Part 1. Be good at what you do
Author's Note: I am located in the United States and all of my tips are for an American audience. If you have tips to share about implementing the ideas presented in this guide in your home country, be sure to leave a comment with names, links, and locations. The community thanks you!
You know that tingling feeling when you see a gorgeous flower? Capitalize on it. It can be hard to know exactly how to start, so let me recommend that you buy several rolls of Italian crepe paper or German doublette in complementary colors. I recommend cream, white, peach, blush, and rose because they can be the starting point of many flowers and whatever you make with them will go together in a bouquet. You will also need rolls of green. For the stems and leaves I prefer doublette as the colors are much more natural. I would recommend eight folds of a leaf/moss doublette.
With the papers in hand, now you need glue: hot glue, school glue, or tacky glue are fine. You will discover which works best for which paper and flower. Stem wires are a must; cloth-covered, and 16-gauge for the main stem and 18- and 20-gauge for the side stems and foliage. Paper-covered wire from the cake decorating industry is also a great wire to build on. You also want waxed floral tape. I use this on my stems if they are in vases with real flowers. Edited to add reader suggestions: wire cutters, a ruler, and a slender curling tool (like a bamboo skewer or thin rod) should also be in your kit.
That’s it--this is what you need to get started. Waxed floral tape can be found at most craft stores and online also as well as all the glues. Make sure you find a very very sharp pair of scissors! I use Chikamasa grape-pruning scissors.
Here is what I recommend for a new paper florist to do first:
- Choose a flower, make a dozen. Choose another, make a dozen more. You will learn right away how to improve on each flower this way. You will also learn your capacity to batch-cut, or cut several papers at once for your pattern. There are many free tutorials as well as paid tutorials available in my course directory and I also recommend Janita Court's Paper Flower Academy.
- Try different tutorials, and play around, but also study the botanical plates of any given flower. Be free to make your own template based on what you learn.
- Not every flower will look right the first time, most do not! The first flower wonkiness is to be expected.
- Don’t stop making the flower until you understand it (which is why making a dozen is helpful).
- Pay very close attention to petal arrangement and botanical elements as you go, as this makes the most difference between craft and artistic presentation.
- Do not be put off by learning the foliage of each flower. If you really detest foliage, learn to make it first (sort of like painting your nails with your non-dominant hand first). Foliage always adds to an arrangement.
- Remember that a lot of flowers do not have straight stems. When you finish a flower, make sure to give it some dynamic energy by bending the stem as it might appear in nature (which is why seeing it in its natural form is key via botanical plates or live specimens).
If you look at some of my work from the past two years, it’s my peonies that rise to the top. People love them, and I enjoy making all different kinds of peonies because I feel I truly understand their botany. I consider it my personal break-through flower. There are several online tutorials on paper peonies. This is a really great online paper flower class featuring two luxurious double paper peonies, with high value in the retail market once finished. And here is my free paper peony course with a more craft style and some key techniques.