Crumpled Up: How to Make Paper Flowers

comments (18) April 3rd, 2014     

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Jeff_Rudell Jeffery Rudell, contributor
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A small strip of paper, painted yellow and wound around a pencil, creates a whimsical spiral for the flower centers.
Take a break from the straight and narrow by making this torn-paper picture. The edges are soft, but the impact is anything but.
Crease and tear. Then remove small wedges of paper to make spaces between the petals. Nip off the corners to further soften the shape.
A small strip of paper, painted yellow and wound around a pencil, creates a whimsical spiral for the flower centers.

A small strip of paper, painted yellow and wound around a pencil, creates a whimsical spiral for the flower centers.

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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.

  Crease and tear. Then remove the small wedges of paper to make spaces between the petals. Nip off the corners to further soften the shape.

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.

  A medium-heavy watercolor paper has great texture and holds a crease nicely.

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.

  After shaping the edges, turn the piece over and paint the front surface.

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.

  I applied two different colors to each petal-one shade to the edges and another to the face of each flower. I encourage a loose (some would say, sloppy) application of paint in keeping with our theme.

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 smaller flowers, I didn't remove the wedges or nip off the edges. See what variations you can come up with on your own.

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.

  A small strip of paper, painted yellow and wound around a pencil, creates a whimsical spiral for the flower centers.

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).

  Don't forget to overlap elements (flowers on top of stems, stems under leaves) to enhance the three-dimensionality of the finished piece.

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.

  Take a break from the straight and narrow by making this torn-paper picture. The edges are soft, but the impact is anything but.


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posted in: paper, paint, flower

Comments (18)

finchelicious writes: I could spend hours on these tutorials! Thanks for sharing ;)
Posted: 5:39 am on December 15th
dennisbray writes: These look really cool. My daughter has a school project on flowers coming soon, so I'll definitely show her this tutorial.
Posted: 7:02 am on September 18th
genalorainne writes: I really like what you did with the edges of the petals!
Posted: 12:07 pm on April 14th
ladydragon52 writes: So pretty! I was looking for an interesting project for my crafty ladies! Thank you.
Posted: 5:56 pm on April 4th
EchoLin writes: good pattern for us to learn.
Posted: 10:29 pm on May 30th
ToyTasting writes: This is a great idea. Loved it!
Posted: 11:40 pm on May 23rd
Natasha16 writes: how wonderful! torn edges..crumpled...painted with good old water colour. i certainly love you.
Posted: 5:41 am on January 17th
Nil writes: This is Beautifully artsy crafty. Will make some with my class~
Posted: 11:27 pm on March 20th
sigridsoto writes: Iv been looking around at the paper craft section on this site and ever single one i really liked is created by you
Posted: 5:23 am on October 12th
pe6teern writes: beautiful!! and thanks for the well written and displayed instructions. Can't wait to try them.

Posted: 12:29 pm on September 19th
craftiretiree writes: These will make beautiful gift cards changing the flower colors to match the seasons. Just beautiful with the best instructions ever written! Thank you!
Posted: 7:49 pm on September 6th
Nightcats writes: These are quite remarkable. I plan to make some asap.
Posted: 3:42 pm on September 6th
eveh writes: These are beautiful. I can't wait to try them. I will do them in yellow's and burgundy. Thank you for showing us how to do this. : )
Posted: 2:56 pm on September 6th
veryjeri writes: I think these rules would work well for life, not just crafts! The instructions are really easy to follow. I'll bet the flowers look different if you make them sitting on the floor instead of a chair. Thanks! I'll give these a whirl today.
Posted: 12:44 pm on September 6th
LAURAMCHUGH writes: Flowers are beautiful, love the torn edges and the addition of watercolors, you can really make it your own special arrangement for that special gift. Great project and great directions. Thanks
Posted: 4:49 pm on July 10th
sarahwww writes: Ack!! No edit button! Sorry, I bet Uncle considers himself very lucky!
Posted: 7:16 pm on July 8th
sarahwww writes: Love the flowers and the Rules! What a lucky bunch of creative young gals! I'm bettin' Grandpa thinks he is pretty lucky too!
Posted: 7:14 pm on July 8th
SusanElizabeth writes: How gorgeous are these! Love them.
Posted: 5:53 am on July 7th
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