Episode 33 - Overcoming Workshop Fears with Emily Paluska

Season #2

We welcome our first artist of this brand new year - Emily Paluska of Revery Paper Flora - on Paper Talk to learn about her paper flowers and business.

Known for her colourful and realistic paper flowers, Emily strives to make each and every piece special and unique. In addition to making paper flowers on commission, for wholesale, and events, she’s a prolific workshop instructor. In 2019 alone, she taught a total of 35 workshops in the Washington, D.C. area and Austin, Texas! Can you believe that before her very first workshop, she was so terrified that she considered not showing up?


Listen to Emily as she shares her workshop experiences through the lens of a successful entrepreneur. You won’t want to miss her tips and tricks invaluable for anyone considering teaching workshops.


First, let’s get to know a little bit about Emily: 

1. Who is Emily Paluska?

 I'm the owner and botanical artist behind Revery Paper Flora. I live in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC. I balance running my business with trying to keep my two young children alive, one of whom is named Poppy because my love for flowers runs deep!


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

 I started making paper flowers after my son was born. I was experiencing postpartum depression and was desperate for an outlet after I put the baby to bed at night. I was never a crafty or DIY type of person so I'm not sure why I thought doing something like this would be fun. I credit it to how dark of a place I was in. It made me desperate to cling onto something to keep me afloat. It was a toss-up between paper flowers or those really detailed coloring books.

Paper flowers ended up winning out. I made a paper flower every day for a year. It was my therapy and saving grace on the darkest of days. I'm not sure what made me choose flowers (honestly it was probably because it was the cheaper option that night on Amazon) but I'm so happy I did.

I had first stumbled upon paper flowers when I saw Lia Griffith's website. I found them appealing initially because I hated spending money on fresh flowers and thought paper flowers would be a fun alternative for me to have flowers around my home that I wouldn't have to take care of.


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?

 Oh, this question is a hard one but I would say realistically unique. Some of the flowers I make are a lot more detailed than others, others are simpler and more understated. It also depends on the client and the specific project in question.

I found my style through a lot of practice. I make a lot of my flowers over a hundred times and through all those renditions, they evolve into something better, not just because of the practice but I am able to see it more clearly. I can see what things can be tweaked and how I can make the flower just a little better the next time. Having my flowers look real is very important to me. Color has also become integral to achieving realism. For the majority of my custom projects, I will always start with white paper so I can achieve the exact shade necessary.


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

I think the reason why I stand out in the crowd is that I do a lot of different types of work. I have my own personal projects, commissions, events, workshops, pop-ups, wholesale, and window displays. I think being able to show the wide range of the things you can do can showcase the value of what you bring to the table.


5. How did your name, Revery Paper Flora come about?

I named my business after my favorite Emily Dickinson poem called 'To Make a Prairie.' I'll share it with you now:

"To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,

One clover, and a bee.

And revery.

The revery alone will do,

If bees are few."

I loved this poem since the time I was a teenager. Revery is defined as a release from reality or a daydream. I love the idea that something like says a flower can spark a memory and bring you back to a different time and place. I want my flowers to feel like a little piece of magic to their recipients.


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

My ideal client is someone that gives me a lot of carte blanche to bring their vision come to life. I love it when I get just the basics like colors or a couple of flowers they like but the rest is up to me in how I can bring it all together.

I don't really have an ideal project. So many of my commissions are wildly different and I like that. I never want to feel pigeonholed into doing only one type of work. That would get boring and I can get restless easily so I find the constant change is good for me!


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

A big challenge I've found is finding the time to balance it all. If I could have my way, I would only make flowers and do no other parts of the business but that's not how it works. The administrative part of your business is integral to its success. Thankfully in the new year, I'm bringing someone on to help me with this!

Another challenge is that you should always get things in writing. If you are working with third parties or clients, you should protect yourself. Your expectations for a project or event may not be the same as the party you're working with. Make sure you're on the same page and have the paper to prove it.


8. Tell us about your workshops - how many do you do per year, where are your workshops located, why do you like to teach workshops, what is your teaching philosophy?

I taught 35 workshops in the last year in the DC area as well as in Austin, TX. I teach in a variety of places around the city. Some businesses have dedicated workshop spaces like The Paper + Craft Pantry, Steadfast Supply, The Lemon Collective, etc... and others have been special events like with Appointed Co.

I enjoy teaching workshops because a lot of my work is just me, sitting in a room by myself listening to true crime or foreign policy podcasts. I am a true introvert. If I could live in a house in the middle of nowhere and never talk or see humans again, I would be okay with that. All that being said, that's NOT healthy and it's really good for me to connect with the outside world.

It surprises people when I tell them that I am introverted but social interaction can really drain me. As I've gotten older, I've learned that putting myself out there is very important for my mental health. Feeling like you're a part of the world is crucial to keeping yourself grounded. It's also nice to talk to adults when you're surrounded by toddlers.

My teaching philosophy is that you're here to learn a new skill but you're also here to have fun. I never want people to feel pressure to be perfect. I always tell everyone at the start of class that nature isn't perfect so your paper flower shouldn't be either.

After elementary school is over, unless you go into an art-related field, you're not being forced to be creative or make a piece of art. I think stepping away from your daily life for a couple of hours to create something with your hands that you had no idea you could do before, is the ultimate self-care. I want people to enjoy themselves and use it as a temporary escape from the everyday grind.


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

My best advice is to just have fun with it. Don't start making paper flowers because you want to make money or turn it into a business. You can absolutely do that later but if you go into a new art form with that intention, people can see that. You want your art to be genuine.

Practice, practice, practice. You can read all the books or watch all the tutorials in the world but unless you build the muscle memory and skill yourself, it won't amount to anything.

Be kind to yourself. Let yourself make mistakes. Give yourself room to grow.

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

Unplug. Do not look at Instagram. Do not look at Facebook. I think most people want to give up because they play the comparison game and in that game, there are no winners.

Take a walk outside. Breathe. Maybe take an extended break from making. Remember what made you drawn to this art form in the first place. Maybe the break brings you back to it with a fiery heart ready to go or maybe it leads you elsewhere. Your art shouldn't drain you; it should bring you to life.


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

Say yes to the scary things. I think ever since I started my business I've been uncomfortable and scared SO MANY TIMES but I've found there is a 100% positive return on saying yes. You learn so much and you learn where your boundaries are and what things you love doing and the things that don't bring you joy.


12. What is your favourite tool?

I use a bead reamer for curling paper. I would be lost without it!


Want to learn more about Emily and Revery Paper Flora? Follow her on social media:

WEBSITE | www.reverypaperflora.com

INSTAGRAM | @reverypaperflora


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