“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.”— Iris Murdoch
Though it brings the beauty of turning leaves, the saddest sacrifice of the changing seasons is the mass exodus of flowers. That is, unless, they’re made out of meticulously crafted paper, in which case Lea Gray has the medicine for your post-blossom blues. For the past few years, she’s been producing everyone’s favorite foliage, but unlike their real-life counterparts, these blooms never wilt.
“The advantage is that they’ll last a life time,” says Gray. “They’re UV and water resistant. Even if they’re in an area where they could be affected, that won’t be a problem. People get flowers for a lot of occasions. Why would you spend $50-$100 on something that will die? This way, you’ll always have that to commemorate the celebration.”
Gray’s work is based on the Japanese art of kirigami. A cousin to origami, it involves folding paper and then making intricate cuts. You’ve probably actually done this before. Remember those paper snowflakes from elementary school? It’s essentially the same idea, but on steroids. Though she has machines to help her with some of the large cuts, the detail work is all done by hand. And it’s not just flowers, either: this technique allows her to make a variety of decorative plants, including succulents and bonsai trees. Gray made all the paper lanterns for Haiku.
“Why would you spend $50-$100 on something that will die? This way, you’ll always have that to commemorate the celebration.”
“I’m using kiragami to manipulate paper, and using repetition as a transformative element,” she said. “The outcome is that it doesn’t look like paper any more. There’s a lot of paper bonsais, but I’ve created a way to fringe a piece of paper so that it looks like little tiny leaves.”
It’s no small task, either—a bonsai can take upwards of 45 hours to make. But the core of Gray’s work is still flower-centric. In particular, she gets a lot of requests for bridal bouquets and boutonnieres. One of her more interesting ones involved creating roses out of pages from Alice in Wonderland and painting parts of them red. She also gets a lot of request to recreate special bouquets from the past.
“I recreate people’s wedding bouquets,” Gray said. “If they send me a picture, I can make that bouquet out of paper. I try to stretch and accommodate people. I want it to be special. It’s an honor when people choose me to make a commemorative piece for the rest of their lives.”
Gray works in several mediums and is a bit of a renaissance lady. She has one passion in particular that could prove disastrous to her flammable flowers if she isn’t careful—fire spinning.
“I’ve never been asked about that before,” she laughed. “Yeah, that would ruin my whole business!”
Gray’s Studio, Paper Blooms LGD, is located at 6973 Stapleton Dr. in New Albany. For more information visit paperbloomslgd.com.