Meet the maker: Paper Bea Company
In a new twist to our Meet the Maker series, we’re asking each of our featured sellers to interview the next (think Radio 4’s Chain Reaction but with added pictures and more craft). To start us off, illustrator Amanda Hartley from Hofficraft talks to paper flower artist, gardener and designer, Helen Wilde from Paper Bea Company. Helen launched Paper Bea in 2013, initially selling illustrated grow-your-own seed packets featuring wild flower seeds taken from her own cottage garden in Derbyshire and other eco-friendly gifts for gardeners. At the beginning of 2017, she launched her paper flower collection, creating paper bouquets and single stem beauties, each petal hand cut, hand shaped and unique. Over to Amanda…
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m Helen, I like happy people, being outside, flowers and dogs (not necessarily in that order). I live in a little village in Derbyshire with my husband Lee and our two Beagles, Bunty & Dolly. I grow flowers for my seed packets and I’ve recently started selling paper flowers too.
I love that all your plantable seed packets are from your own cottage garden. You must be a keen gardener! Did you design your garden and do you maintain it yourself?
I adore gardens and I love growing flowers (last year I grew potatoes by mistake and I’m still not sure how). I love the freedom of wild flowers but also the structure and form of a more traditional garden. My garden is an eclectic mix of cherry blossom, topiary, poppies, ferns, palm trees, wild flowers and bamboo. In the greenhouse, I’m currently growing Cosmos, African marigolds and opium poppies, chosen for their large flowers – we’ll be putting on quite a show this year! It is definitely my garden, although I occasionally have two furry helpers, but they are also the reason why I don’t grow strawberries anymore. Beagles like strawberries.
Your work is obviously inspired by your surroundings. Do you find that you are more inspired and productive in the Summer months as your garden flourishes?
I actually find that I’m more inspired during Autumn and Winter – always trying to recreate something that isn’t there anymore.
You studied Decorative Arts at university. Did your skill for paper flower making begin here?
I actually specialised in ceramics at university. My final show was ceramic and leather jewellery but even though I don’t make anything like that now, the beauty of my degree was that we experienced all different mediums, from ceramics to paper making, metal work, embroidery and glass making. There are aspects of what I learned then that I use every day now.
Your work is beautiful and very detailed. How long does it take you to make a paper flower?
It can vary and I’m quite a perfectionist, which isn’t the best quality to have when trying to recreate something that isn’t perfect, is totally unique and normally designed by mother nature. The simplest of paper flowers can take the longest – it’s learning when to stop and accepting that nothing is perfect!
During Autumn and Winter I’m always trying to recreate something that isn’t there anymore.
What kind of paper and materials do you use?
I have two kinds of paper that I favour – one is a Italian crepe paper and the other a German doublette. Each paper shapes, bends and even cuts differently, so I’ll use one type over the other for particular flowers. I also have a pot of favoured scissors, scalpels and pens along with the glue gun of joy/disaster. I have a love/hate relationship with my glue gun (and no finger prints on two fingers anymore).
Do you sketch out ideas first or do you start constructing your flowers straight away?
I don’t tend to use sketch books for my paper flowers. I have a huge collection of images that I get my inspiration from and there’s nothing nicer than looking at an actual flower to see how it’s formed. I also have a series of card templates that I use for some of the flower petals, others are cut and shaped during construction. The petals don’t ‘sit’ in the same place either, which means every paper flower is unique, almost constructed organically.
One side of my studio is perfectly tidy, everything displayed in jam jars, milk bottles and pretty pots – I can’t resist a stoneware honey pot. Then there’s the other side…
You work from a cottage garden studio in Derbyshire. Can you describe your studio?
I have what I like to call a ‘split studio’. One side is perfectly tidy, everything displayed in jam jars, milk bottles and pretty pots – I can’t resist a stoneware honey pot. Then there’s the other side… it’s wonderfully chaotic, boxes of paper, bags of seeds, tiny scraps of crepe paper that I keep ‘just in case’, vintage fabrics and boxes of embroidery thread, pens, tape, ribbons, soaps. It would probably drive a tidy person insane but to me it’s organised chaos.
Congratulations on your various media features and SBS Award. Do you have any advice for other artists regarding getting some media exposure?
I have to credit social media for those. My advice would be choose the social media channels that YOU love and enjoy. I only have Twitter (I love the networking on here, meeting other businesses and making contacts) and Instagram. For me, Instagram is almost like a blog – I share pictures from my day, new products and how much tea I’ve drunk, but while I’m doing that I’m also making contacts, following bloggers, stylists, magazines and interacting with people who make what I do. I feel very lucky that I’ve met a collection of paper florists in America and they are all about ‘community over competition’. I also regularly email magazines. I spend hours finding the correct contacts – sometimes they’ll reply, sometimes they don’t but when they do it’s amazing. When I was featured in Elle Decoration that made my year!
Your Instagram feed is beautiful! Do you take all you own product shots?
My Instagram is a combination of my own photographs and those taken by professional photographer, Holly Booth. I made a decision at the start of the year to invest in professional shots. I’ve taken my own images for years but when I launched the new collection of paper flowers, I wanted to do it ‘properly’ and was very, very happy with the results.
My garden is an eclectic mix of cherry blossom, topiary, poppies, ferns, palm trees, wild flowers and bamboo. In the greenhouse, I’m growing Cosmos, African marigolds and opium poppies – we’ll be putting on quite a show this year!
What inspires you?
For my designs and products it can be anything from a neighbour’s garden to a TV programme, a dress print or a colour. It can even be a passing comment, like the one a friend made when she visited me one day. She said: “You should sell flowers as well.” That got me thinking… real ones just couldn’t work but what about paper flowers? And that’s how it began.
I love the idea of a handmade paper flower wedding bouquet that can be kept forever. Will you be doing commissions for wedding flowers?
It’s been such a exciting four months since I launched the paper flower collection, and I’ve had several commissions already that have involved paper and real flowers, as well as commissions for paper flowers and foliage to be used as room decorations. Orders for my paper flower posies and paper bridal bouquets are coming through and most excitingly I’m involved in several styled wedding shoots in the next few months too!
Enjoy 20% off all paper flowers, bouquets, posies and seed packets by Paper Bea Company with the code SPRING20 until 30th April.
Read our Meet the Maker interview with Amanda from Hofficraft here > Hofficraft – meet the Welsh illustrator drawing and making in Oxfordshire
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