JANITA: What got you started on your paper flower journey?
SUSAN: I have always been a crafter and loved making beautiful things. I’m known for decorating my home for any holiday (I’ve even done a video on my FB page on how to set a beautiful holiday table). I was doing some serious card making when I came upon some pretty paper flowers on Social Media and that was it for me. My first flower was a pretty feeble attempt at a ranunculus from Lia Griffith. I keep it in my craft studio as a reminder that the first try isn’t always the best try!
JANITA: How has it been transitioning from a full time corporate job setting to making flowers from home?
SUSAN: Up until last year I was doing it here and there when I could, but flower making became an obsession for me and I was hooked. I just couldn’t find enough time to make the flowers that I wanted to. I could often be found in my studio at 1am working on some kind of bloom. Last year I was commission to make the bouquets for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. This being an Olympic year, Championships were Figure Skating’s equivalent of the Olympic Trials. I made 130 bouquets of flowers—all red, white and blue. I spent every waking hour, and some half asleep, making flowers. It was then that I realized that I was actually transitioning into a full time job. It was a happy accident, actually.
My retirement date has been on the books for a few years, and I just spent more and more time doing what I love—making beautiful things—not just flowers (check my IG feed). I had total knee joint replacement surgery in February, so my recovery was the perfect transition to working full time at home. It has been a glorious time and I’ve enjoyed every minute. While I’m in the office a few hours here and there (my retirement date is Friday, June 1), I find myself longing to be in studio.
JANITA: What has been the most challenging part of working from home?
SUSAN: Staying focused is my nemesis. I find myself doing other things around the house—working in the garden or just watching TV even though I know I have a deadline coming up. It’s always a race to the finish for me.
JANITA: What do you enjoy most about working from home?
SUSAN: I love the freedom of working when I feel it and slacking off when I feel it. As I mentioned earlier, staying focused can be hard for me. But I love the fact that I can walk a few feet from my bedroom to the studio and that it’s easy to take a coffee break when needed. At work, the phone is always ringing, which can play havoc with the creative process.
I’ve been a Financial Advisor for Morgan Stanley for the last 40 years. It’s a demanding job with a lot of responsibility. It can be stressful knowing that your clients’ future is in your hands. I’ve loved every minute (well almost) of it, but the pressure can be taxing. The relationships are what I’ll miss the most.
JANITA: What inspired you to make bouquets for the Olympic Figure Skating competitors?
SUSAN: I was a competitive figure skater as a child and came back to the sport after my children were grown and gone. I have been the President of my skating club, St. Moritz Ice Skating Club in Oakland, CA, one of the largest clubs in America, and have worked extensively with U.S. Figure Skating. I am on several committees for USFS and do a lot of fundraising for the sport. I mentioned to the Director of USFS that it would be great to have a permanent keepsake as part of Championships, and since they were held in the SF Bay Area this year, it was something I wanted to do. He thought it was a great idea and other than them being red, white and blue, I was given total discretion in the bouquets. I am thrilled that the US Figure Skating Olympians received my flowers this year and that they can keep them as a remembrance. The athletes loved the flowers and I think they may be seen again at Championships, although in a more abbreviated fashion. I wouldn’t do them for every level of competition again, but would do them for the upper levels if asked.
JANITA: Do you prefer to use your trusty Cricut maker or to hand cut your flowers?
SUSAN: I cut 99% of my petals by hand. I find it’s faster and more efficient. There are times that I use my Cricut Maker –usually for really intricate petals. I used them for the Bearded Iris in fine crepe and for the Poinsettias I did during the holidays. I could have some cutting while I was working on another. Since I cut 4 or 5 petals at a time by hand, cutting one at a time with my Cricut Maker is actually slower.
JANITA: Where do you see your paper flower business in the future? Any big plans?
SUSAN: I would love to see my bouquets in hotels and businesses—that’s where I’m headed. A wedding…I’m not sure. I recently did a big bouquet that would be great in the lobby of a nice hotel. Once I’m actually retired, I’ll be visiting hotels and restaurants to talk about my arrangements in their lobbies and entries. That’s what I would really like.
JANITA: Do you have a favorite tv show or podcast you like to catch up on while making flowers?
SUSAN: I binged on Scandal and Black list last year incessantly. I’m currently watching all seasons of Game of Thrones—I didn’t have an HBO subscription until recently, so I’m making up for lost time.
JANITA: Of course I have to ask, what is your absolute favorite flower to make?
SUSAN: Oh, that’s a hard one. My favorite flower is probably the most recent bloom I learned to make. I’ve been making Distant Drum Roses from Jessie Chui and Dahlias from Quynh Nguyen. I’m not good at following directions—I like to blaze my own trail. So I take the basics of the instructions and make them my own. That’s what makes it art, I suppose. For the Distant Drums I have some in my garden, so I improvised a little and used heavy crepe as well as doublette—and I never use templates. I just look at them and make them my own. On the Dahlia, I changed up the petal sizes and added a layer.
The easiest flower for me to make would be roses—and peonies. I LOVE peonies.
Where to Find Susan Bonn!
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