Flowers in her hair… Flowers everywhere… I love the flower girl…
Kate Alarcón, based just outside of Seattle, is no shrinking violet when it comes to all things floral. The budding artist creates breathtaking blossoms, each one handmade with paper and artfully arranged into mesmerising, multi-coloured bouquets, so real looking, you can almost smell them…
1. What is it about paper as a medium to work with that appeals to you?
Crepe paper in particular is kind of magical and lends itself well to organic shapes and textures. Sometimes I’ll just kind of fiddle with a piece of crepe, trying new things, and even after all this time, I still don’t feel like I understand everything it can do. But I don’t know that I would have been as interested in paper were it not for paper plants and flowers. I’ve spent a lot of years quilting, knitting, embroidering, crocheting – mostly textiles stuff. So although I’m in awe of some of the other forms of paper craft out there, at least for now, I’m only really enthusiastic about working with paper for this one specific application.
2. Where did your fascination for all things floral stem?
Both of my parents like to garden. They put together these little collections of pots in a way that’s very artistic but not fussy. I also remember there being a poster in our house when I was little of California wildflowers, and later of different species of tulips. As far as paper flowers, my mom bought me this huge hot pink tissue paper flower from a vendor at the circus (I think?) when I was four or five. I remember looking at it in my room and just feeling like it was the most beautiful thing in the world.
3. Who or what were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?
Pretty much everyone in my family is creative in one way or another, so it felt natural to be making things, and my parents encouraged my various enthusiasms and didn’t really give me a hard time about jumping between things.
4. When are you happiest?
As far as work happiness, I’m happiest when a new idea is working, and I’m seeing it unfold in a way that is surprising. And also when someone in a workshop is making a paper flower for the first time and, at some step in the process, blurts out: this is so fun! Because I totally understand that feeling and am really happy to help share it.
5. Describe your working routine – studio, kitchen table, caffeinated beverage of choice, music, silence?
Right now, I have young kids, so my work routine is all over the place (sometimes at the playground, sometimes in the car while the youngest naps, sometimes in the play place at McDonalds while the kids run around and I try to chat with my mom pals.) There are tons of distractions and interruptions and changes of plan. But I actually think that’s good for me – it helps me stay flexible. And we’ve recently started play school a couple times a week, which my daughter loves, and then I luxuriate in sipping coffee, making flowers, and watching Netflix or listening to podcasts.
6. Who/what is inspiring you right now?
I almost want to say all of instagram, because I feel like there’s so much beauty and creativity in my feed every day. Right now, I’m working on succulents and cactuses, and I’m kind of obsessed with Ganna Walska, an opera singer who, later in life, created an amazing botanical garden – Lotusland – outside her mansion in southern California. I’m just really taken with her eccentric, glamorous style.
7. If you could be a flower what would you be?
Gosh, I don’t know! Maybe some kind of Fritillaria? But I would probably say something completely different if you asked me on a different day.
8. What is the most challenging aspect about working with paper? Be honest – how often do you get paper cuts?
You know, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a paper cut from making a flower! Crepe paper is kind of soft enough that that doesn’t seem to be the occupational hazard you might expect. Hands down my biggest frustration is trying to achieve the exact color I want. Crepe paper comes in a nice range of colors, but sometimes the colors are too clear, or there’s only really one good cream in the weight I want, etc. I spend a lot of time experimenting with different ways of coloring crepe, but it would be glorious if they would start releasing a broader palette like you find with quilting fabrics and yarn, for example.
9. What has been your favourite project/commission so far and why?
It’s so hard to choose a favorite, but one of my best custom floral experiences was when the husband of a paper flower lover gave me a few general suggestions and let me run with it. I had done custom work for her before and felt like I knew her tastes. It was wonderful to have that kind of freedom and to surprise her with the finished bouquet, which she was thrilled with.
10. What areas of your work or personal development are you hoping to explore further?
Right now, I’m shifting away from custom orders to offering small releases of single blooms or small arrangements. I’m really excited about designing these. It’s taken me a while to build up the confidence to shift from “whatever you want!” to “how about this?” But as I’ve been doing this, I’ve started to catch on to the fact that people don’t always know exactly what they want, that making some of the decisions about what to make available is its own service.
The Cobra Lily