We’re pleased to introduce you to our featured artist, Kathryn Bondy of Golden Age Botanicals. She is on the list of some of our favorite paper flower artists because her amazing ability to capture the natural beauty from the simplest of materials. Learn about her work, challenges, inspiration and more below. Stay tuned for more artist interviews yet to come…
LG: How long have you been making paper flowers and botanicals?
KB: I started consistently around 3 years ago, and it’s been a remarkable process so far. I can feel my skills developing with every piece I make!
LG: Where did you learn to make paper flowers?
KB: Before I started focusing on paper work, I was a Display Coordinator at Anthropologie. My absolute favourite displays to make were always anything that was nature inspired, and there would usually be some sort of flower or botanical display to make at least once a year. I’ve made window displays that included dozens of tape and paper mushrooms growing out of a log, a 10′ tall lemon tree that appeared to be growing up through a table, and lots and lots of flowers. Some were very realistic, and some very abstract, and made of every type of material imaginable. But once I found paper flowers on Instagram (especially the work of Tiffanie Turner, Lynn Dolan and Ann Wood) I fell in love with the mastery and skill involved in creating them, and it just sort of took off from there!
LG: Tell me about the first paper flowers you made.
KB: I believe the first paper flower I made was a blue iris! I am also a florist, and I was working at the time with another florist who was completely smitten by them. They were a flower I hadn’t noticed much, but her exuberance was so wonderful, that it inspired me to give it a try in paper. Plus, it seemed like it might be easy enough, since it’s pretty simple in its structure and the colour is so vivid! I made a prototype first, taking the iris apart and tracing each petal, observing how it all connected and trying to duplicate it in paper. Getting the colouration right was more challenging, but I just had to keep trying again by experimenting, and testing techniques shared by other paper flower artists.
LG: Tell us about your wall art on Etsy.
KB: The wall pieces on Etsy are my interpretation of vintage botanical prints. They’re displayed in a style that is aesthetically similar, usually shown on a black background to make the details more vivid and noticeable. They are studies, in the same way that a botanical print illustrated by a botanist in the 1800’s would have been, except I have absolutely no business calling myself a botanist! Instead, they are studies from an artist’s view, taking in details like colour and form, the harmony of petals overlapping one another, or the fluid line of a stem, and recreating these details in paper and other media.
LG: What do you love most about making paper art?
KB: I love the simplicity of paper, but that simplicity doesn’t limit its possibilities. Paper is amazing, and it can be transformed into almost anything if you practice enough and pay close attention. I also love the wonder that comes across someone’s eyes when they realize that a flower or plant is made from paper, it’s pretty wonderful!
LG: What’s your greatest challenge when making paper art?
KB: Knowing what details can be omitted, but without compromising the character of a flower! I also have some challenges around shipping my pieces, as I don’t want to crush them, since I’ve spent so much time making sure petals and leaves are just so!
LG: Where does your design inspiration come from – how do you develop a design?
KB: Aesthetically I’m especially inspired by still-life painters from the Dutch Golden Age (which also explains my business name!). I just love how stirring they are, and the eloquence of a master’s brush when expressing how flowers move and their personalities. I’m inspired by working within the seasons, which is a popular approach to floral design and really speaks to me. I like working seasonally because it’s a beautiful way to observe the passing of time and to chart my own growth as an artist. Developing a design is therefore a combination of the concept of seasonality with the aesthetics of classical painting, and other ways of studying nature (vintage botanical prints, herbariums, Victorian floral language, etc)
LG: What kind of paper do you love to use?
KB: Crepe paper is especially amazing, and I like to use it because its texture mimics the vascular structure of leaves and petals so effortlessly, but it can also be dyed and stretched and cupped. I’ll use different weights for different types of projects, depending on how delicate a petal or leaf is. I also use polymer modelling material to create my sculpted fruit and some elements of my insects, along with wool roving, hot glue, beads, and all sorts of weird things. I’d like to expand into using mulberry paper too, and other types of handmade paper. I feel like there is so much to explore in this practice, and I haven’t even started yet!
LG: What are your go-to tools when it comes to paper art making?
KB: I prefer to dye all my own paper, since I guess I just like making extra work for myself! So dye baths are high up there, along with a metal awl, very sharp and very small scissors and Aleene’s Tacky Glue (paper florist’s across the board #1 favourite!) I would also count a live flower as a tool, and tracing paper to make templates. Plus a bright desk light!
LG: Do you have a paper art making top tip you could share?
KB: Make sure your scissors are sharp! And let things dry before you move onto the next step. Doing tutorials is a great way to build your skills and develop the motor memory for how the paper behaves.
LG: What advice would you give to someone wanting to make paper flowers?
KB: I would suggest spending lots of time experimenting and material testing. That way you can also get a sense of what types of flowers you would like to make. They don’t always have to be hyper-real, there’s lots of different styles out there. Spend time developing a creative process that is unique to you and uses your skills. But if you’re already thinking about doing it, just do it!
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