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Paper Roses – guest post

Hello I am Katie Antoniou editor of London arts and culture site Run-Riot, and also a regular contributor to Time Out, Psychologies magazine, The Guardian and numerous online publications. My own personal blog is London Plinth, where I document  much of my work and play- whilst I am  technically a writer, I also dabble in PR, event production, exhibition curation, social media, brand development and styling- you can see more of this sort of stuff on my website here. You can follow me on Instagram  and twitter.

Sometimes the simplest things are the best- when it comes to decorating or dressing up, I still swear by good, old-fashioned paper. It’s cheap as chips, easy to source and fairly simple to work with. There’s inspiration everywhere- with department stores often resorting to the white stuff and its sturdier cousin cardboard to create elaborate window displays and installations, whilst even couture house Chanel used paper to craft headdresses for their 2009 Spring/Summer show.

While I’m technically a writer by trade, I used to dabble in some styling and still occasionally come out of retirement for friends’ projects. One of my close friends who I’ve worked with for years is Gabby Young, lead singer of Gabby Young and Other Animals. We recently did a shoot together for the artwork that will be used for her new album, coming out early next year- here are some of the behind-the-scenes shots I took.

We’ve worked with one designer who makes dresses out of newspaper for a few years now, and that’s how Gabby came up with the idea to have a dress made entirely from the sheet music from her new album. Our designer friend Kumiko Tani whipped one up- she really is so talented- along with a gorgeous headpiece.

We were shooting at The Dolls House in Hoxton Square- where you can see just how well you can decorate bare walls with nothing more than a packet of sharpies (and a healthy dose of talent, obviously.)
Another friend of ours Alice Gabb created some larger-than-life cardboard props for the shoot, covered in vintage book pages- we have an old fashioned gramophone, a drum, a trumpet and a ukulele.
Another outfit we used was by designer Jeffrey Michael, who fashioned a colourful dress from magazine pages, worn here with a giant tissue-paper headpiece by Deb Fanning.
I also bought a pair of cheap shoes on ebay then covered them with vintage book pages and some hand-crafted roses. I thought I’d show you how to make paper roses here, as they’re such a versatile thing to make and super easy- you can churn a few out every evening in front of the TV and after a week or so you’ll have enough to make something gorgeous- I’m planning on turning some of mine into a Christmas wreath (is it too early for the C word?!).
First of all you need to decide what sort of paper you’re working with. It’s tempting to buy old books on ebay as they are cheap, but it’s often hard to tell how thick the pages are- some old books have those tracing-paper-thin pages that are really no good for this sort of thing. And once you’ve paid for postage on books, they don’t work out that cheap after all. So I tend to look in charity shops and markets- in my area there’s the Kennington bookshop which has a whole floor downstairs full of second hand books- you can get a good, quirky, vintage hardbook with that lovely worn look for about two or three pounds. I’m also very close to the Southbank, where there’s a lovely outdoor second hand book market open everyday.
Other equipment you’ll need: scissors, pencil, glue or washi tape, regular garden-centre wire.
Here’s a book I got for a couple of pounds from Kennington Bookshop. I decided to take some pictures of the process at The Tea House Theatre, my lovely local.
Please forgive my photo skills, or lack thereof- I’m not nearly as skilled as Nic at this sort of thing.
So once you have an old book- or sheet music, or any paper you’re using- you need to draw templates for three sizes of petal. Then cut them out, through four or five pages so you have four or five of each size. The sort of sizes I’ve used here will make a medium sized rose- if you want a much bigger one you may only get one petal on a page and you may need to resort to bigger books/sheets of paper!
Fold over the edges of the petals to the point so they’re shaped like little houses. This will make the petals curve like real petals when you unfold them later.
Next, to make the centre of the rose, cut a short piece of wire, say 6 inches or so, depending on what you’re planning on using it for/attaching it to. Then make a long, thin petal shape and wrap it around the tip of the wire.
For fiddly things like paper flowers, I actually like to use washi tape rather than glue, as otherwise things can get very sticky. If you need your creation to be sturdy though- if it’s going to be worn or handled – then you might want to use a glue gun as that hardens up nice and fast after each step.
I used a checked washi tape here so you can see where I’ve put it- but you can get nice neutral ones which are barely visible.
Next, take the petals, starting with the smallest, and wrap them around the centre of the rose, one by one, with the bent edges folded outwards. Make sure the bottoms all line-up, then position them so that there are petals evenly spread around the whole of the flower.

As you go along, gently unfold the edges of each petal so they take on that rose shape. Keep going till you’ve used up all your petals.

You can make them in all sorts of sizes; giant life-sized ones would be a great way to decorate a child’s room. 
As I mentioned before, I think I’m going to make some into a Christmas wreath- when the wreath is finished, I’ll skim over the edges of the petals with a glue-covered paint brush, then sprinkle some gold or silver glitter over the whole piece; let it dry, then hang!
If you do try making paper flowers, do tweet me your results @katieantoniou.
Huge thanks to Nic for having me, and hope to see you over on my blog sometime soon.
If you want to learn more about paper craft, Made in Paper is a great magazine- they’re currently giving away 5 copies of their Christmas issue http://www.molliemakes.com/competition/win-5-copies-made-in-paper-the-christmas-issue/
November 25, 2013