Tagging Along With: Sophia Moreno-Bunge of ISA ISA

On a hot May day, we packed up and headed to the canyons for a time outside spent (together but distanced!) with the magical Sophia Moreno Bunge, the floral artist behind LA-based ISA ISA. Sophia’s approach to pairing and discovering beauty in the natural world is unparalleled — her ability to see beauty in often hidden or unexpected places and then rearrange them into an entirely new creation is truly inspiring. Below, a conversation with Sophia on what it means to observe, her tips for (responsible) foraging, and the flora that have been front of mind this season.





Sophia wears the Cati Tank in Natural and Petra Pants in Balearic Stripe



Foraging and envisioning a new life for found fragments of nature requires observation at its most elemental... what new ways of observing have come up during this heightened time?

The last two months have really shown me just how much flowers can make such a difference in one's everyday life. While flower markets were closed for weeks, we still had people inquiring about contactless flower deliveries. Our solution was to mindfully forage, cut from our gardens, and source flowers from small micro growers in Los Angeles. LA in the spring is so beautiful and abundant — it's really one of my favorite places to be.

I’ve been drawn to bright and vibrant spring colors- the yellow of wild mustard and Spanish broom- which are both invasive here in LA , and therefor good to uproot and repurpose- pastel blue plumbago, lavender mallow, bright orange and yellow nasturtium flowers.  flowers. While these aren't new observations for me, they are not commonly used in arrangements and they all have a lightness that has brought a lot of cheer to the people receiving them; explosions of wild grasses and color have been the textures and feelings of spring that most of us are connecting with, and there is something really special about a large bundle of wildflowers that you can't normally get at any market.

The silver lining to everything that's going on right now in the world and to not having access to the flower market has been an ever-expanding makeshift garden all over my apartment building; being resourceful feels empowering and also calming. I have finally been planting a lot of plants I've had leftover from work: roses, fuchsia, papyrus, hollyhock, passion vine, geranium, and orchids. It's been such a therapeutic and exciting project, and I am so thrilled to get to share this with others as we use these flowers in our deliveries. What's better than garden-grown flowers?


Leaning into the organic textures, shapes, and bends of flora seems like it's at the core of your designs of wabi-sabi theory; I'm curious if you see any parallels between this and your own relationship with embracing, resisting, or regarding imperfection on a more personal level?

My practice has really helped me consider and appreciate the creative process in general, which is of course inextricable from imperfection; the lessons I've learned in this realm have certainly bled into my personal life. There's nothing more that I love than using dry and strange, imperfect materials, casual arrangements that feel sublimely elegant in their haphazardness and mess; embracing things "as they are" creatively and aesthetically has also helped me do so in my personal life. I've definitely learned to accept the messy process of being human, making mistakes, enjoying the time it takes to "figure things out" rather than wishing it were different or easier or more clear cut.

In general, the process of having a business has taught me quite a bit about patience; so many things take time, energy which is finite, resources; it's been a process of learning to let go of expectations and embrace the challenges that come my way (and maybe this parallels the idea or expectation that arrangements ought to be "perfect", that flowers should last a long time (most don't), that they shouldn't reference where they came from by having a bug or a dried bit).




What are some of your best tips or advice for a novice who'd be interested in creating found arrangements or doing her own foraging in nature? What rules of thumb do you work with, first from the perspective of the foraging itself?

I would say take that first it's always interesting to walk and notice what you are drawn to: take photos, do some research, see what you have at hand. Some things you may not be allowed to pick — like California poppies — some flowers and plants may be poisonous, some lands protected. It's good to just learn before you forage. Try starting with your own garden, or a friend's garden, or common weeds that grow along the sidewalks. It's fun to even play around with things that have already fallen to the ground. In LA for example, and in my neighborhood, there are banana flower petals that fall, camellia blooms, pieces of bark and stones. These are all fun to play around with and create interesting little still lifes.

Secondly, when you're home and surrounded by nature... are there any top 'arranging'/designing principles that are your North Star?

At home, I love to create really simple and singular arrangements that feel intuitive and casual. Even just a few branches in a vase, a couple of odd stems and bits, some scented stems for a nightstand. Right now I have honeysuckle there and it smells amazing. Scented nightstand flowers might be my favorite for the home: jasmine, honeysuckle, geranium, gardenia.








What about vessels — are there any favorite shapes or types of vessels that are your go-to for displaying arrangements? Or perhaps something you love that's unexpected?


One of my favorite things is getting to design in other people's vases. The challenge of figuring out a new vessel is really fun, and exciting to play with someone else's vision; I really appreciate getting to work with something I may have not chosen myself. I love so many different vases and vessels, it's really impossible to choose one style. I recently made an arrangement in a bright yellow, low serving dish I have, and used a pile of rocks to anchor the stems and keep them from spilling out of the vase. It was new and different, and I enjoyed playing with this unexpected shape!

What are some of your favorite botanicals to work with during this time of year?

I love the smell of scotch broom and Matillija poppies which grow wild in Los Angeles right now. Iris, fox glove, nasturtium, passion vine, honeysuckle for the smell, are other favorites in bloom. I recently got my hands on some incredibly beautiful scented white blooming acacia branches, and they were magic!



ISA ISA is currently open for business and is offering contactless delivery around Los Angeles — visit her website for more details.

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