Maker of the Month: The Paper Peony

Photography by CHANTAL DOMINIQUE

Stephen Brooks’ business The Paper Peony is a unique one: he makes hyper realistic paper flowers. Though he’s only been doing so for a year and a half, his work has gathered lots of interest on social media for how real his paper flowers look. You can find his flowers at Homespun, Blooms: A Floral Studio, and Mercantile 37. He also sells individual flowers on his website and makes custom arrangements for weddings and events.

What piqued your initial interest in designing your products?
When my wife was expecting our second child, we knew we were going to have a girl and we knew her name was going to be Juliet. There is a rose called a Juliet Rose and I wanted to surprise my wife with a bouquet of roses…until I found out how expensive they were. I found a template from a crafter online and decided to make my own. My first attempt was decent and after a few tries, I was getting the hang of it. Then a close friend suggested I make them and sell them. Voila, The Paper Peony began.

What principles do you use when designing?
My goal when creating paper flowers is to make it as botanically correct as possible. From petal size and shape, to the stamens, sepals and the leaves.

What comes first for you, the design materials or the design concept?
For sure the design concept. When it’s time to create a new flower, I will sit down with photos, and start drawing petal shapes until I settle on one to try. (If I’m lucky, I will get a real flower, deconstruct it, and then make a template based from the flower.) Then I decide what crepe paper to use.

Could you describe the process of creating a piece – from conception to finish?
A lot goes into making a paper flower, but here’s the rough process. First I will start with a live flower (or many photos of a flower) and deconstruct it to create a rough template of the petals, stamen, calyx, leaves, etc. Once the template is created, I’ll cut the correct number of petals from crepe paper. I’ll then start shaping the petals, giving them the appropriate cupping or stretching they need. Once all of my petals are formed and ready, I will begin to attach them to a paper covered floral wire. I keep building the flower out until all of the petals are attached. Then I’ll attach the ‘calyx’ pieces that help cover the transition of the petals to the stem. Then I’ll wrap the stem in floral tape, attach the leaves to their own floral wire, and then attach them to the main flower stem.

Describe a piece you’ve created that you are most proud of. What was special about it?
My favorite flower right now is the LUXE Classic Rose. It took me about 10 tries to finalize the design of the rose.

Roses have such a noticeable profile and I wanted to create something that was sturdy and luxurious. These roses contain anywhere from 31-35 petals and are constructed with thicker, double-sided crepe paper. They are almost heavy for being made from paper. But this helps make them very resilient.

Describe the commissioning process. What are the best and worst aspects about doing commissions?
A majority of orders that come in are commissions—someone who needs a custom order/arrangement of flowers. These are always so fun to do because they are usually very special to the person ordering. With that comes a lot of pressure to get everything just right. Paying attention to every little detail, even though someone might not ever see what I see. Every now and then a commission will come in, I’ll send the invoice/quote and they will say it’s too expensive. It’s a little disappointing, but I know how much time and effort it takes to make just one paper flower so I’m ok to move on.

What advice you would give to aspiring designers like yourself?
Make as many flowers as you can. You can read every book, watch every YouTube video, go to every workshop, but the things you learn from making your own flowers are invaluable. Practice makes all the difference.

Dream commission/client?
I’m so hoping Karen and Mina from Good Bones will order some flowers one day!

What’s your most rewarding memory in your business?
One of my best memories was when a friend of mine came to me to recreate his wife’s bridal bouquet. It was such a large task and it challenged me in new ways. After it was finished, they both came to my house to pick it up and she immediately teared up and hugged her husband. It was emotional, and meaningful and I felt so special to be a part of creating a new memory of an old memory.

You can follow Stephen’s work on Instagram, Facebook, or on his website.

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