. The visual artists I’ve loved throughout my life include Nan Goldin, Ana Mendieta, Etel Adnan, Louise Bourgeois, Sophie Calle, and the writer Maggie Nelson.
Who are your muses in terms of beauty, work, and life?
My yoga and scent /magic mentor Kat Villain. Look her up, take her classes. She’s EPIC and a gift to the world.
3 words to describe you in your current state:
What makes you excited about the future?
On a minute scale: I love to streamline, and I’m happy to be working towards a more sustainable business for myself and my team! A studio puppy coming soon I hope, and more beach days And on a bigger scale, it makes me excited to think about our world becoming more sustainable, mindful of the Earth, and more inclusive.