Vuela Loves: Amber Lu Floral Design
As we reflect on our history and honor the contributions of Asian American Pacific Islanders in our country this month, we're happy to share the story of Vietnamese/Chinese American florist Amber Lu. We've been admiring her beautiful work, highlighting the flowers and blooms' natural forms as well as the thoughtful spatial arrangements in her sculptural floral designs. From her journey, process, tips for LA and what it means to be part of the Asian American community, get to know the inspiring lady behind these stunning creations.
We love your stunning floral arrangements! How did you get started in floral design?
Throughout most of my life, I was doing mostly photography. I went to the Academy of Art in San Francisco for photojournalism and when I had finished, I just didn’t have the drive to continue anymore. I moved back to Los Angeles and for awhile, I didn’t know what to do so I applied for a job at a flower shop. The rest was history. I loved the whole process of it all - the griminess, the hard work, the engineering, the beauty of the whole process, the abundance nature has to offer, the people, how much beauty flowers offers and the absolute joy it brings not only to me, but to others - it’s truly incredible. Now I’m working for one of the most beautiful and amazing florist in LA (and world), Sophia Moreno-Bunge of ISA ISA Floral. It’s truly a dream come true.
What is your process with each project, fave flowers/plants to use, and essentials tools?
Each project varies - whether it being a big install to a very simple arrangement such as a bouquet or a delivery, sometimes it takes planning and sometimes it is playing it by ear. If it’s a specific project, I usually talk with a client as to what it is they are envisioning. Then from there, I plan as to what it is I’m envisioning such as sketching a quick doodle, then plan on colors, shapes, etc., then source the flowers - bringing their vision to life. If it’s a personal project, I mostly forage and create from what I can find. I’m always fascinated by what California has to offer, the colors and what grows in each season. I love foraging! I love using wild cucumber, lady banks roses, pansies, hollyhocks, sweet peas, orchids, etc - anything dainty but also unusual. I usually work with a kenzan (flower frog) or any simple glass cups.
Being in nature is always a source of inspiration, where else do you find inspiration for your designs?
I find inspiration from my friends, books, colors, California, buildings, the mood I am in that day- so many things. Lately, my moods have been “pushing” me to make more things - like for instance, my flower towers I’ve been doing lately. I’ve been dealing with a lot of anxiety lately, so I’ve been taking long walks around my neighborhood, foraging, and then coming home to make these tiny and fragile towers to help ground me. It’s been lovely!
What does it mean to you as we reflect on our history and celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month?
Throughout history, the past and current year - there has been so much trauma, discomfort, anxiety, hate, and sadness occurring, but there is also so much joy, love and beautiful magic within the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. I think it’s very important to understand and acknowledge the history of our past, how it affects the present, the future, and how hate and racism is embedded and deeply rooted in this country and world, and how we can and what we can do to abolish that, and how to uplift not only for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, but for the Black, Indigenous, POC community as well.
We need to come together as a community - take a stand for and help one another, not blame everyone - but to help uplift, teach, and abolish white nationalism and its history, thinking - the whole entire system. I’m trying to remind myself that not everything is full of sadness, trauma, and hate – I want to continue to find joy in the little things within the Asian community - like my mom’s cooking, little gems i would go to when i was younger, laughing and crying with family and friends, being able to relate - there’s comfort and beauty in that. I think it’s important to find happiness in the little things within the community and sharing with one another, creating spaces, to uplift, and filling our hearts with so much warmth and love. I know that may not be the “answer” to things, but sometimes, it’s much needed and so nice to laugh, smile and celebrate altogether about the good things.
Besides a passion for floral design, what are your other hobbies/interests? Any secret talents or irks and quirks?
I draw - well more so doodle. I’m slowly getting back into photography because I’m starting to miss it a lot these days- but as of late, I mostly doodle.
What are treasured items in your space or any objects you like to collect for your home?
There are so many treasures in my place - I collect so many things! I like to collect a lot of vintage designer clothing though. They’re so special and it’s so much fun to dig for them and so rewarding when you find the items you’ve been eyeing. I’ve been sourcing a lot from my sweet friend, Daniela, who owns Lunes store . They’re truly the most beautiful. And this one beautiful vase I treasure dearly whom my friend, Alex Reed, made. He’s truly so special and makes the most unique and beautiful vessels ever!
How has being based in such a diverse city like LA influenced you? What are your fave spots in the city?
LA has its perks - from the people, food, culture - I find so much beauty and inspiration from it but mostly by the things that grow in the city and its seasons and of course, my friends. I feel like I learn and see something new everyday even if I’m doing the same routines and going to the same places. My favorites places in LA currently and forever are: Owl Bureau (a special bookstore in Highland Park, Maru coffee (arts district location), and California Science Center.
Tips for your fave local Chinese or Vietnamese restaurants?
My parents, brother and I grew up in Rosemead - there are so many good restaurants there and its surrounding areas such as San Gabriel, Monterey Park, etc. When it comes to celebrating birthdays, our past graduations, etc - we would always eat at Boston Lobster Seafood Restaurant (on Valley Blvd, San Gabriel). They make one of the best lobster dishes and Peking duck! It holds a special place in my heart because I get to celebrate with my family on special occasions.
Banh Mi Che Cali on Garvey Ave is always a favorite! It’s great for a quick bite/to go place with a variety of different Vietnamese dishes, banh mi and desserts.
On weekends when I visit my parents, sometimes they get take out from Sam Woo BBQ (there are different locations, but they usually go to the one on Valley Blvd in Rosemead). It’s definitely comfort food for us. The beef chow fun and salt and pepper pork chops are always my favorite!
My mom is actually a wonderful cook. We try not to eat out as much, and I always look forward to her cooking when I come visit. Her cooking definitely makes my heart so happy. There are so many favorite dishes, but my most favorite is this Vietnamese soup dish, bò kho - which is a pot roasted beef stew made with spices, lemongrass, star anise, cinnamon, carrots, tender braised chunks of beef with lots of herbs (amongst other things as well) – I love eating it with a baguette! Also Sunday mornings - my parents would buy a French baguette, make sardines with tomato sauce or meatballs with tomato sauce, with eggs, homemade pâté, daikon carrots, and cilantro. It’s my favorite breakfast!
We truly appreciate this heartfelt interview Amber and delighted to share your inspiring story and tips! Thank you for taking the time to share your journey and these beautiful images.
Floral design and Photos by Amber Lu
Photo with Red Dress by Brandon Nguyen
Shop Nanda Soderberg Loop Vase