artist interview series kate alarconGo With the Flow(er)

Introducing Kate Alarcón of The Cobra Lily — yet another one of the oh-so talented paper flower artists in our community! We were lucky to have the chance to speak with her and gain some inspirational insight. From her techniques to her philosophy, she is a true artist of the trade. Stay tuned for even more artist interviews to come…

LG: How long have you been making paper flowers?
 
KA: I’m pretty sure I made my first paper flower in 2007.
 
LG: Where did you learn to make paper flowers?
 
KA: A combination of messing around by myself and some vintage books I found online. I’ve since learned a lot from the amazing books and tutorials that have come out in the last five years.
 
LG: Tell us about the first paper flowers you made.
 
KA: It was a peach colored flower made out of lokta paper with yellowish acrylic beads in the center, as far as I can remember. I’m sure I would cringe to see it now, but I was very proud of it at the time.
 
LG: What do you love most about making paper flowers?
 
KA: I like that under the heading of a single hobby, you can take on so many different kinds of challenges and work with really different materials. I also like how fast it is to work up a flower compared to, for example, a quilt or a sweater. But mostly, I just really like the plant kingdom and have fun hanging out in that mental space.
 
LG: What’s your greatest challenge when making paper flowers?
 
KA: Not getting discouraged by the frustration that comes when I’ve tried and tried and tried to crack some aspect of a new flower design. When I was working on my prickly pear cactus I remember thinking — I wish I was on the other side of the moment when I figure out how to do this one stupid thing that keeps me from moving forward with this design! It made me laugh at myself because that’s always how it works, over and over — just frustration after frustration until you finally get it. But you never know when that moment is going to come. For some designs, it’s come for me after hours and for some other designs, it’s taken months. So being patient is a big challenge for me, as is knowing when it’s time to put the thing down and move on to other work that needs to be done. (And by the way, the ever-elusive flower design is always a hundred times more pressing when there’s other less appealing work to be done.)
 
LG: Where does your design inspiration come from? How do you develop a flower design?
 
KA: I’m always looking out for inspiration on Pinterest, at the botanical garden, on Instagram, in books, etc. Floral inspiration is everywhere and sometimes it can actually be hard to escape. I find my brain churning away when I pass a planter near the grocery store when I’d rather be thinking of something else. I develop a floral design by working on smaller pieces of it first. Coloring a petal, making half a flower center, working up a leaf sprig. When I feel I’ve got the individual components, I’ll start working to put it together.
  
LG: What kind of paper do you love to use?
 
KA: I like the lighter weight crepes for most things. One of my favorite things about Lia’s new collection is her introduction of a slightly heavier weight, stretchier fine crepe. I’ve used it in a ton of things this year, from foxgloves to peony petals to poppies, and really loved the results. I hope we continue to see a greater variety of crepe paper weights come onto the market, especially weights between the double-sided crepe and fine crepe.
  
LG: What are your go-to tools when it comes to paper flower making?
 
KA: I’m not especially particular about tools. I tend to use whatever scissors happen to be nearby. I like Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue bottles that have a cap that allow them to stand upside down so the glue is always ready to squeeze out. And I use my awl a lot more than I ever thought I would when I first bought it.  Also, little pouches and little plastic boxes — where I can store bits of a project and keep everything together I need for the next step — are fantastically helpful for the slightly scattered crafter on the go!
 
LG: Do you have a paper flower making top tip you could share?
 
KA: I always say this, but don’t worry too much about creating an exact copy of a fresh flower. Realism isn’t the end-all and be-all of paper flower making. I remember reading in one vintage flower making book that if you make a paper flower and it’s mistaken for a real flower, you have failed. I don’t exactly agree with that, but I love that someone felt strongly enough about stylized paper flowers to say it. Also, you probably need less glue than you think.
 
LG: What advice would you give to someone wanting to make paper flowers?
 
KA: Take some time playing with crepe paper early on — feel for how much you can stretch it before it rips, practice stretching little bowls in it, and ruffling the edges. A lot of crepe paper flower making has to do with the muscles in your hands knowing what the paper will take. And that’s not something you can really read about or watch to know. You have to just kind of have the practice for your hands to get the muscle memory. Which is not to say that you have to do all this stretching and ruffling and tinkering before you make flowers, just that it can make leveling up a little quicker.
 
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Check out some of Kate’s creations below. Join her on Instagram and browse her website here — paper flower paradise awaits you! 

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