Now that summer is here, flowers are everywhere—even in my studio. Not real ones, but the mixed-media variety, made with vintage papers, watercolor, spray inks, ink blocks, and wire. After seeing the work of the finalists of our mixed-media flower reader challenge in the May/June issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, I was inspired to create these easy paper flowers, and I’ll show you how I made them.
If you haven’t seen the reader challenge artwork, you must check it out. Artists created blossoms out of fabric, collage, yarn, applique, paint, pastel, watercolor, encaustic, and ink. Yep, pretty much all bases were covered, and the vibrant, dimensional pieces will take your breath away. You’ll be motivated to dive into your supplies and create some beautiful blooms, too.
We’re going to make two flowers: a rose and a poppy. To begin this project, I went into my stash of vintage books and took out several text pages—some in French, some in English, with various fonts. I keep a special stack of books made before about 1830 that have pages made out of cotton or linen rag, instead of wood pulp. When you find one of these books, you’ll notice that the paper feels different; it’s very malleable, almost like fabric. I like using these for sculptural or dimensional projects like paper flowers because the paper can take a lot of folding and wrinkling. Make sure the paper you use is strong enough to withstand painting and some handling. Brittle vintage pages won’t work for these paper flowers.
I colored the pages two ways; with spray inks and watercolor. You can also use acrylic paint, Gelatos, watercolor pencils, regular inks, and tea or coffee staining. Two shades of green ink were spritzed into a palette, sprayed with water to dilute them a bit, and then brushed on both sides of the paper. You can see how vibrant the color is, and a little goes a long way.
If you have left over ink, grab some papers and use them to blot up the extra ink. I used watercolor paper scraps. These make great background papers.
Other pages were colored with watercolor, and came out more muted. Remember, the color will become paler when the paper is dry.
The first of two paper flowers we’ll make is a bi-color rose. When the yellow sheets were dry I stenciled them with terra cotta stamping ink on both sides to add a little patterning.
I created petal template and cut several of each petal size. I usually cut about 3-4 of the smallest (about 1 3/8″ x 1 3/8″), 4-5 of the medium (about 1 5/8″ x 1 5/8″) and 4-6 of the large (about 1 ¾” x 1 ¾”). Make sure you have enough paper in case you need to cut more petals.
Stack the template on top of several pieces of paper and cut several at once. When you get to the top of the petal, wiggle the scissors a little as you cut to get an uneven edge. Nothing in nature is perfect!
I lightly drew around the edges of the petals with a red Derwent Inktense Block.
Next, I brushed over the color with a damp paintbrush, which made the color come to life.
While the petals dried, I prepared the stem. Green cloth-covered wire floral stems are available, but I had some plain silver wire ones and used those. I wound floral tape around the top several times to make a little bud, then continued to wrap the stem with the floral tape. If you’ve never used floral tape, it’s fun stuff. Stretching it before wrapping it activates the stickiness, so it stays in place.
Take one of the small petals and brush on some white glue on the lower part of the petal. I like using Aleene’s Quick Dry Tacky Glue, and I used my fingers to spread it.
Wrap the petal around the stem so the bottom part rests just under the bud. Try to wrap the petal as tightly as you can, and hold it for a few seconds until the glue sets.
Glue and wrap another small petal, but offset it slightly so it’s not in the same position as the first petal. Do the same with a third small petal, but this time wrap it a little more loosely.
Begin adding the medium petals the same way, making sure to offset them. Before gluing the petals, work them with your hands a bit to make them more pliable. Once the glue is dry, bend the top part of the petal back just a wee bit, about 1/8″.
Continue to add 2-3 more medium petals. Look at the flower from all angles after adding a petal to see where the next petal should go.
Add the large petals the same way, assessing their position, and again bending the top part of the petal back. Stop when the rose looks complete.
To create the sepal, which are the tiny leaves found underneath the blossom, cut a small circle from the green paper (about 1″ diameter), and then cut a star shape, making sure not to cut all the way to the center. Cut or punch a small hole in the center. You can see that mine’s pretty wonky, and that’s okay. It doesn’t need to be perfect.
Apply a little glue at the base of the flower, and slip the sepal onto the stem, pushing it so it’s nestled just underneath the blossom. Hold until the glue sets a bit.
To create leaves for paper flowers, cut generic leaf shapes from the green paper. I freehanded these, but you can make a template. Cut two pieces at once, wrong side to wrong side. Cut an 8″ piece of green floral paddle wire and straighten it out with your fingers. Apply a line of glue stick to the middle of the wrong side of one leaf, lay the wire on top in the center, and glue the wrong side of the other leaf shape. Place the glued leaf shape on top, making sure all the sides line up, and press the pieces together. The wire gives the leaf body and allows you to shape it.
When the glue is dry, cut a small jagged edge on the leaves with scissors, mimicking the look of rose leaves. Wind floral tape around the leaf wire, then wind the leaf stem around the flower stem. Create more leaves if desired, wind them around the flower stem, and secure everything with one more wrap of the floral tape.
For the poppy, wrap a floral stem the same way you did for the rose, but this time add some purchased stamens to the top. These can be found online or in craft stores. Fold them in half and secure them to the top of the stem with floral tape.
Cut a strip of black paper about 1″ high by 6″-8″ long. Fringe the paper, stopping about ¼” from the bottom. Put glue on the unfringed part and wrap the paper around the stamens so that the top of the paper matches the height of the stamens.
When the glue is dry, fan out the fringed paper.
Cut about 6 petals, using the template or freehanding the design. The petal is about 2″ wide by about 2″ high. Wrinkle them up a bit; poppy petals are not smooth.
Apply glue to the bottom of the petal, and wrap it around the base of the fringed paper. Apply the next petal directly opposite it, then two more on either side.
Continue to add petals until you’re happy with the way the flower looks.
For these leaves, I cut wide basic leaf shapes, glued the pieces to paddle wire, and, when dry, freehand cut the leaf shapes. Poppy leaves have a variety of shapes, so choose one you like. Remember, these don’t have to be perfect! Attach them to the floral stem the same way you did for the rose.
Aren’t these paper flower blossoms pretty? They make me happy every time I look at them. You can make a whole bouquet, varying the size of the flowers and the colors. Here’s a bonus idea: Create a dimensional flower on an art journal page using the same petals. Here, I glued individual petals to a page, going from largest to smallest, and creating a little center with yellow paper.
There are so many ways you can use these blooms. Fill a shadow box with rows of flowers. Include them in an assemblage or collage. Also, try using different types of paper, like monoprinted rice paper or map paper, and even fabric.
If flowers make you happy, dive into more projects and ideas with these great books, videos, and more from the North Light Shop!