The Other Half's Nelson Pitts Will Change How You Look at Floral Design
Nelson Pitts isn't afraid to go big — and we mean that quite literally. The floral designer, who recently opened a shop and studio in Los Angeles after a 15-year-long stint in New York, has become notorious for his large-scale installations which may or may not include any actual blooms. From an over-the-top English Garden Party for the launch of Erdem's collaborative collection with H&M to Urban Decay's purple, disco ball-filled fete at LA's 29 Rooms exhibition, Pitts has decidedly honed his talent for creating an immersive atmosphere, not just a standard centerpiece (though he can make a killer one of those, if you like).
Creating installations comes naturally to the designer, who has been following his passion for visual art as long as he can remember. As for working with flowers as a medium, that came into play somewhat unexpectedly down the road. With the opening of his Koreatown space, The Other Half, Pitts is getting the best of both worlds: he and his team can dream up and execute the large-scale projects he's become known for, or he can focus his energy on whimsical, memorable arrangements for more intimate needs.
Since transitioning to the West Coast, Pitts has seen a change in both his aesthetics and his work philosophy. Because we love seeing Los Angeles through his imaginative, technicolor creations, we chatted up the designer — and toured his stunning storefront — to find out how he first fell for flowers, how he's been inspired by LA, and what's next for The Other Half.
It seems like what you do now is the perfect mix of your fine art background and florals. Was that by design?
That's where I've tried to place myself and my team. What I'm trying to dig as our niche in the industry is that we do more than just the basic arrangements; it's about creative installations and large scale. Recently we've done a few projects that didn't actually utilize any flowers, but rather were just about creating interesting sculptures. So it's been great because we're really steering it that direction.
Have you had a favorite project thus far?
It's hard to say, because we've done so much this year! The Erdem for H&M was one of our largest to date, and it's always fun when the big ones turn out so well. We also did a really unique paper installation for a wedding in South Carolina. It was the entire side of one of the tents — 40 feet by 10 feet — that was 28,000 sheets of paper rolled up and stuffed into chicken wire. I think the couple originally had another installation artist who ended up dropping out, and so they sent me some sketches but I wanted to elevate it a little bit. It's such a simple material and concept but done at this scale it becomes something more. Plus I've always really enjoyed the challenge of not knowing how to do something and having to figure it out.
Have you always felt an emotional connection flowers?
I basically grew up in the mountains, going camping every weekend with my father. My dad went to school for forestry, so it's kind of in my blood. That said, it's been an interesting connection that I fell into doing floral design — I think the love was always there. When I leave the city my favorite place to go is to the mountains. Now, I'm not so outdoorsy that I'm going on three-day hikes or anything! I like to still see my car, but it's the appreciation that's always been there and I think it was the catalyst for falling in love with floral design.
You deal with many different mediums, but what about flowers specifically is most exciting for you?
I love that flowers are something that only last a short amount of time. From the time I get the materials in hand, I have a set number of days before they'll literally die. That's been an interesting part of doing these installations: they're not permanent, they're ephemeral, they're there for one night. I'll go through waves of what I love to work with and what I don't love. Having the store has allowed me to re-focus on small arrangements. With events you're always thinking about the big picture, so it's nice to put all the energy into just one really beautiful centerpiece and have that be a way to make my work accessible to more people.
How has your aesthetic changed — if at all — since moving to LA?
Things have definitely gotten brighter; I've embraced color. A lot of the stuff I was doing in New York was with more natural materials, whereas here we'll find ourselves spray-painting things neon pink. I think that really speaks to the way a New Yorker looks at LA. It's a little cliché but as a New Yorker with a Vitamin D deficiency, it's a genuine reaction.
Speaking of life in Los Angeles, how do you explore the city on a day off and get inspired?
I try to take one day off a week, and it usually falls on Sunday. My day of relaxing is going dog park with my dachshund, Miss Honey, and catching up with friends over brunch. I also love browsing flea markets like Melrose Trading Post to find odd little materials. My eye is always searching for shapes and colors and materials.
Where do you see The Other Half in 2018?
There are certain agencies and producers I like working with so I want to set up meetings and form partnerships and steer myself and the team in the direction of companies we love to work with. But other than that, I'm just letting it happen, which is something I've learned from moving out here. My mother says, "I don't know who you are! You're so relaxed!" I think it might be all the CBD talking! It can be a really high stress industry and we work on unbelievably tight deadlines sometimes and I consciously try to stay mellow as the leader of a team. If I freak out, everyone's going to freak out because the client's already freaking out. At least one of us needs to stay chill.
Photos via Elizabeth Daniels