Paper flowers are big. REALLY big, if you're talking with Tiffanie Turner. The artist, author, workshop instructor and subject of our series Spark has captured the attention of museums and galleries, and the hearts of thousands of Instagram fans, with her extraordinary larger-than-life paper blooms . We took a few minutes to learn more about the mind behind those perfect (and sometimes not-so-perfect) petals.
You've transformed a craft to become fine art. How did that happen?
It was very decisively done. I've always wanted to be an artist in some form or another, and I knew how miserable I would feel if I started taking the kinds of orders where I'd be making the same thing over and over. I said no to many opportunities in order to keep breaking barriers and showing that paper flowers are more than just décor.
It can be risky to focus all your work on such a specific subject and medium, but you've been hugely successful. How did you know it was going to work?
My first clue was when I made a peony pinata for my blog five years ago that went completely viral, and every other blog re-posted it. I thought, this is interesting. That was a giant clue. There were signs along the way that this was going to happen for me, and every year increased, with more places to show my work. I feel like I've been in the right place at the right time.
You have a background in architecture. How does that fit in?
I was in architecture before computers. We did so much hand-drafting and model making, and I think that training definitely gave me an edge. When I made my first paper peony I thought to cut the top off and flip it back down so things could grow from the inside, which definitely came from spatial awareness and spatial training. Architecture also trains you to have a lot of endurance!
Do you prefer the full bloom or the fading flower?
I think I like them both. I've only had a chance to do a handful of ones that are decaying, so there's so much more to explore there. I want to work somewhere in the middle, maybe a flower that has some kind of mutation, it has two heads, it's falling apart a little bit, but it's still the most beautiful thing to look at. I'm interested in what people think is pretty, because just as many people will like the perfectly symmetrical flower as will like the peony that's falling apart at the bottom.
Suddenly the whole world's obsessed with paper flowers. Why do you think that is?
I actually believe the fascination starts with real flowers: if you follow contemporary florists, there's a huge renaissance in fantastic floral design. It has to do with flowers and beauty and making sure that things can still grow, all as we get bombarded with messages that the planet's in destruction. There's an importance to flowers right now, and paper ones are a natural extension to that.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.