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Meet Crafted to Bloom Owner: Jessie Chui

Litigation lawyer by profession, paper flower connoisseur by passion – meet the Torontonian trailblazer who’s taking perennial blooms further than we thought possible

Meet Crafted to Bloom Owner: Jessie Chui

Take a deep breath. Lia Griffith, Livia Cetti, Lynn Dolan, Kate Alarcon, Jennifer Tran, Margie Keates, Susan Beech and Tiffanie Turner: these eight inventive women build paper flowers for a living. All of them have inspired one Jessie Chui. “My exposure to these amazing artists and their art fast-tracked me to where I am today, and I am grateful for their guidance and generosity,” she says, thankfully. “When I first started, there weren’t many avenues to learn the art of paper flowers,” she remembers. “I began by scouring Pinterest for tutorials and Lia Griffith’s projects kept popping up. They’re fantastic for beginners, but after a few tutorials, I quickly outgrew them.”

Floral Fate
Jessie was clearly destined to carve her own path in the world of paper blooms, and carve she did. “The first book I bought was Livia Cetti’s The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers. I was able to learn Livia’s processes and techniques just by reading it from front to back (a credit to her fine writing) during a trip to Los Angeles in the summer of 2016. With a stronger foundation, I started to experiment on my own and the rest is history.”

“I get inspired by a lot of things,” she admits. “I find inspiration by just walking to the park with my son. I love watching how the leaves and branches on a tree move in the wind. In the fall, I stare at leaves and foliage for ages and try to note how the colours on a leaf blend together, how the overall tones of a tree change subtly, how the leaves drip on their branch stems. I think being aware of how a plant moves or the direction it grows helps create a more natural flow to the structure of my arrangements.” Jessie calls the flowers in her garden her ‘models’.

“Sometimes I am inspired by one object or subject matter – one rose, one set of berries or one set of foliage – and from there I build around it, piece by piece, to tell a story with it. Usually I’m inspired by a colour or movement of a flower and then I ask myself what other flowers or foliage would complement it. So I’m building the floral sculpture layer by layer, adding one piece at a time, until I feel the story is complete.”

Custom Pieces to Custom Classes
Each story is a sought-after commodity. She only offers custom-designed flowers and arrangements on an oh-so-limited client-by-client basis. “Colour is usually the only parameter that my clients are sure about and can provide to me,” she explains. “Sometimes, they can be very particular about the type of flowers they want in the arrangement because they like a specific variety or there’s one that evokes a special memory for them.” She also teaches workshops, hosts private classes and offers online courses. “I love being able to meet people from all walks of life – whether they’ve made paper flowers before or whether they’ve never touched a craft in their life – and seeing their eyes light up with joy as their flower is coming together.” Jessie’s first ever workshop was at The Paper Place in Toronto. “It was very intimidating given it was my very first teaching experience and I was being paid for it. I learned a lot.” But if you thought that was the extent of Jessie’s reach, you’d be very wrong indeed…

Hitting the Airwaves
Along with Quynh Nguyen of Pink and Posey, Jessie is the face behind The Paper Florists Collective and the Paper Talk Podcast, serving an international community of paper floral artists. “We hope to continue to share knowledge, connect all of us together, and elevate the artistry of each and every one of us,” they implore at the start of each episode. Here you get a real sense of ardor and a desire to inspire all of us to get involved. Guests include the aforementioned Lia Griffith and Kate Alarcon, and topics range from the necessary tools to the revival of crepe paper art itself. All of this had me asking: what’s the secret to your success? “Here’s the short answer,” she starts. “Saying yes to projects that make you happy and saying no to projects that don’t spark joy (or don’t pay you). I think it’s really important to create your art on your own terms because you are defined by whatever you make and share on social media. I think if you’re true to yourself and to your own preferences, you’ll naturally start expressing an artistic aesthetic that is unique to you.” “The more complete answer, at least in my case, is being more than just an artist,” she continues. “I think it helps that I’m resourceful and I learn quickly. I have skills in writing, photography, videography, social media, drawing, and designing. All of these skills have helped me build my brand and market my work. I think one of the reasons why my first book, Paper Flower Art, was a natural extension for me was because going into it, I had already organised and taught workshops and online courses. I am a litigation lawyer by profession so I am also used to writing pages and pages in one sitting and staying disciplined and organised. So I think if you’re prepared with skills, then when opportunities come knocking, ‘success’ will come naturally.”

The Power of Papercraft
“Papercrafting means a whole lot!” she enthuses. “It was initially my creative outlet and now it’s my life… outside of raising our kids. It’s turned into something totally unexpected, from a hobby to an artistic process that I engage in every single day. It’s given me the ability to shape in my hands what I could, in the past, only imagine in my head.”

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