Petals and Metals
The magical and heartbreaking work of Austin artist Antonio Bond
As owner of Transplants Floral, Antonio Bond is in the business of creating beauty. His work, which is more sculpture than bouquet, consists of artfully-crafted florals intermingled with both natural and manmade found objects. They are arresting in a show-stopping kind of way that makes you stop, stare, and wonder, "Wait. What am I looking at?"
The way he tells it, Bond was never supposed to be a floral designer. Tall with a long black beard, the heavily-tattooed Bond looks more at home at Emo's (where he once was a bartender) than he does at the Austin Flower Company (which he visits multiple times a week). But like many great Austin stories, Bond's is a story of juxtaposition, of being in the right place, of having a talent and being surrounded by like-minded people who champion that talent.
A native Austinite, Bond landed his first gig working in Central Market's floral department. After a few self-proclaimed "ugly" arrangements, Bond began to find his niche, and soon became the go-to wedding florist for his friends. "I didn’t necessarily think I was good at it," explains Bond. "I would [tell my friends], 'You just buy the flowers, and I’ll make the arrangements.'”
Following a stint at East Austin landscape designer Big Red Sun, Bond ended up behind the bar at Emo's — but never quit creating his art. "Even when I was bartending, I was always doing weddings," he says. "Even if it was just two or three a year."
Then, in 2010, Bond was approached by the Hotel Saint Cecilia to do flowers for a wedding being held on the grounds. It was a turning point, and soon Bond was the go-to floral designer for the hip hotel, even being tapped to create tablescapes for the the Saint Cecilia's signature event, Feast Day. In the years that followed, Bond continued creating, working with everyone from SXSW to the Texas Film Awards.
Earlier this year, Bond was approached by John-Paul Garrigues to create a book chronicling his artwork. Working with Austin-based photographers Alison Narro and Houshang Ghaharie, the team shot hundreds of Bond's displays. The result is Transplants: Eclectic Floral Design, a beautiful, 200-page hardcover retrospective of Bond's career thus far. Bond says the decision to make a book was less for himself, and more to leave a lasting legacy for his two young daughters. "Everything I make has a short life span," he says. "To make something that will live on is amazing."
Since his days working in a grocery store floral department, Bond has continued to grow both as an artist and as a businessman. Along the way, he has created unforgettable moments of beauty for those lucky enough to experience his work in-person. Though vibrant and magical, his pieces can be heartbreaking, as if reminding us that beautiful, living things can't last forever.
With Transplants: Eclectic Floral Design now out in the world, Bond is already planning for another one. As for Transplants, he is navigating the challenges that come with growing a business while maintaining the quality of his work. Despite his success, and the bigger, better opportunities that come with it, Bond says it's impossible to imagine not having his hands on every single arrangement. "I don’t want to lose the magic," Bond muses. "I want it stay fun. I want to enjoy it."