Episode 34 - Between Dreams and Reality with Yang Liu

Season #2

We first took notice of the minimally styled paper flowers of Yang Liu in her blue phase. This blue phase turned out to be her artistic collaboration with Anna Chedid at the VSCO studio. Influenced by her Chinese heritage, her dual Canadian-American nationalities, and her current hometown of San Francisco, Yang’s work strives to sit somewhere between dreams and reality.

Her paper flowers are showcased in a consistently clean and modern way. She does not shy away from creating various types of botanical objects, from dahlias to pear branches to dumpling boxes.

Listen to Yang as she shares her love for paper flowers.


Let’s first get to know Yang:

1. Who is Yang Liu? 

I was born in Shanghai (hence my Instagram name, @shanghai.1984). I am currently a dual Canadian-American citizen residing in the San Francisco Bay Area. Besides flowers and paper art, I also love having tea with friends!


2. How did you get started making paper flowers? What drew you to this art form?

I first came across paper flowers at the De Young Museum, where I saw Tiffanie Turner’s show and was amazed by what you could achieve in paper. From there I ended up taking classes with Tiffanie Turner and Lynn Dolan, both of whom are just amazing artists and teachers. I just fell in love with the medium and found crepe paper so intuitive for the way I wanted to express myself in flowers.


3. How would you define the style of your flowers? How did you find your style? How has your creative style evolved to what it is today?

I think my style continues to evolve, but I would say that my current style is introverted, romantic, and a little moody. It’s influenced by my Chinese heritage and my desire to create work that sits somewhere between dreams and reality.  

I definitely have a natural “messiness” to my artwork - it took some time for me to embrace this as part of my natural artistic style and not something that I needed to control. I like asymmetry in my petals and leaves. I also enjoy creating intentional flaws in my work like bug bites or bruising to reflect that life is not perfect. 

I honestly think that I found my current style just through making a lot of art and being willing to experiment. Sometimes my experiments do not work out and I start over, but this is a natural part of the creative process and something which I have learned to embrace.


4. How have you made your paper flower voice stand out in the crowd?

Mostly by being willing to experiment. I try to choose colors, papers, and materials that not everybody is using in their work. You are forced to create your own technique this way. Naturally, that can help your final product look different from the crowd.


5. What are your ideal clients and/or ideal projects?

I’ve really enjoyed my collaborative projects with fellow paper artist Anna Chedid, also known as @floresdaannita. We shot our first project, “Botanical Impossibilities,” focused on the colour blue at VSCO Open Studios, which was just an amazing space to work in.

Our second project “Motherland Flora” focused on flora from our respective homelands and we used both Brazilian and Chinese papers in our work. I hope to do more collaborative projects as I feel it’s a great way to push yourself beyond your normal work as well as get to learn from another artist in a fun way. 

More recently I’ve enjoyed working with an art gallery as my work was featured in “tiny,” a group show at STUDIO gallery in San Francisco. This is definitely an area I’d like to explore more.


6. What are some of the challenges you've faced in your business and/or art?

I think there’s always the natural feeling of disappointment when you submit your artwork to an organization and it doesn’t get chosen. However, I try to take this in stride and just continue submitting my work to as many different places as much as possible.


7. What advice would you give to a paper florist who is starting out today?

Just try to learn as much as you can and don’t be afraid to experiment with techniques, materials, composition - the sky is the limit! I think having fun is pretty key to wanting to make paper flowers are they are time-consuming - so it’s ideal for people who really enjoy the process.


8. What advice would you give to a paper florist who is about to give up?

I would say take a break and try something new, whether it be a new medium, an art class you’ve been meaning to take, or just walk around outside and explore what nature has to offer. I think we get creatively exhausted if we are doing the same thing over and over again. I also love yoga when I need to just mentally reset.


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

Take time to really observe and look at real flowers and leaves as much as possible before you start your work and while you are building out your artwork. Observation really helps me figure out things like petal placement and how to join the leaves to the main stem that mimics reality. Also, I would say try freehand cutting to get a more natural look!


10. What is your favourite tool?

I have to say once I got my own set of pink Kai scissors, it was pretty life-changing.


Want to learn more about Yang? Follow her on social media:

INSTAGRAM | @shanghai.1984

WEBSITE | https://www.shanghai1984.com/


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