Paper Flowers at the Philadelphia Flower Show

While scrolling through a local news website yesterday morning, I noticed an article about the annual Philadephia Flower Show (world's largest!) that is underway through Sunday at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. It was accompanied by a thumbnail of what looked to be paper flowers... could it be? Indeed! A bit of sleuthing led me to artist and designer Malinda Swain [site no longer available], who works between Brisbane, Australia and Philadelphia.


A few moments later she and I had connected via Twitter and were emailing back and forth. Even though Malinda was busy folding paper to install in the Nicole Miller store window at Philly's Bellevue later this week, she kindly took the time to answer my questions and sent over these photos of the gorgeous displays she created for the show.


How long did it take to make such a huge installation?
The three pieces, two hanging and one wall piece, took six weeks to create. I was folding all day, every day, seven days a week, and was still cutting and folding while the work was being installed. 


How much paper did you use?
Around 20 reams of standard letter size paper and then around 1000 pieces of larger, cut-to-size paper.

I read that you often try to re-use paper... were you able to do that for this display?
I prefer to re-use paper but unfortunately didn't have time to source the quantity I needed for this project. Instead, I used 100% recycled copy paper. I love to create pieces from waste materials and am always in the process of sourcing off-cuts and seconds from paper suppliers and businesses.


Did you have a plan/vision before you began? 
I very rarely know how a piece will look when it's finished. I just start folding and when I think I have enough, I begin piecing it together intuitively.

I'm guessing you enjoy what you do!
I love it! I listen to music and podcasts, watch TED talks, and drink lots of tea.

Do you accept commissions?
Yes. This work was commissioned for the Flower Show entrance by the Philadelphia Horticultural Society. I create large scale installations for events and functions, photographic and film shoots, and have also been asked to design centerpieces, arches, and chuppahs for weddings and celebrations. 


Did you create the flowers on location or did you work from your studio? I can just imagine how difficult it would be to transport everything.
I worked from a home studio and then transported them to the Center in a large truck. It was nerve-wracking! An artist friend lent me his assistants for the day and they managed to secure them in the back and there was very little damage done (phew!). The pieces are incredibly delicate, as you can imagine. I added and replaced elements once they arrived at the center. The installation took three days, one day per piece, working up on a scissor lift gluing blades of grass, trimming vines, and tweaking flowers. 


Malinda has a Fine Art degree from Griffith University in Queensland where she majored in Sculpture and has exhibited her photography, sculpture, video, illustrations, and installations in galleries across Australia. Stay in touch with Malinda via her website, Facebook, and Instagram.


By the way, this year's Flower Show theme is ARTiculture, a mix of horticulture and art, thus Malinda's work fits in perfectly. I noticed there is even a paper flower making class at 5 PM today if you're lucky enough to be in the Philadelphia area.

All photographs by the artist with the exception of Malinda in the studio, which was taken by Ian Swain II.

Ann Martin
Ann Martin

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