Glancing at Susan Beech’s website or Instagram photos you’d be forgiven for thinking you were looking at the work of a florist. And perhaps for Susan that’s the best compliment she could get. For all her flowers are made of paper.
Not only is Susan’s work beautiful and inspiring but so is her story of how she has turned a craft passion into a full-time business. Read on to find out more …
Please introduce yourself and tell us how you’ve ended up where you are today.
I’m Susan Beech and I’m a paper flower artist working under my brand name A Petal Unfolds.
I originally studied fine arts at university and at that point was working mainly with photography. A few years ago I became restless with my photographic work and wanted to go back to making things with my hands. I tried a variety of crafts, but it was paper flowers that I found the most interesting.
In 2014 I changed my life, quitting an uninspiring office job to give me time to focus on my flowers. It paid off and I’m now making paper flowers full-time in my home studio in Brighton UK. I teach workshops, sell my flowers through Etsy and work on commissions as well as flowers for events and displays.
What’s the appeal of paper and flowers?
When I’m making paper flowers it feels like such a romantic way to spend my time and that was a big attraction from the start. Beauty and romanticism have always been a part of my artwork and working with flowers is pretty high in both of these. I make my flowers with crepe paper, which has a vintage quality to it and feels lovely to shape into the parts of a flower. Sometimes it can be almost transparent and I love to use the qualities of the paper to create a real depth of colour.
You have a pretty wide repertoire of different flower varieties. Have you spent a lot of time studying flowers?
I always try to study the flower that I’m making, either through photographs or in real life. Sometimes I will have images in front of me to make sure I have something to work from.
What’s your favourite flower and is there one you are still itching to make?
I really love ranunculus flowers. There is something so beautiful about the layers and the colours. They look stunning at any stage of their lives and I love to see a large quantity of them all together. I also really enjoy making them. It’s been a firm favourite for a long time.
There are so many flowers I would love to make but haven’t. For example, I would love to explore other varieties of peonies that are different to the coral charm I’ve already made and also different varieties of poppy.
Tell us about your creative process – how do you like to work, who or what inspires you?
Studying the flower is the first important step for me so I can get a feel for how I would make it and what would be the best paper to use. Then I start making and probably make adjustments along the way, with the second flower creation being the closest to how I want the flower to be.
I’m very inspired by fashion and the detail that goes into haute couture. Paper flowers tend to take quite a long time to make and the time and love that goes into haute couture really resonates with me. For floral inspiration I like to follow florists on Instagram as they post such stunning images that can really inspire a new flower and a whole new project.
Tell us about the window display you recently did for Floris?
I feel very lucky to have been asked to make flowers for the window of Floris as this was my first window display and it couldn’t have been for a more beautiful store. I made twenty life-size roses and four over-sized roses to celebrate the launch of their new ‘Rose’ perfume. It was the first time I had ever made over-sized flowers and this is something I am spending more time on now as they are requested quite frequently.
I’m currently working on … A commission for a wedding cake topper for a special wedding in France. I’m also working on flowers that I will be making with guests at the opening party of a blogging conference in London in June. I’m carrying on my personal work with over-sized flowers too.
What would be your dream project or have you already done it?
A dream project would be to work with a top fashion brand on a show or presentation. That really would be the ultimate for me as I find fashion very inspiring.
What does the future hold for A Petal Unfolds?
I’m hoping to make my first large scale installation in London in September, although this is still at the planning stage. I’m keen to be able to show that I can make flowers on a large scale so this is very exciting for me.
It’s not very cool, but I really like … going to garden shows. I have to drag my partner to come with me!
Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment?
I never would have thought that I would have been doing this five years ago. It is a real dream to finally be living the creative life I always wanted.