Lea Gray Creates Beautiful Paper Blooms That Last
There are some things so beautiful, and so close to the real thing, that it is hard to believe they are not what they seem. One may say Lea Gray’s sculptural floral bouquets are even better than the real thing because unlike their live inspiration, Gray’s arrangements never wilt.
Gray began crafting sculptural floral bouquets in April, 2014, after a longtime love of origami and paper art.
“I have always been fascinated with origami, but started really practicing and learning origami about five years ago,” she says. “After making project after project of other origami designs, I decided to use origami as a vehicle to learn how to make my own flower designs and began creating new flowers and plants out of paper that looked real.”
As a child, Gray loved art in all of its forms – making cards for loved ones, painting pictures, and drawing and making things with her hands.
“Now, as an adult, I still love making all kinds of art, but it just happens to be that flower making has become my favorite,” she says. “My whole life I have loved flowers, so it is no surprise that flower making is my favorite.”
Gray graduated from the Columbus College of Art and Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts focused on painting and a minor in Art History. Some of her origami works are on display around Columbus, like the Kusudama lamps hanging in Café Brioso. Gray was also asked to create paper roses for a high-profile wedding, but the project ended up being cancelled. She had just started making flowers and although the project was not completed, Gray is fortunate it came along when it did.
“That came into my life at the right time to show me what I can do,” she says with a smile.
The floral arrangement idea took hold and Gray became obsessed with making everything she did look real. Once it did, her business PaperBlooms LGD was ready. And she already had fans.
“I was approached by a woman who had seen some of my origami works around town,” says Gray. “She asked me if I was able to make realistic looking flowers. After showing her what I had been working on, she was in awe!”
Social media helped Gray get the word out about her work. It’s helped her grow the business into her career and has led to exciting opportunities to have her work displayed in boutiques, featured in weddings, gifted to loved ones, and possibly included in upcoming theatrical productions.
On average each flower takes Gray up to fifteen to twenty minutes to create.
“When creating a new flower design, it could take hours of research, development and paper sketches before I come out with the final concept,” she says. Following the Instragram accounts of florists from around the world provide her with daily inspiration and fresh takes on color theory and flower designs.
“It’s nice to know that some of the same florists also follow me [on Instagram],” she says.
“Full flower arrangements can take up to 20 hours to create, and a flower can take up to 45 minutes to make, depending on the complexity,” she says. “Each bud, blossom, stem, and leaf is handcrafted and created for each bouquet. The design of each arrangement also takes time as each color, flower, and shape of the bouquet is sought out each time I take on a new commissioned work.”
When completed, they are sprayed with a clear matte protectant that is moisture and UV resistant. She recommends using an air duster to keep arrangements free of dust.
Gray uses a very special paper from Italy called ‘Fine Crepe’ to form her flower petals.
“Finding this paper has defined my business in paper flower making,” she says. “It has an amazing translucence and pliability that takes on the form of a petal so perfectly well.”
Paper becomes petals easily within Gray’s skilled fingers. A variety of colorful cardstock, air-dry clay, sticks, moss, and spray paints complete the flowers. The excitement she has as she looks through her supplies is contagious, and she she shows a piece of clay that will someday become the bud of a peony.
From bud to bloom, a peony is her favorite flower to create.
“There are so many petal designs and pieces that go into the peony and watching it bloom as I place each piece is a romance within itself,” she says. It is definitely a showpiece.
She recently redesigned her peony for a commemorative bouquet crafted to remember her Grandfather’s life and legacy. Her Grandmother was so happy to receive it. The gift was filled with meaning -peonies being her Grandmother’s favorite flower and found throughout her yards, red roses honored her Grandfather’s favorite color, and tangerine ranuculuses, dark green succulents, and cream colored roses finished the bright and cheerful arrangement.
“It was given to my Grandmother with love,” says Gray. “I don’t know what I would have done if I wasn’t able to give that to her.”
Having the ability to create something for others that will then create lasting memories -often on a very special day- is an honor that Gray finds deeply moving and one that brings her great joy.
“The magic behind that…it is really just -wow. Thank you so much,” she shares.
Since opening her business, Gray has created 23 wedding bouquets, recreated a beautiful gardenia bouquet for a surprise 30th wedding anniversary gift, and created bonsai trees. She also paints and will have a show beginning Wednesday, June 3, 2015 at Denmark on High.
Since releasing the first Cypress tree design, Gray has made two bonsai trees, each tree being 12 inches in height. She hopes to make an entire collection of them and is currently working on grants to allow for that. Trees can take up to 25 hours to craft and the detail that goes into them is amazing. She plans to create each tree larger in size and in different styles of bonsai.
“I really love the idea that [my works] are to be created for special events and will be the lasting gift that a person will cherish for a lifetime,” says Gray. “It is really such a joy to be able to make flowers for myself and others.”
From June 1 through June 7, Columbus Underground is celebrating Summer Romance Week, presented by Leo Alfred Jewelers. Leo Alfred Jewelers makes the process of selecting and buying jewelry a very personal and uniquely memorable experience. Find them at LeoAlfred.com.