On today’s episode of the Craft Industry Alliance podcast we’re talking about building a business as a paper flower artist with my guest Kate Alarcon.
Kate Alarcón is known for her signature designs of uncommon paper botanicals. She teaches flower crafting workshops through her company, The Cobra Lily, and her remarkable pieces have appeared on sites including Martha Stewart Living, Design*Sponge, Poppytalk, and The House That Lars Built, among others. She lives in the Seattle area.
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We begin the conversation by talking about Kate’s crafty childhood growing up in California. Kate talks about going to college and then graduate school to study English, before deciding that she didn’t want to complete her PhD. She and her husband had their first child and Kate began crafting again, becoming obsessed with crepe paper flowers. Kate talks about the role that craft blogs played in helping to spark her creativity during this period. She also talks about shopping for supplies at Castle In the Air, a shop in Berkeley that fostered many paper flower artists’ careers. When she began posting various craft projects to Instagram, and got the best reaction from the paper flowers, that’s where she placed her focus.
We talk about the materials needed to make paper flowers including the various types of crepe paper on the market, how to dye and paint crepe paper, floral wire and tape, the right glue to use, and scissors. Kate explains what makes people nervous when they are first learning to make flowers and how she helps to set their mind at ease in the workshops she teaches.
Kate’s own business is native to Instagram. She talks about posting an image of a new flower she made every day on the platform. She remembers that now as a sort of golden period of creativity for her, exploring her creativity without the heavy responsibility of having to run a real business. Soon, her account began to get noticed by people she cared about, including Grace Bonney from Design*Sponge. Kate pitched a collaborationg to Grace (we talk about how to do this and what happened next). That single pitch email led, eventually to an online class with Craftsy (now called Bluprint) and a book deal with Chronicle Books.
Kate’s book, Uncommon Paper Flowers.
Next we talk about the financial realities of writing a book. Kate isn’t afraid to share numbers (which I so appreciate) and get real about what a project like this really involves when it comes to workload. We also talk about whether it’s realistic to make a living as a paper flower artist and, if it is, what your life would need to look like in order to make it work.
Recently, Kate invented an international holiday which is coming up on May 14. Listen to the show to find out how you can get invovled in #internationalpaperflowerday! She’s also contibuting a paper flower tutorial to The Posey Box, a paper flower subscription box, which is an exciting forthcoming project.
And, of course, I ask Kate to recommend great stuff she’s enjoying right now. Kate recommends:
- Modern Watercolor Botanicals by Sarah Simon
- fly fishing shops as a source for craft supplies
- Ask a Manager blog
Keep up with Kate on Instagram to see what she’s up to next.