Episode 51: Artist Spotlight - How to Survive Social Distancing with Anna Chedid

artist spotlight season 2 Jun 18, 2020

In this Episode, we talk to our friend and fellow paper florist Anna Chedid about how she is handing social distancing during this unique time in our history.
For many of us, it's been weeks since "normal." We no longer leave our houses without hand sanitizer and a face mask. We count the number of people present when we hang out with our neighbours, friends or family. Our food cravings are now conditioned around what exists in our fridge and pantry. All of our interactions are now more...complicated. 
As artists, we are used to working from home or our studio, often working alone for hours. But that is by choosing. So what happens when we're forced to be isolated from others for a long period of time? How do we stay healthy?

First, let's learn a bit about Anna:

1. Tell us about yourself! Who is Anna Chedid?

That's probably the hardest one to answer! I'm Anna, Brazilian, designer, paper artist, crazy cat lady, coffee drinker, chocolate lover! I was born and raised in Brazil, lucky to have a very caring, warm, and supportive family. I married a lovely guy that is also a designer, photographer, musician and cooks all sorts of delicious food. We moved to the USA two years ago, the husband is to blame, with our two cats and I have been dedicating my time to @floresdaannita full time. 
2. Tell us how you started making paper flowers.
I started making paper flowers after I got married. I made a lot of things to decorate my wedding party and some accessories too, so my husband told me that I should start to make those things and sell them online. I had NO IDEA how to make things happen, had no experience in the business area at all! But he helped me set up an online shop and with product photography as well. Having a background in fashion helped a lot too. So one day I was looking for tutorials on how to make fabric flowers and I ended up finding a Martha Stewart tutorial about paper flowers, that was the official beginning for me on the paper flower world. I have memories of my mother making paper flowers for birthday parties, for my grandparent's 50th anniversary as well when I was a child. She even made me a pair of paper angel's wings so I could be one of the little angels at the Coronation of Our Lady of The Rosary, it's a Catholic thing! I guess the only books about paper flowers available at the time, 2013, was Livias's and Rebecca's. I bought them and I found some antique digitalized PDFs with paper flower making tutorials and used a lot of fabric flower making tutorials as well to help me create blooms. 

3. It sounds like your creations had a lot of potential from the start. How have you been able to make your paper flower voice stand out in the crowd?
I think it's due to several factors. I was exposed to a lot of plants and flowers when I was a child, I always have a good aesthetic sense, I'm not bragging just being realistic. As a child and in my teenage years I was exposed to art, music, architecture, design, and very encouraged to create things with my hands. I was always drawing, painting, and being "annoyingly creative" sometimes! I have a Fashion design degree, and that helped me with the technical part and also the bureaucratic stuff that is always a pain to deal with for me.  A lot of the research part that I do when I wanna start a project, for example, comes from the methodology that I've learned in fashion school. You have to use all the tools you have to make it work, I use my personal experiences and all the skills I acquired along the years to express something visually. I think that if you respect your creative desires and use the tools that you have in a good way, you can make good stuff and people can relate to it. Just do what makes you happy at first, and improve from there. It can sound simplistic and naive, but it's the truth! 
4. What are some of the challenges you've faced as an artist?
Oh I think the major challenge is about making money. In the beginning, it was painful. I had no idea how to price my product and how to keep track of my expenses and income. I had to figure it out by trial and error, and there were a lot of tears and self-doubt, lots of unwanted advice from people with zero experience on business but for some reason thought that they should give them. The money factor and all that comes with it, made me have lots of negative thoughts about what I was doing and if it was worth all that pain. That can impact in a very bad way when you are the one dealing with all the demands of a business, but especially on your creative and productive side. 

5. Since moving from Brazil to the United States, you've had to put your business on hold. How do you feel not being able to sell your art?

It was a tough decision to make! I was finally making money with paper flowers, I had lots of brides, art directors, prop designers that reached out for collabs and projects, I was getting recognized as an artist in Brazil and that is a big deal. But living abroad was in my plans, actually was something that my husband and I talked about since we met, so I've already had a plan in case that happened. I also already knew that I was not going to be able to work under the visa I currently am, so I took advantage of this to focus on evolving my work. I wish I could sell my pieces, for sure, but I know I can't and I have to live with that. I focus on other things instead of trying to find some illegal way to sell my pieces, that's just not me! 

6. Tell us about your hashtag #ordinarycolorful. What inspired you to start this hashtag? 

I was just trying to elevate my photography skills. I love to organize things by color so I started to look for objects around the house that have similar colors and put them together like a mood board that I could take a pic from above.
I liked it so much that I decided to post some of those pics and it wasn't my intention to make it a collaborative project. It was Janita, @mywoollymammoth , that planted the seed in the back of my mind. I'm responsible for the name, but she is the one to blame, she encouraged me and gave a lot of support spreading the word about the #ordinarycolorful. So It's not just mine, it's Janita too! 

7. You've been exploring different ways to present, style, and photograph your paper flowers lately, sometimes focusing on colour, and at times, parts of a flower, and you even had a series of flowers native to your homeland, Brazil. What drives you towards these experimentations?

I've learned over the years that if you have an urge to create something, you have to allow yourself to fail, to make things that have nothing to do with what you are currently working, to learn something new completely unrelated to what you do for a living. When you practice this, when you put yourself in an uncomfortable position, you free yourself and the way you relate to your work. It also makes you not take for granted what makes you the person you are, your identity. I love to organize my thoughts by colors for example, I do that since I was a child. This is something that I can do almost naturally, so why not take advantage of that? Or why not look to my homeland and try to replicate the beautiful plants and flowers that made my childhood so special? 

8. As a seasoned paper florist, what advice would you give to a paper florist who is starting out today?

Enjoy the HUGE amount of information that you have available now and practice a lot! When I started there was so little info about paper flowers, it was basically none. Now, there's a lot of tutorials, books, videos available, a lot of good stuff out there, and some of that for free. Also, stop sharing the work you make to get other people's approval! Share for you, make for you. Use your personal references to evolve your style. I grew a lot when I stopped looking into other floral paper artist's work for inspiration. Look for other sources of inspo, music, architecture, fashion, etc. 

9.  Do you have any paper flower making tips to share with our listeners?

Be kind to yourself and practice a lot! Explore the materials, especially crepe paper. Stretch, torn, bleach, paint, fold, cut, glue, play with your papers! 
10.  Do you have a favourite tool you use on a daily basis?

I would say my hands, but having good scissors are a game-changer. And I don't have a brand that I recommend because it's a very personal tool. Try some to find the one that works the best. For me, the scissors have to be light and not too big, my hands are kinda small.  
Thank you Anna for chatting with us today and sharing your invaluable experience!

Be sure to follow Anna on social media:

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