Inside Artist Elizabeth Hayt’s Atelier

"Why should I make something neutral?" asks the faux-flora designer.
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In her Manhattan atelier, Elizabeth Hayt sits among her collection of faux-flora creations. Photography by Doug Young.

From her atelier located in Manhattan’s fashion district, decorative artist Elizabeth Hayt and her team of assistants hand-craft botanical-inspired tabletop collections that are both whimsical and ornately colorful. “Why would I make something neutral?” the faux-flora designer asks rhetorically. “I don’t think white communicates anything.”

Hayt, who holds a graduate degree in art history from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, started experimenting with objets d’art while she was decorating a penthouse studio/office in her apartment building a little more than a decade ago. “I was a writer, journalist, and author who developed a stubborn case of writer’s block,” she explains. “To cope, I began wallpapering the office with Damien Hirst’s photomontage of cigarette-stubbed flowers, which inspired a kitsch art installation replete with recorded bird sounds and chandeliers.” Years later, Hayt began making one-of-a-kind textile flowers with vintage fabric, steel mesh, and other repurposed materials, and by 2019, she decided to have a salon-style opening to “inaugurate a viewing of my work.” The guest list included Andrew Mandell, the director of Bergdorf Goodman’s home department, which soon began carrying her pieces. Hayt’s collection has since grown to include extravagant roses, orchids, tulips, and lilies, all freestanding on hand-carved brass bases cast from tomatillos.

Each flower begins with a brass stem cast from an actual rose branch. Its petals are structured from copper wire and steel mesh, cut to form an armature on which specifically chosen fabrics are affixed with hot glue to either side and then trimmed. Once all the petals are formed, the wires from their armatures are wound together to gather them into a single blossom, which is then attached to the brass stem with more wire. “For an extra bit of strength, we use an industrial epoxy to secure the flowers to the tips of the stem and the brass base,” says Zoë Kestan, one of Hayt’s studio assistants. Finally, fully constructed flowers are then “bedazzled” with shimmery stones and crystals, applied with the aid of a craft syringe filled with industrial adhesive.

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Petal armatures of steel mesh and copper wire are covered with fabric, trimmed, and attached to a cast-brass stem. Photography by Doug Young.

“The stones are essential,” Hayt says, “since they add the glamour. My father always taught me that there was no merit in being able to say, ‘I did that in a snap,’ and when you see the flowers up close, they are mind-blowing. I’m impressed with labor and attention to detail, so it’s very important to me that everything we offer is handmade.”