Jacksonville native Crystal Floyd is a self-taught artist/maker working in a variety of assemblage-based medias. Skillfully blending her love of foraging and the natural world, Crystal brings her accidental findings to life by creating compelling works, playing with memory, allusions, and history in a number of unexpected ways. Crystal's work is memorable in that it somehow has an unmistakable tie to her southern upbringing in the most delicate, understated way. She manages to capture what is most beautiful and unique about Florida's natural flora and fauna, self-evident in each handcrafted piece.
We originally met Crystal through mutual friends and realized we shared a very similar aesthetic; our relationship grew out of our mutual obsession with plants ☮ ✌ and love for exploring and foraging. Her bubbling personality, impeccable eye for detail, and involvement within the Jacksonville artist community has crowned her a local legend – her work highly collected around the Riverside neighborhood for years now. Crystal's work has been welcomed everywhere from prestigious museums around town – including the Jacksonville Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens – to the walls of local coffee shops and homes of our dearest friends.
When she's not busy creating in her studio, you can find her at home making magic with that green thumb of hers. A dreamy porch filled with nicknacks and greenery plays host to an equally productive studio space, allowing her to construct tiny worlds with plant clippings and found objects posed on a bed of moss. She creates intricate narratives that are more than just terrariums: they are expressions of her influences and emotions, morphing into whimsical miniature works of art to pinch one's imagination.
We were lucky enough to snag some time in studio and on set as her and boyfriend/grafitti wizard Shaun Thurston prepared her latest collection that is currently on display at Bold Bean Coffee, located at 869 Stockton St in Jacksonville. Be sure to check out her show before June 28th! Want more? You can also pursue the goods in her vintage shop, check out her website, and follow her never ending series of explorations on Instagram. Curious about her pets? She is proud mama of adorable corgi named PIZZA and bearded dragon, SUGAR BEAR. You can also find picture of those qts on her gram. Dig into her blog and stay updated on future plant workshops to come!
Crystal's head is never not spinning with adventurous ideas, never without something to create. But enough of our gushing girl crush–we are super thrilled to interview this very *close to our hearts* inspiring and incredibly hardworking lady, and to finally share her work and story with you!
Tell us about the genesis of this collection. When did the concept originally come to you, how long has it been in development, and how did your obsession with the natural world enter your art practice? Is there a line between both worlds?
Crystal: I was excited to have the opportunity to show at Bold Bean, as it is a near-daily stop over for me and I appreciate the passion they have toward their product. Aside from their extremely friendly staff, it is a neighborhood hub and the meeting place for many local creatives. I basically had a lot of time to sit in there and think about how I would accent an already beautiful space to make its' patrons more comfortable. I was able to take the work that I already enjoy doing and adapt it for a place where I love spending time. I am happy with what I've created and feel like the body of work flows well in the space.
I have been collecting the objects used in these pieces for quite a long span of time and have created a few of the shadowboxes to house my own specimens as personal cabinets of curiosities. People started inquiring about them and that prompted me to consider making more so that others could enjoy them. The letterpress trays started from a commission I did as a sort of "wunderkammer" collection. I had wanted to make more elaborate mounted pieces and that was my first prototype. I plan to keep them as a staple on my website, along with the romance series beetle mounts. As I expanded the collection, I incorporated specific concepts into each piece. For example, the larger piece entitled "Grand Design" is meant to point out the repeating patterns in nature and divine proportion that occurs in most everything around us. When the items are juxtaposed together, the unobservant can more easily recognize these patterns and hopefully become more perceptive to them in their daily life.
The mounted insects are a more light-hearted presentation than the traditional method that is normally used. I wanted people to imagine a step further, where the insects take on human qualities, engage in loving relationships and are viewed as more complex beings than they might usually be by the general population. My hope is that the beetles and butterflies used in my pieces will be seen as the magnificent specimens and marvels of evolution that they are instead of something that is seen as a pest or taken for granted and ignored. As far as there being a line between both worlds, if there is one, it is very blurry.
The screen prints were created with Print Master George Cornwell as special edition print series specifically for Bold Bean, we mixed their Sweet Spot espresso into all of the ink that was used so that their coffee would an integral part of each piece. By using the vintage anatomical illustrations, they are meant to be a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the depth of our relationship with coffee and the important role it plays in some of our lives. They are printed on treeless paper manufactured from agro-industrial waste and post consumer fibers from the coffee industry in Costa Rica.
How do you connect with found objects in your artwork? Do you start with an idea or feeling you want to communicate, or with the aesthetic reasons within the found objects themselves?
C: The items used in my work are specifically selected and most of them are hand collected during my outdoor excursions, carrying emotion and memories with each object. My work explores themes of nature, storytelling and adaptive reuse, taking personally collected ephemera and manipulating materials and objects into naturalistic and nostalgic assemblages. I employ preserved insects, taxonomical items, natural artifacts and artificial objects in my work to activate magical narratives in hopes that my works transcend the appropriated objects and transport the viewer into a world they have created. The concepts and ideas behind the work usually are inspired by the objects themselves, which spark a chain reaction of ideas that eventually lead me toward the finished piece. I have been trying to approach it in a way where I almost allow the objects to assemble themselves by guiding them in place until it just clicks. With my collage work, I usually start with an idea and sift through mounds of material until I can find the elements that will bring the piece to fruition.
As if you weren't already busy enough with your day job as a financial manager for RAP & RAM, event coordinator for Cork Arts district, while taking on art projects and commissions – you also provide workshops on succulents and gardening, AND run a quaint, adorable vintage shop. Seems like your brain is constantly spinning with creative ideas. How do you balance these various facets of your work and life?
C: I really have no idea, it gets hard at times. I am learning to be realistic about how much time it actually takes to do things and then plan accordingly. I had been having trouble juggling it all for a while and was spreading myself too thin, which causes the work (and me) to suffer, negating the whole point of doing it in the first place.
It goes without saying how creative your work is. You have made an incredible reputation around Jacksonville with your custom terrariums and assemblage work. Does this mean work finds you pretty easily?
C: *blushes* Well first off, thank you for those extremely kind words! I am starting to see a return on the hours I have put in as far as people reaching out and contacting me for commissions. I had the help of Bloom's lovely and talented Barbara Georges to create a portfolio site that better displayed the variety of work that I do, which helped a lot. I do want to gain some national/international coverage in the upcoming months in hopes that I can expose my work to a broader audience. I am always open to discuss commissions because I truly enjoy creating something personal for a client. Taking a concept or objects and transforming them into a piece of artwork that a client loves is such a great feeling. I would love to make more reliquaries for people because I feel honored to help with such special projects.
When commencing a new commission for example, what is the process and how long does one piece usually take to complete?
C: When starting a commission, I will usually meet or speak with the client for a while to get an idea of their taste and vision for their project. Without even realizing it, people usually give away a lot during our conversations that can help me tailor the piece to them. At that point, it is all dependent on the nature of the project; terrariums take a short amount of time unless specific items need to be found for them and collage/assemblages depend on the preparation or scarcity of the resources it will take to create them. Sometimes I have to walk away from a piece for a while before I can finish it so it doesn't feel forced. I can usually work within a reasonable timeline if I have enough notice, but have definitely had to bust some stuff out for things that have popped up last minute. It also depends on how demanding other areas of my life are at that moment.
What are some specific resources / places you tune into regularly that keep you creatively nourished?
C: Besides just scouring the black hole that is the internet for new and inspiring discoveries in science, I try to make sure to get out into nature on a weekly basis, if not more. Some of my favorite spots close by are Cumberland Island, Guana Preserve, Fort Clinch State Park, Ichetucknee River and all of our amazing Florida Springs. I like to visit the Eat Your Yard Farm for plant inspiration whenever time permits and go to as many Gem & Mineral shows that visit the area as possible. They are a great place to find incredible mineral and fossil specimens and I have made many helpful connections there. Also, flea markets and estate/garage sales are an endless source of weirdness and inspiration, especially here in the South.
Do you work alone or do you share your creative space? How do you keep connected to the design community, and who do you bounce off for valuable feedback?
C: I usually work alone but enjoy collaborating when opportunities arise. I share my studio with fellow artists Olivia Carr and Jamie Jordan, who work in a variety of mediums themselves. I have collaborated with both of them on projects and was really please with our results. I am lucky to have such great resources behind the same door, Olivia, as a welder/jewelry maker, and a Jamie, a graphic designer/print maker, provide unique viewpoints that come in handy whenever I hit a rough spot. CoRK provides a good pool of resources as well, since it is filled with all kinds of talented and generous people that provide an endless amount of inspiration. Jim Draper, Donnie Dusinberre, Shaun Thurston, Clay Doran and Karen Kurycki have been super helpful and talented people to have around.
Which garden people, plant people, assemblage artists or similar do you admire?
C: My mother, grandmother and aunt, friends David Montgomery & Brie Akins, Tim Armstrong of Eat Your Yard Jax, and classical Victorian gardeners have been great resources as far as gardening/plants go. The beautiful work Jim Draper has done incorporating his conservation interests (most recently, his "Feast of Flowers" show at the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens) has been really inspiring.
From Jacksonville, Mark & Phillip Estlund and Eric Gillyard are assemblage artists that totally blow me away with their talent. My friends Jennie Cotterill & Claire Sommers Buck make the coolest stuff and are just powerhouses of creativity. Other artists who have been particularly inspiring to me are John James Audubon, Maria Sibylla Merian, Charley Harper, Walton Ford, Joseph Cornell, Gregory Euclide, Andy Paiko, Mark Dion, Brian Dettmer and a myriad of scientific and educational illustrators from my childhood.
What's in store for the future?
C: I am working on several commissions, some from people who have contacted me after seeing my current show that is up at Bold Bean Coffee Roasters. I am going to create some new pieces for their shop that just opened out at Jax Beach as well :) I will be creating works for a show with Eric Gillyard in the Fall, which I am excited about because he’s super fun to work with and his work is awesome. I am planning another succulent workshop at Eat Your Yard Jax for June 8th, 2014 from 2-4 pm and will continue to do more classes with Tim Armstrong, who owns the farm. I'm going to do some traveling over the next few months that hopefully will provide a much-needed refresh!