Episode 95 - Uplift Marginalized Groups on International Paper Flower Day
Learn how paper florists can help bring meaning, healing, and more to the world this International Paper Flower Day.
Art is powerful.
Your paper flowers are powerful.
At first glance, people might dismiss paper floristry as simply a pretty craft, but we know that it is much more. We pour our hearts and souls into our work. That gives it power, and that power can be used to support great causes.
In our latest episode of Paper Talk we talked with Kate Alarcón of The Cobra Lily. She is the paper florist who sparked the first International Paper Flower Day and has inspired artists around the world to make this special day their own. This year’s theme relates to our new group, Paper Florists Against Racism, and as such, our conversation covered lots of ground about how our art can help heal and support those who have suffered due to discrimination and hate.
Here are a few highlights from our conversation about how you can support marginalized groups through your paper flower art.
Listen to our conversation to hear:
How International Paper Flower Day got started.
This year’s theme and how it relates to Paper Florists Against Racism.
Ideas for using paper flowers to help heal and inspire others.
Why it’s so difficult to view your own work as serious art that deserves respect.
How to support marginalized groups with your art without overstepping.
Listen and Learn
In order to support people who have been systematically discriminated against, you have to listen to their experiences first. The history of much of the oppression and hurt that has happened to marginalized groups has been actively erased and suppressed.
An example of this is the Greenwood Massacre, which we talked about with The Wild Mother on a recent episode. Paper florists are working to support the centennial commemoration efforts taking place in Tulsa at the end of May. But if you don’t know about events like the massacre, you can’t do anything to help. Plus, fully understanding the events that happened gives more meaning to your art.
As Kate said,
“I would love to share with other paper flower makers the feeling of power when you make a flower and it stands for somebody who died in a massacre. There’s nothing as an artist that you’re going to get that has that instant, ‘Boom! I made a difference. What I do matters.’”
If you listened to that episode of Paper Talk about the Greenwood Massacre commemoration, you already started learning! There are lots of fantastic podcasts, books, articles, Instagram accounts, and more where you can listen to the stories of marginalized people.
Offer Help and Follow Guidance
In the episode, Jessie talked about a recent project that she worked on with an African American artist. He was creating a series of pictures about the experience of growing up black in America. That is not Jessie’s background. But because she listened and had a conversation with him about how they approach art and what he wanted out of the project, they were able to work beautifully together.
Kate and Quynh also shared experiences about their paper flowers helping others tell stories that were very different from their own backgrounds.
You can listen to the podcast to hear about the details of those projects, but in short, the best kind of support follows guidance. It’s fantastic to get involved in a project that will elevate stories that need to be told. Just make sure that if it isn’t your story, you take on a passive role. Offer help, and then listen to the directions you are given.
Value Your Art
In order for your art to make a difference in the world, you have to believe in it! For many of us, we struggle to call ourselves artists. We struggle to elevate our own work in our own minds.
On the podcast, Jessie shared about her own experience comparing men’s paper flowers to women’s, and how ingrained it is to think of a man’s flower as art and a woman’s flower as craft. She knows that that isn’t fair to her own art or the art of other paper florists, and she’s working to fight back against that kind of thinking that’s been ingrained in most of us. And that’s important work!
Take a moment to examine how you view your own art. Do you talk it down? Do you dismiss it? If you properly value your work, you’ll be better able to lift up others with it. Don’t worry if you don’t have perfect self-confidence—no one does—but do find ways to take pride in your art.
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