Crumpled Up: How to Make Paper Flowerscomments (14) May 18th, 2013
I am proud uncle to five beautiful nieces ranging in age from six months to 12 years. On weekends, we usually end up sitting on the floor of my studio with crayons and watercolors and stacks of paper. However, too often, fun time seems to end in frustration as the complaints start mounting: "I can't cut this straight"; "All of my pieces aren't the same size"; "Some of my red paint has gotten mixed with my yellow paint" and so on. Glancing around one afternoon, I suddenly realized that there were five little pairs of highly critical eyes who seemed vigorously engaged in comparing their own work with the work they saw all around them in my studio. Of course, I have years of experience (and a long list of demanding clients) to my credit, so my work differed wildly from theirs It was this comparing of skills that was leading to the sense of disappointment (and that's no fun at all).
So we had a little meeting, the six of us, and we talked about how unhelpful comparisons can be. I reminded them that everyone makes things in their own way, and that "different" is often the very thing that makes something "beautiful." We agreed that from now on we'd aim for unique instead of uniform, different instead of the same, and unexpected instead of predictable. Toward that end, we came up with some helpful rules to keep us focused on the fun while avoiding the frustration. For anyone crafting with children (and I highly recommend it since there is no better way I know of to get the creative juices flowing), I thought I might share with you a few of the guidelines we follow in my house whenever we sit down to create:
1. We always work with the materials we have on hand (be it paper, glitter, straws, candy wrappers, whatever).
2. Everybody is required to make at least one mistake (e.g., paint one petal the wrong color, cut the wrong shape, glue something upside down, etc.).
3. Before we begin, we subtract one thing. (e.g., no using the color blue today or no straight lines or no taking your crayon off the paper, etc.).
The results have been great. We've thrown out imitation and replaced it with exploration. Now instead of finding the "right" way to do something, we focus on finding a "new" way to do something. The exercise has yielded many an afternoon of delightful play and (as happens when children are involved) the lesson has carried over into my own work.
So, for today, I propose setting aside the cutting tools (well, mostly), closing the drawers containing all of your neatly stacked and uncreased sheets of fancy paper, and turning, instead, to your box of paper scraps and castoffs. Here's to working with what you've got.
Taking the Edge Off
I began with a stack of some paper disks I had left over from an earlier project. If you don't happen to have disks of paper sitting around your work table, feel free to cut a few (I had 5 large and 5 small) using scissors or a craft knife (I won't tell anyone you cheated).
Fold each disk in half and then again, into quarters. Unfold.
Using the creases in the paper, make 4 tears in the disk (leaving about 1 inch of space in the middle of each circle). Make an additional 4 tears to give you an evenly spaced 8 petals total. Next, tear about 1/4 inch of paper from the left side of each of the 8 petals you just made. By removing these little wedges, you will give each petal a little space to breathe.
Finally, tear off the corners on each of the 8 petals as indicated below.
To add some three-dimensionality to the flowers, put your paper disk, face down, on the table, and place a finger at the end of the petal as indicated below. Using your other hand, pinch up the edges of the petal. Repeat for all 8 petals.
When all 8 petals have been creased, turn the flower over as illustrated. This is the basic flower shape we'll be working with. Repeat these steps to make 5 large flowers.
Paint your flowers. I chose vivid blues and purples and painted the edges of the flowers a different color than the faces of the petals. You may choose whatever palette most appeals to you, but I intended to mount these all on a white background, so I choose vivid colors to enhance the contrast and help accentuate the irregular edges of each piece.
For the smaller flowers, I used the same technique as above, only this time I didn't remove the wedges between the petals and I creased each petal all the way down its center instead of just its tip. Again, I chose to paint the edges and the faces of each petal using different colors.
For the center of each large flower, I tore a strip of paper approximately 12 inches x 1/4 inch and painted it yellow on one side and mustard on the other. I then wound each strip around a pencil to form a spiral and glued the outside edge to prevent it from unraveling. Each yellow center was then glued onto the flower as shown below.
For the smaller flowers, I tore small disks of paper and painted them black before gluing them into the flower centers. Stems and leaves were torn from the remaining scraps, creased down their centers, and glued in place. In keeping with the looseness of the shapes and the irregularity of the watercolors, I tried to use curved leaves with curved creases (accomplished easily enough with a bone-creaser or a ballpoint pen drawn along the back of each leaf).
The last step was to glue all of these pieces to a sheet of watercolor paper (approximately 21 inches x 22-1/2 inches) using a white, acid-free craft glue. (The large sheet of paper I used bears the evidence of a failed winter landscape on the backside, so this project allowed me to, quite literally, build on my past failures.) I now have a work suitable for framing that is bright and cheery. The rich colors make a bold, graphic statement and the three-dimensionality of the flowers, paired with the deckled-edge of the white paper they're mounted on, add texture and visual interest.
After you make this project, show off your work to other members!
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