For the past 11 years, David Flori and Rasta Geary Taylor used chainsaws and chisels to carve wooden statues of popular sneakers. Now, a pair of seven-foot-tall wooden shoes stands unfinished at Anderson Lumber.
As they prepared for the future of their “Huge Shoez” business, tragedy struck. Flori, 61, passed away suddenly on the morning of May 9. Now, Taylor must finish their latest project alone.
Just a week earlier, Flori had called The Gabber Newspaper office to inform us that their latest creation was in its final stage.
“We were just finishing up the last seven-foot Nike Air Force 1. That’s the one that just got pretty much finished two days ago right before he passed,” Taylor said. “We were just working on a Converse. So, that was actually the last two pieces he was working on before he passed.”
Chainsaw Art: Huge Shoez
Flori moved from Missouri to St. Pete in 2012 ready to start a wood-carving business. Taylor remembers Flori walking into his St. Pete shop to show him his chainsaw skills.
“I had a vision of doing really big shoe cutouts of sneakers, you know, really popular sneakers. He was the only person I met that had the skill to pull off the level of what I was looking for,” Taylor said. “We been inseparable ever since.”
Flori and Taylor carved a total of seven shoe sculptures together. According to Taylor, they also carved a Nike Dunk Low, a Nike Air Jordan 1 High, an Adidas Superstar, a Vans Checkerboard Skate Slip On, and an Adidas Yeezy Sply 350. They used old fire hoses donated by local fire departments as the shoelaces.
Fred Anderson, owner of Anderson Lumber, provided a space for them to chainsaw and carve their shoes.
“I gave [Flori] a platform where he could sit out there since we are right next to Pinellas Trail,” Anderson said. “People would see him and say, ‘Oh, wow, that’s neat.'”
Where To Find Huge Shoez
The two showcased their work around town, including at the Mahaffey Theater. Taylor displays a couple of the shoes in front of his shop, 1 of 1 Customs on 1st Avenue North.
Most of Flori’s sculptures are at Taylor’s shop. He’s draped a black lace scarf over the top of the checkerboard Vans in honor of his friend.
“He went by David, but most people call him Treefrog. This guy loved trees more than anybody I’ve ever known,” Taylor said. “I learned so much about the different types of wood just from him. He was actually a genius.”
Flori’s family knows that well. His sister Jean Wozniak recalls he had a carved sign that said “Welcome to my addiction.”
“We used to kiddingly say that his veins held tree sap, not blood,” Wozniak said. “He went through life doing his own thing, beating to his own wooden drum.”
Taylor said Flori hoped one day to have a space to teach others how to carve.
“He could turn nothing into something with a chainsaw like no one I’ve ever seen,” Taylor said. “It was an honor hanging out with him.”
Wozniak told The Gabber Newspaper they will have an official celebration of life ceremony for Flori on July 7 at Sacred Lands Preservation, a space owned by the Anderson family.