Episode 49 - Building a Flower with Lucia Balcazar

Season #2

Today we talk to Lucia Balcazar, the author of Build a Flower: A Beginner's Guide to Paper Flowers. Lucia has an easily recognizable signature style of deep colours and strong graphic lines in her paper flower art. Formerly a statistician, she changed her career path to follow her love for the fine arts, and her art reflects a maturity and confidence that is a hallmark of later-in-life artists. Her first book, Build a Flower, provides a refreshing take on paper flowers by exploring different types of paper materials and techniques. It's a perfect book for beginners who are keen on trying different mediums and ideal for crafters/artists who want to take on something fun.

Listen to us chat with Lucia about her new book, how she manages her tendonitis, and how she balances her mom-life with her art.


First, let's learn a bit about Lucia:

1. Who is Lucia Balcazar?

I'm a statistician turned paper flower artist. I was born in St. Paul, Minnesota but grew up in La Paz, Bolivia. I went to college in Chicago, moved to Berlin, travelled through Asia, and lived in Tanzania for a while. I changed careers and went to art school in Boston, where I live now with my husband Jose Andres and baby Matilde. 


2. How and why did you start making paper flowers?

The first time I made paper flowers was during a massive snowstorm in Boston. We had been stuck at home for days. I had come across paper flowers online while researching ideas for my wedding and fell in love with the idea right away. I gathered whatever materials I had at home and made my first (very wonky!) paper flower. I used blue painter's tape instead of floral tape, thick modeling wire instead of floral wire, and fine art paper with no stretch. The results weren’t great but I felt really proud of my first attempt. 


3. What are some of the challenges you've faced during your paper flower journey?

I’ve had to deal with tendonitis pain on both my wrists. When the pain gets really strong, the idea of making flowers is so daunting and it’s hard to push through the pain to finish projects. I got cortisone shots on both hands, but they only alleviated the pain on my right wrist.

For the left wrist, I wore a brace for a long time and the pain has gotten much better but it’s not completely gone. I think a lot of artists in our community deal with this type of pain, unfortunately. I need to get better at practicing hand exercises. Another challenge I have faced is also very common amongst artists and crafters. For the longest time, I struggled with pricing my work and I often undervalued myself. 


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

There are so many amazing paper flower artists out there and it can be intimidating sometimes. But something that helped me stand out was to incorporate my creative (and non-creative) background into my paper flower making. For example, I love art history (20th-century art in particular) and created a series that recreates modern art paintings using paper flowers (#modernartpaperflowers).

I also used experiences from my travels as inspiration to make orchids from exotic places and a series of travelling paper flowers, where I hold a paper flower against a city background in the places I visit (#travellingpaperflowers). 

Also, I’ve come to embrace the fact that my botanical knowledge is very limited. I think this has allowed me to approach flower making with fresh eyes and to focus on color and shape, not so much on botanical correctness. I’m not concerned with getting the botanical details right, I just want to make colorful things. If I want to add a blue center to a magnolia, I just go for it, I don’t feel bad taking as many creative licenses as I want.


5. Tell us about Build a Flower: A Beginner's Guide to Paper Flowers. 

The book is targeted towards beginners and explores 5 different types of paper with 5 flower tutorials: a cardstock wall flower, a doublette crepe tulip, a florist crepe peony, a fine crepe ranunculus, and a tissue paper dahlia. I incorporated basic paper flower techniques into these 5 tutorials that the reader can then apply to other flowers. I'm hoping the book will excite beginners into further exploring the world of paper flower crafting. My publisher is Abrams Books from New York, I feel so lucky to have worked with such a great team. 


6. How do you balance working at home and raising a young child?

This has been tough, of course, and my creative output has gone down considerably. I don't post to Instagram as often as I would like and I don't take as many commissions as before, but I try to find time in the evenings to create. I have an 18-month-old and I take care of her full time. She is very sweet and funny and I feel very fortunate to be able to spend so much time with her.

But I do miss having time to make art. I get a couple of hours when she is finally asleep and before I also start closing my eyes while operating a hot glue gun! I've had to pull all-nighters to work on commissions for events because that's the only time Matilde is not rummaging through my paper. And working on the book was especially hard because she was going through a sleep regression (waking up every 2 hours!).


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

Explore all the different papers that are available to discover which one feels right for you. Experiment with the different paper crafting techniques and soon you will develop your own style. Also, the paper flower community is very welcoming. It is definitely not about competition, your creative voice matters and is appreciated. 


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

Lately, I’ve been laminating most of my paper, petals, leaves, stamens. Laminating is basically just glueing two pieces of paper together. This makes the paper sturdier and more durable, and you can get very sculptural shapes while the glue is still wet. I work mostly with doublette crepe, which lends itself to this technique because it is not as textured as a florist crepe and not as thin as a fine crepe. It takes longer but I love the end result.


Learn more about Lucia Balcazar by following her on social media:

WEBSITE | www.LuciaBalcazar.com 

INSTAGRAM | @luciabalcazar


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