How did you first stumble upon paper flowers?
I was on holiday about 4 years ago and was just researching for some watercolour paintings that I was doing. I was just searching the Internet like you do and literally stumbled across some pictures of paper flowers. I was intrigued and it definitely sparked my creative interest. I studied Fashion for my degree and realized that the skills I had learnt many years ago were completely transferable to this wonderful craft. Cutting, shaping and constructing a 3 dimensional form from a piece of fabric was something that I really enjoy doing, to swapping fabric for paper was a natural transition for me. Each time you create a flower you learn the process is magical and your skills and creativity is always evolving. As with all paper florists and crafters once you start you are on a beautiful creative journey that is embraced by a wonderful community of paper florists all over the world.
What are your top three must have tools?
My first one is of course a good sharp pair of scissors. My second must have is a wooden barbeque skewer that I use for shaping and curling petals and also as a glue applicator, they are cheap and you can buy them in big packs. My third must have is wire cutters, you can manage without, but bending and trying to cut wire with scissors is no fun at all especially not for your scissors!
What are the steps you took to open your first art exhibit?
It was by chance that someone saw my work on Instagram and contacted me directly. I was a bit skeptical at first as it is quite an unusual offer, but I thought I had nothing to loose to see what it was all about. It was a unique opportunity to show my work in a private gallery and hold a workshop in a corporate environment and show a new audience the wonderful craft of paper flowers. The brief was to create a summer floral display for the employees and clients to enjoy. It was all at my own cost, which is usually the case when you are exhibiting your work, but it was chance to show my work to a new audience. It was a lot of work and although I had quite a few pieces that I had made previously it was a chance to design and create some new pieces.
What are your absolute favorite colors to work with?
I love most colours and really like mixing them to create interesting effects and combinations. One of the features of my work is colour and how I may use different colours within one flower or in an arrangement. Saying that, I do love the serenity of white flowers, but I really couldn’t do without colour!
If you could walk us in to your workspace right now what would the experience be like?
So Janita, as you know when I first read this question my reaction was oh my goodness as I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone!! My workspace has been extremely messy lately as I have been working on various projects as well as juggling normal family life. I am lucky that I work from home, my studio used to be the kid’s playroom, so we still refer to the studio as the playroom, which in some respects for me it is! I have boxes and trays of paper scraps, which I cannot throw away, bottles and bottles of glue and discarded cut petals, rolls and boxes of paper and lots of discarded samples. So you are getting a good idea of the mess I am talking about! I am not a naturally tidy person and so when I do have time when I am not working on a project, I will always choose to make a new flower, research and sketch, make something for the house, bake some cakes anything other than tidy a big mess! But, when I know today is the day and will sort out the mess tidy and organize and when it is all done promise myself that I won’t let it get into such a mess next time, but that part is still a work in progress!
Do you prefer to make flowers that have a more natural look or do you like to add a little twist on them?
I prefer to take elements from the flower and create something that is not necessarily botanically correct, more a reflection of my observation and interpretation of the flower. I may tweak, exaggerate or change colours depending on the style or type of flower that I am creating. We can all create a peony for example and they will all have unique details and subtle differences that reflect the maker’s touch and their perception of the subject that is the beauty of this craft.
What is it you like about where you live? Does it provide you with inspiration?
I am very lucky as I live in a village with beautiful hills and countryside 2 minutes walk from my front door. At the moment there are wonderful wild flowers, offering inspiration through shape and colour everywhere, that I enjoy when I am walking my dog Pippi there most days, I always have my phone out taking photos. Throughout the year the landscape changes and there is always something to look at and an opportunity the think or clear my mind. London is under an hour away and I do enjoy being in the city, but it is always nice to come home.
Do you have a client that has touched your heart that you will never forget about?
One of my good friends asked me to make one of my larger wall sculptures for a lady who was having her 90th birthday. The lady was so delighted with the flower that my friend gave her, she wrote her a beautiful letter saying how she looks at the flower everyday and it brings her such joy. I was so touched that something I had made could bring such a simple pleasure to someone.
If you could give a paper florist just starting out one piece of critical advice, what would you tell them?
I would say don’t stop creating because your first second or third attempt may not be what you are striving for but the learning along the way is vital, and don’t be afraid to reach out to the paper florist community as there are so many amazing people willing to help and advise.
What do you prefer to do when you are working on your flowers? Listen to music, podcasts or watch tv shows? Please tell what we need to be tuning in to!
I really enjoy listening to podcasts, one of my favourites have been ‘Under the Skin’ they are discussions with all different kinds of people from actors, philosophers, journalists they are so interesting and I always learn something and get a different perspective on so many things. I also listen to BBC radio 4, they have lots of different types of programs, ‘Women’s Hour”, historical and social programs and plays.
What is your favorite type of paper to use?
It has to be crepe paper as it’s such a versatile medium. I use both Italian crepe and recently managed to get some Lia Griffith crepe, they both have their own qualities that are great to work with depending on what you are using it for.
What are you most grateful for in your life right now?
It has to be my family. I am grateful as a wife and a mother to my son and twin daughters that I have responsibilities to them. I know that this has made me a better and happier person and enabled me to grow and challenge myself to be an artist.
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How long have you been making paper flowers and where did you first come across them?
My first attempt at making crepe paper flowers was earlier this year when I came across Lia Griffith crepe paper in the store. I purchased a package and started playing around with it and LOVED it!
I know you are a woman of many talents, can you tell us all of the lovely creations that you make?!
Sure! So since 2012 I've hand painted canvas shoes and have been full time with that since 2014. In the past few years I have also started creating feather earrings from embroidery thread. At the end of 2018, I plan to stop painting on shoes and go full time with the embroidery thread earrings and crepe paper flowers.
As a multi talented crafter, did you find it easy to tackle paper flowers?
Yes. I'm determined and love tedious work, so to have something like this that gives a beautiful result is even better. It also helps keep my creative flow going, because I tend to get bored with something if I work on it for too long, so it's nice to be able to jump around to different mediums of art. I see making flowers as a puzzle, and love figuring out how to recreate something so delicate from nature.
What is your favorite flower to make so far?
Hm... I haven't had the chance to create too many, yet, BUT at the beginning of the summer, I purchased some marigolds to plant in the yard and decided to challenge myself to recreate one. I clipped one off the plant, then dissected it, taking photos at each stage so I could look back and successfully make one from crepe paper. And it WORKED!! It took a few hours, but I got it to look pretty similar to the real thing.
How is working from home? Do you have and pros or cons you can share?
Oh there are for SURE pros and cons. As an introvert, I love my alone time and working at my own pace, but it also makes it hard to meet people face to face and create relationships beyond the computer screen. I love that I can wake up, have a cup of coffee and some Jesus time, then get to work on whatever it is that needs to be done each day. But the fact that my studio is in my home, means I'm usually "working" until I go to bed, so I don't have a cut off time each day that I put my "work" aside. What I do is what I love, though, so I don't really see it as work.
If you could walk us in to your crafting are right now, what would it be like?
I would tell you to please excuse the art explosion... I'm a messy worker, so if you ever see a clean studio photo of mine, please know that that's not what it usually looks like! I typically have multiple projects going on at all times and at all different stages, so I'll have earrings being worked on, shoes half painted, and of course, a vase of crepe paper flowers on my desk, as well! My favorite part of my studio is my "maker wall" where I have pieces from maker friends carefully hung for inspiration!
Do you have any techniques that you have transferred over to paper flowers from your other crafts?
I'd say blending is a big part of the flowers that I've created so far, whether it's blending different colors of crepe paper, painting on the paper, or using pan pastels to get the color I'm looking for and the depth to make them look as real as possible. I'm all for realism and originality in any work that I create, flowers or not.
What do you do while you work? Do you have a list of tv shows, podcasts or playlists that you indulge in?
I LOVE listening to the Journeywomen podcast or to audiobooks that are checked out from the library. I've had the chance to listen to a lot of classics that I've never read, that way, and I'm so thankful that our local library offers so many!
What advice would you give to someone just starting out on their art or craft selling business?
Be patient. Building an art business takes a lot of blood, sweat and, yes, even tears, at least in my case! Don't get frustrated when things don't grow as fast as you think it should, and don't give up on your dreams. You've been given your dreams for a reason; the world needs your dreams to become reality. Even if your dream "only" brings joy to someone's life, I'd call that a win, because the world could always use more joy. Keep working to make your craft the best it can be.
Where do you find inspiration?
Travel and nature. I love to travel, especially when it involves getting out in nature and experiencing the beauty that the world has to offer.
When you hit a wall in your creativity, what gets you recharged and ready to create again?
I find that my walls come when my shop is the busiest, so taking a break, even if for a few hours, or a day or two to not think about what I have to get done and then browsing work by other makers is usually what gives me the inspiration I need to keep going.
Is there anything that you are super excited about in your life right now?
I have a dream that keeps me excited! It's to have a VW bus that I can take to the local Farmer's Market to sell my crepe paper flowers from! Can I drive stick? No. Do I have funds for a bus? Nope. Do I have crepe paper flower inventory to sell? Nope! All minor details, my friends. ;) Do all of these things keep me from dreaming and working towards that goal? Oh heck no, because I want that dream to become reality!
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Where was the first place you discovered paper flowers?
In 2012 I took a course at university called "paper stories" which was all about papercrafts. In that context I did a little installation series about polypore (tree mushrooms) which would count as my first botanical paper work. Soon after that I bought the book "Paper to Petal" (By Thuss & Farrel) from my favorite arts & craft store and made flowers as presents for friends. In April this year I stumbled across a vintage book which was published in Germany in 1991 about flower making with paper and textile. And then it hit me! These flowers looked so much more realistic and I could imagine what was possible to create with only crepe paper. I was really excited about learning the basic techniques and applying them to create my first (realistic looking) paper flower.
How has your current career fueled your desire to make paper flowers?
I always have been a creative person. I used to draw, make collages. Photography was another hobby of mine. After school I did a vocational training to become a design assistant followed by a bachelor of arts in communication design. Currently I am working full time for a big publishing house in Germany doing editorial and graphic design. Working on the computer all day, for some years made me realize how much I miss the craft part of being creative. Making paper flowers brings everything together I like and enjoy. Working with paper with a botanical aspect and taking pictures afterwards.
What are your favorite paper flower making tools?
I find my stitching awl really useful in many ways. Especially for shaping parts of the flower my fingers won't reach. And of course my precision scissors!
If you could describe your workspace, what would it look like?
My boyfriend and I live together in a small apartment close to the city center. So there is not that much space and we share a small room for our hobbies. Our desks are next to each other which is nice cause we can still communicate. As many people I like a cleaned up workspace and when everything is in it's place. But it always gets really messy through the process and sometimes it's being chaotic for some days. So before I start a new project I need to tidy it up.
What could you tell someone just starting to discover paper flowers?
I am still new to paper flowers and the only advice I can give is to actually buy/pick a flower if possible and take it apart to study it. If you are aiming for realism it's very important to understand the complexity of it. The details will make a huge difference. Don't be afraid of making your own templates and figuring out individual techniques. This takes time but the flowers will look unique.
What is your favorite part about where you live?
I am currently living in Brunswick a city in Lower Saxony, Germany, north of the Harz mountains. Brunswick is a smaller city but it is well connected to the rest of the country. My favorite part is living close to the Harz national park though. It's the perfect place for hiking and exploring the nature.
When you are stuck and not feeling creative, how do you recharge yourself to get creativity flowing?
To be honest, I am never really feeling uncreative. This might be cause I don't have enough time to catch up with all my ideas or because I am trained to be creative even under pressure. This is my daily routine at work. Of course not every idea is good to begin with, sometimes a proper night's sleep or just being out absorbing things from my environment will help me to improve them.
What are your favorite colors to work with?
For larger parts I prefer to work with acrylic paint and for the details I use pan pastels. I like to have control over the result of my coloring. Don't get me wrong, I like bold colors but that isn't me. I prefer a more natural look and a muted color palette.
Are there any podcasts, music playlist or tv shows that you indulge in while creating your flowers?
Sometimes I will listen to music but I mostly binge watch tv series on Netflix, Amazon etc. I've watched so many I can't even tell ;)
Do you think that where you grew up has a lot to do with your artistic vision?
Yes, for sure! I grew up in a village and being out in the nature has been a normal thing for me. Also my stepmother is a florist so I learned a lot about flowers and plants from her when I was a child. For special events I helped her creating arrangements and floral wreaths. It was kind of her style to always include some material in her work we picked up in the nature. I think this had a strong influence on me.
What type of flowers do you love making the most?
Actually, I love doing leaves. I know some people hate doing them but for me they add so much more realism to every flower. They are always a little challenge though cause if the color doesn't fit it's noticeable.
Is there something in your life right now that you are really excited about?
Hell yes, I am! My boyfriend and I will continue our road trip around Ireland along the wild Atlantic way next month. We are going to explore the west coast up to the north. We've went there last year and fell in love with the breathtaking landscapes. A good opportunity to recharge and get inspiration for future projects.
Find More from Vanessa!
When did you first discover paper flowers?
In 2015, I was on Pinterest and saw a post for Martha Stewart’s Giant Crepe Paper Rose. I watched the whole video from her TV show and was blown away as to how beautiful it all turned out. I had no idea what “crepe paper” was and did a search online. Lia Griffith came up with tons of tutorials on crepe paper flowers, list of materials, etc. Then I stumbled upon the art of Jennifer Tran, Tiffany Turner and Kate Alarcon and I couldn’t believe how much beauty was made out of paper and I was not aware of it until that day! I ordered my first paper from Carte Fini and the rest is history! I was forever under the paper floral spell and it felt like no matter what I did with this paper, it would always turn out gorgeous.
What has it been like to work a full time job and also run a paper flower business?
I started my Etsy store in the Fall of 2015. I had no idea it will take up so much of my time after I come home from my full-time job. I used to travel two hours to and from my previous job, but now I am 15 minutes away from home which makes a huge difference. I’ve replaced the time spent on the road with giving attention to my six and eight-year-old boys, doing homework, dinner, etc. I’ve made a promise to myself that whatever I do with my flowers, it had to be done only after they are in bed. Nights and weekends only, that is my creative schedule. On occasion, if there is a short deadline on a project, my awesome husband takes over with the boys completely and I close myself downstairs in my “studio”. I am sure all my flower maker friends can relate to having to stay up all night to finish a commission. The days after are not easy at my day job, but thankfully, I don’t do that too often. I tend to push myself in finishing an order almost right away so that I can clear up my schedule for a possible new order or if life comes in the way.
If you could describe your studio in three words, what would they be?
(Organized) Clutter, Color-splash, Treasures
How long did you make paper flowers before you sold your first one?
I started in February of 2015th, I made flowers all the way until November, for gifts exclusively. My Mom encouraged me to start selling them, I thought that would not go so well, but the first day I opened my shop and announced it within my circle of friends and relatives, I had an order! I love hearing that “Cha-Ching” sound from my phone! I was so not ready, though! I had no boxes, no idea how I would ship it, label it, etc. Thankfully, the arrangement was all pre-made, so all I did that first night was figuring out shipping, which is something that I still don’t enjoy doing. My first sets were made with chocolate candy inside. I later decided not to make them since I was eating most of the candy. I still sell a candy wrapped arrangement to the same first customer/friend every year, but the thought of my flowers being ripped apart for the candy was not sitting well with me. I know, I am way too attached to my creations!
What are your favorite colors to work with?
My favorite colors are the nuanced crepe paper colors – all of them. My other most favorite is the Metallics. It is probably because it takes me to my childhood when I used to make flowers from chocolate foil. There is something so magical with the way the light hits them, the smoothness of the curves, the delicate structure of the flower, almost as delicate as the real one, but so unreal at the same time.
Do you prefer creating a more realistic rendition or do you like to add whimsy to your flowers?
I’ve been wondering about that myself. I am trending towards making more realistic floral recreations lately, especially with the flowers I use as models from my garden, but my metallic crepe paper flowers are probably my most popular ones and I love incorporating lights, musical boxes, other props in these sets, adding more enchanted look and an added function of my art. Most of my customers search for the whimsy and I am so happy to be able to offer it. If I have to make something in a short amount of time, I would rather make a whimsical variation of it, for sure.
Can you tell us what it was like growing up in beautiful Bulgaria?
Oh, Bulgaria, my heart is there, has never left. I have been in the USA for most of my adult life but my childhood years, all the way up to 23 years old gave me the foundation of who I am today. My Mom knitted, crocheted or sew all my beautiful clothes, some were from the wool woven and hand-dyed by my Mom or Grandma and it also came from my grandparents’ sheep. I still have some of these sweaters. I can never give these up! Summers, my brother and I helped with hand-weaving heavy colorful blankets and rugs for the cold winters. My Mom always made fun projects with me for different occasions and experimented with different mediums. We’ve made jewelry, décor, wearables, gifts, you name it – we’ve made it. Bulgarian traditions are infused with Art and love of everything handmade. I’ve grown up with it as a natural environment and being creative was a huge part of my life. When I was growing up, I attended every possible artistic class. I’ve done Macramé, Knitting, Drawing, Ikebana, Cooking, Choir, Graphics Design. Somehow, all that I’ve done and learned throughout the years, came full circle with making paper flowers. That “Aha” moment came and gave me the reason why I’ve done all of it before that point, and that is to prepare me for this beautiful artform. My other skills never felt as completed and as satisfying as my paper flower making, and I am saying this knowing that there is so much more to learn.
What is the best part about where you live now?
Definitely having a family of my own – my husband and our two boys, our home and my beautiful garden. I am grateful that we live in this country where there are so many opportunities, so much potential to be who you want to be and I am still able to share my traditions, my heritage, my culture and make sure my kids appreciate everything we have. On a selfish note, I am so excited to have access to all my craft materials and tools and use them to create beauty, to pour all my creative energy into anything I want.
What really gets you in the flow and excited to create flowers?
It is really inspiring to walk around my garden and look at every new flower that has come out to surprise me! I wish I could re-create every single variation of them and sometimes I get way too overwhelmed with so many to pick from. I feel I might not be able to capture a flower before it wilts, it drives me crazy. Every year I get new ones and my inspiration never ends. My photo library is filled with flower pictures of future projects. My Facebook Paper Florist group and Instagram paper florists are also a great source of inspiration. So much talent, so many ideas, so many flowers, so much beauty, everything is just a click away!
What do you do while you make flowers? Watch tv, listen to music or podcasts? Do tell us all the details!
I am catching up with Blue Bloods, Chicago PD, Bosch, Sneaky Pete, The Americans, Game of Thrones. When I first started, I had Bulgarian Folk Music in the background, but some of the songs would get me too emotional so I stopped listening to them. I also listen to Lindsey Stirling, love that girl! I might also do the laundry! My studio is my laundry room so why not do some housework while I am at it! This is why I have headphones on at all times.
When I first started making my flowers, I was using the kitchen counter. It didn’t go too well with all the moving of everything up and down. My husband installed a long counter into a built-in closet in the utility room and having a centralized space to keep everything always makes life easier.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone just starting out with paper flowers, what would it be?
I have a few things, if that is ok! Pick quality paper, it makes all the difference! Learn the basics from online tutorials, books, classes, whatever works best for your learning style. Start experimenting with your own templates, cancel out the noise, but still “listen” to social media, there will be people around you who mean well, but not necessarily support you, don’t get discouraged, it is a process that takes time. It sounds confusing, I know. Find your own style and keep on expanding. In a world where everything can be easily copied these days, you could never replicate that personal point of view, the uniqueness which comes with the artists’ individual experience.
What are you most excited about in your life right now?
My boys growing up and showing me their interests and talents! And of course, me exploring the world of paper flower art, which gives me so much joy and satisfaction. I will be teaching a flower making class in the Fall at Vogt Visual Arts Center, Tinley Park, Illinois and I am so looking forward to sharing the love for creating beauty with your own hands.
Find more of Marineta!
Be sure to head on over to Events If you are in the Illinois area! Marineta is offering introductory classes to crepe paper flowers! Find out more below!
We all have something in common, our love for paper floristry. Let's get to know each other a bit more, meet artists from all over the world in every walk of life!