About a month ago I ran across an instagram page that was abundant with beautiful, unique flowers. I was in awe with the foxgloves, the roses, and the succulents. In fact, I was so much in awe that it took me awhile to realize these flowers weren't real, they were made out of paper! The only paper flowers I had even seen were the ones my girl scout troop made from tissue paper... and lets just say they looked nothing like a flower...
The magician behind these amazing creations? Kate Alarcon, an artist based just outside of Seattle who offers custom made bouquets, classes, and more! Her business is titled "The Cobra Lilly"; a flower that perfectly represents her bewitching floral creations. I was honored to interview such a talented artist a few weeks ago. Read more to find out how she began, the techniques she uses, and her future online store (coming soon!).
Kk: What originally inspired you to start making paper flowers? Have you always been an artist?
CL: I come from a really crafty and artistic family, and I've just always loved the process of dreaming up crazy projects and trying to make them real. For a long time, working with paper was one of a number of interests, along with sewing, knitting, embroidery, drawing, sculpting, and on and on. I really liked the idea of developing a set of skills so that, if I had an idea for a project, I could make it happen. I got more serious about paper flowers (I realize how funny that sounds!) when I was pregnant with my daughter. I made a garland of brightly colored flowers for her nursery, and found that I just loved making them.
Kk: How did you learn to make paper flowers? Were you self taught or did you take classes?
CL: I've kind of pieced it together from old library books, the old Dennison's book of crepe paper flowers, tutorials online, and, later, books like Thuss and Farrell's "Paper to Petal," Livia Cetti's "The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers," and Lauri Cinotto's book and kit, "Beautiful Paper Flowers. Lauri Cinotto's book/kit was really helpful, as well. Now that I can pretty much figure out construction of the flowers I have in mind, I learn ever day by seeing the work of phenomenal paper artists like Tiffanie Turner, Lynn Dolan, Jennifer Tran, Kelsey Elam, and Susan Beech.
Kk: Do you use your own patterns for each flower? How long does the pattern making process take? What does pattern making involve (tracing real flowers? Starting with just a vision?
CL: What I love about paper flowers is that each one is a set of interesting little problems to solve, and the first step is to really, really look at a flower to figure out what those problems are. I recently had someone request a nasturtium, which is a flower I'm very familiar with. But as I tried to make it, I realized I had no sense of the structure of a nasturtium blossom at all. Figuring that out was like solving a mystery.
I do sometimes trace fresh flower petals, if I have them on hand, but more often I kind of "sketch" them out with my scissors. For some reason, it's easier for me to draft by cutting than by drawing.
Kk: I love how you approach each flower! Figuring out it's problems. And how fascinating that you draft with scissors! How did you learn to do that?
CL: I think it's more a function of my lack of drawing ability!
Kk: Which flower creation is your favorite? (Personally, I love the foxgloves!)
CL: Thanks! I really like making the little pitcher plants. My dad has this little bog garden and sometimes grows them, so they remind me of him. And I'm just charmed and fascinated by carnivorous plants in general, which is why I named my business "The Cobra Lily."
Kk: I also had no idea there were so many carnivorous flowers! I'm going to have to spend some more time researching them. Is the Cobra Lily your favorite flower?
CL: I don't think I could pick a favorite flower, but I do love cobra lilies--they have that sort of creepy, other-wordly beauty that I love about carnivorous plants in general, and they're native to California, where I was born and raised, and the Pacific Northwest, where I'm thrilled to live now.
Kk: What was the largest flower creation you've ever made?
CL: I'm working on a six foot hollyhock stalk, right now.
Kk: Your succulent creations look so realistic! Are they also made from paper? If so, how do you make them appear so thick?
CL: Thank you! The succulents are made from cardstock. I bend the edges of each "petal" to make them look thicker. Getting these right took a lot of trial and error, but when the first one came together the way I wanted, I felt like jumping up and down.
Kk: Fascinating, they look just like my succulents in my garden! Succulent gardens seem to be a trend lately, do a lot of customers order your cardstock ones?
CL: Yep! People like the succulents, which is fine by me, because I love making them!
Kk: On your instagram page there is an image of an Allium. How long did it take to create it?
CL:The allium took about a week. But what a fun week it was!
Kk: The texture on each flower looks so unique. Do you personally draw or paint on them? (Especially the leaves, wild roses, and fox gloves).
CL:Depending on the flower, I'll paint, draw, bleach, pastel, or dye the petals to add detail. I love experimenting with this.
Kk: I bet! Which medium do you prefer to use?
CL: Lately, I've been having a lot of fun experimenting with inks and dyes, but I also love the way a wash of acrylic paint simulates the bloom on a succulent leaf.
Kk: Do you offer classes?
CL: Yes! I just did a rose class at Impress Cards and Crafts in Seattle, and I'll be announcing future classes as I finalize all the details. I really, really love teaching flower-making; it's so fun to see how, with the same templates and same instructions, ten people will create ten very different, very beautiful flowers.
Kk: Wonderful! I wish I lived in Seattle now. Would you ever consider youtube tutorials?
CL: I have a rose tutorial up on Poppytalk's 10 year anniversary online magazine right now, but I've never done a video tutorial. I definitely would consider it (although I feel like I would be really self-conscious during the editing process!)
Kk: What will your online store feature and when will it be launched?
CL: I'm hoping to have the shop up in the next few months. I'll be offering single stems and possibly some small arrangements. I hope to have roses, lillies, foxgloves, delphiniums, poppies, and pitcher plants available. I'm also daydreaming about a small selection of "statement" stems. Like the allium, or a very tall foxglove or hollyhock. For now, though, I've had an absolute blast working with people on custom orders.
Check out The Cobra Lily Shop on instagram here and The Cobra Lily Shop website here to order your own custom arrangement!