• Tell me how you came to make paper flowers -do you also sew and paint? Did you study art or any form of decorative arts?
I studied commercial photography at a technical college for 2 years then fine art at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. I graduated in the mid-1980’s. At art school I met my husband, Dean Lucker. We have collaborated throughout the years while both working separately on our own creations. My background is in a variety of mediums, mixed media sculpture, wood carving, embroidery and painting. Dean and I have had a business where we made editions of mechanical cards and games that were wholesaled to galleries and museum shops here in the US for 20 years.
I started on Instagram sharing the art that Dean and I both created. At that time my father was at the end of his life and after his passing creating art felt hollow. On the last day of his life, he was commenting on how beautiful certain plants were outside. I could not get his words out of my thoughts. He was a farmer and growing things was a big part of our life. Flowers began to feel so universal to me. I could see others florals on Instagram and fearlessly started to give it a try. I didn’t look at any tutorials, I made it up my way, how I saw things. Now I work only from live plant material. I have years of experience in the development of transforming materials into objects so the florals rely on these skills to create objects of beauty.
• Do you have a garden or did you grow up gardening?
I have a good sized flower garden at my home which I enjoy tending and improving. I live in a large city now and I battle with the rabbits and squirrels. Throughout the years I have learned to choose plants they do not find tasty seems to be the easiest. At one point in my life, I had a roof top garden and that was a dream. Full sun and I could grow just about anything there but it all had to be removed each winter. I experimented with one of everything and really learned about plants from this experience. When I was a young girl we always had a garden and I help my mom with the seasonal tasks.
• What is your favorite flower? Favorite botanical garden or historic landscape?
Oh I had many favorite flowers throughout the years. I used to grow all kinds of roses, then many types of dahlias. Last year, I explored every type of geranium and marigold I could find. I'm interested in exploring this more in the spring. I love the idea of the common flower and finding its special beauty. My favorite place is the Como Park Conservatory. It is the park in my neighborhood which has a vintage conservatory and formal sunken garden that is spectacular. I live in a park of the US that gets extremely cold during the winter. The temperature can be -20 F during January so this conservatory is a welcome place to visit.
• Tell me in a few words about your technique, from conception, materials, tools and techniques, process to final production?
I now work mainly looking at live plants and flowers. I feel it is the only way I can really see exactly how the plant works. I often dissect the plant to understand the shapes. I use wire and handmade papers that I paint and form into 3-D parts.
• How long have you been making paper flowers and botanicals?
I started on Instagram sharing the art that my husband and I both created four years ago. At that time my father was at the end of his life and after his passing creating art felt hollow. On the last day of his life, he was commenting on how beautiful certain plants were outside. I could not get his words out of my thoughts. He was a farmer and growing things was a big part of our life. Flowers began to feel so universal to me. I could see others florals on Instagram and fearlessly started to give it a try.
• Where did you learn to make paper flowers?
I didn’t look at any tutorials, I made it up my way, how I saw things. I have years of experience in the development of transforming materials into objects so the florals rely on this creative vocabulary. My background is in a variety of mediums such as mixed media sculpture, wood carving, embroidery and painting. I studied photography at a technical college for 2 years then fine art at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. My husband and I have had a business where we made editions of mechanical cards and games that were wholesaled to galleries and museum shops here in the US for 20 years.
• Tell me about the first paper flowers you made?
An Instagram friend commented on a picture of a grouping of plants my husband made for one of his sculptures and I thought I could make things out of paper. I started with feathers, them moved toward more 3-D flowers.
• Tell us about your butterflies and feathers?
All of the feathers and butterflies are made of handmade paper with wire structures. I enjoy creating with paper because it is pliable and comes in a variety of textures, from soft to crisp. I often use the reverse side of printed paper, allowing the ink patterns to show through. I use small sharp embroidery scissors to create each item. I call my technique drawing with scissors, the cuts become the lines of a drawing in 3-D. Paint and pencils add variety to the surface. It is important to me that each arranged grouping is housed in a framed collection box. The frames house the delicacy and care I put into each item, creating a permanent home for my arrangements.
• What do you love most about making paper art?
I came to nature as a subject because it is universal. We pause to look at a flower, pick up a feather, touch a leaf or comment to a companion about a particular specimen. Nature's beauty is fleeting and ever changing in it’s magnificence. My work speaks to the notion that everything is temporary.
• What's your greatest challenge when making paper art?
I think the biggest challenge in creating botanicals is keeping things original. With all the on the spot creating and sharing on Instagram, I see a lot every day. The world of plants is huge so I try to stay away from trends and follow my own path.
• Where does your design inspiration come from - how do you develop a design?
For the last year I’ve been working from live plants only. I take apart the plant to see how the shapes fit together. I've found this really helpful to improve the realism I’ve been working towards. I also think taking pictures as I create helps me see thinks clearly. Sometimes I can see form problems in pictures more clearly than just looking.
• What kind of paper do you love to use?
I use all handmade papers available at art stores here in the US. I often paint the surface and use a wide variety of thickness and texture of papers.
• What are your go-to tools when it comes to paper art making?
My favorite tool is my pair of Fiskars Micro-tip Scissors. I have several pairs and I do everything with these except cutting wire.
• Do you have a paper art making top tip you could share?
I think working from live plants and flowers has been most helpful for me. When I started I looked at pictures and I couldn’t see the details. I feel it is the only way I can really see exactly how the plant works. I often literally dissect the plant to understand the shapes.
• What advice would you give to someone wanting to make paper flowers?
I'd say give it a try! Look on Instagram under the #paperflowers to get a flavor of what is happening. Creativity is a great connector between people. The appreciation of flowers is universal and the idea of everlasting flowers is so appealing.
• What's coming up for you in 2019?
The past year has been filled with creating flowers, food and insects for the botanical wall all created out of paper. These objects are made to life sized scale except the insects are larger. Currently I have 130 objects and I plan to expand the collection to over 200 in the next year. My hope is to exhibit this wall as an entire installation in museums in the future.
• What's a typical day like for you?
My typical day starts around 7:30 in the morning when I do chores at home and cook. I drive over to the studio and usually run some errands in the morning, arriving at the studio around 11:00. I usually work until 8 in the evenings and do this schedule most days.
• What's your work space like?
I currently work in a 100 year old warehouse located in the Arts District of Northeast Minneapolis, Minnesota. It once housed the Northrup King Seed Company and now holds over 200 art studios. My space previously was a welding studio and it was covered with grease. I cleaned and painted every inch which resulted in turning it into a place that feels like my creative home.
• Did you have anyone along the way that was instrumental in the trajectory of your life?
My mom was influential in supporting me to follow my creativity, and encouraged me to follow my dreams of being an artist. When I was in my early teens, she painted my bedroom white and allowed me to paint whatever I wanted on all the walls. She was always setting the stage for me to do something creative. Her confidence gave me empowerment to value my creativity.
• What did you want to be when you were young?
When I was young I wanted to be an artist. I grew up on a farm in Iowa where I was involved in 4H creating all kinds of projects. One of my earliest memories is creating a drawing, and feeling powerful about conceiving a picture of the ideas that lived in my imagination. At a young age, I realized that art gave me something that nothing else had in my life. Art gave me a freedom to express myself that was unique, bold and colorful.