Give Sydney-based artist Jennifer Tran some paper and a few tools and she can transform it into something spectacular: paper flowers so rich and detailed they look just like the real thing. Through her growing business, Papetal, she’s worked with brands around the world, authored her own book and been featured in renowned publications such as The Design Files and National Sculpture Magazine of China.
In celebration of our latest Adriana Picker-designed limited-edition products – Rosewater Balancing Mist Intense Deluxe Edition and Jurlique Rose Luxe Edition Hand Cream – we spoke to Jennifer about her own creative process and how she incorporates the products into her own daily routine. She even whipped up some of her special creations, too.
Tell us about your work and what you do?
I make paper flowers for advertising, window displays and set designs. On occasion, I also run flower making workshops and participate in store activations. It’s a very exciting career, as it allows me to exercise my creativity and connect with many talents.
How did you get into this position?
By never standing still. Things change quickly in the creative industry. What is so cool today may be obsolete the next. For this reason, I never allow myself to be comfortable with my techniques or to settle with any particular methods. I keep track of what goes on in the world, how brands move and how other creatives are adapting, so that I can make changes to the way I operate. For instance, if I didn’t conquer my fear of making oversized flowers, I would possibly never have got the chance of creating window displays for Jurlique. Or if I never pushed myself into making tableware, I would never have caught the eyes of the team at Anthropologie and being able to create one of the most exciting projects in my career. Changes are hard and I fail more often than I succeed, but I don’t think I would ever get to where I am by being afraid of change.
Describe your process when it comes to your work – how do you tackle a new project?
I study both real flowers and botanical illustration. During the production of my book, Flowersmith, I dissected over 30 flowers just to understand their structure; how the layers are connected, how the petals are arranged and how things like buds and leaves are attached. Having an understanding of an internal structure of a flower gives me an idea of how to best replicate it. When I need to make a flower that isn’t in season, I rely quite a bit on botanical illustration.
What challenges do you face in your work?
Like many freelance artists, I work super crazy hours. Sometimes, I make flowers from the moment I wake up, and if I’m lucky, I get to finish at midnight. During these periods, it’s important that I take care of myself. This involves eating right, taking breaks, no skipping on Pilates and sparing a few moments for self-pampering. Pampering can be as simple as taking care of my skin, as this really relaxes me.
Another challenge is learning when to say “no”. It’s tempting to secure as many projects as possible, as I’m running a business after all. In the first few years of Papetal, I didn’t know when to stop. I pushed myself too hard that my health was slowly deteriorating. When I finally felt sick, I realised that I had to make some changes. As hard as it was, I had to start saying “no” to projects that would potentially take over my life. By taking in less responsibilities, I can now focus on quality over quantity. On top of that, I now have more time for the people I love and the things I enjoy outside of flowers... like baking for instance.
What do you find most rewarding?
Being able to exercise my creativity and connect with so many people. Each project is a new learning opportunity. Sometimes, I get to create flowers that don’t exist in nature. Other times, I get to invent a new technique that pushes the boundary of my craft, such as creating paper flowers that can be immersed in water etc. But above all, the best thing about my job is being able to connect with so many talents. I have met photographers who blew my mind, graphic designers who saw my work in many exciting different perspectives that I could never see and art directors who solved problems no one could. The opportunity to work with and to learn from these talents is what makes my job worthwhile.
When you’re experiencing a creative block, how do you get out of it?
I have creative blocks more often than not, so I’ve developed different ways of dealing with them. Here are just a few; - Discuss the challenge with my partner. He is a fantastic coach. He knows just the right questions to ask, to guide me back onto the right track. - Exercising. For me, it’s Pilates. I find that when I focus on Pilates, I become disconnected from my creative work. This creates a mental break and allows me to return to it with a fresh perspective. - Self-pampering. Just like exercising, self-pampering lets me unplug and recharge. I used to bath with Jurlique Rose Body Oil. But with the current water restrictions, I mask instead of bathing. I love Jurlique Purifying Mask as it is detoxifying yet gentle on my combination & sensitive skin.
What advice would you give to others who are looking to explore their creativity?
Think about what you can bring to the world instead of what you can get. When I first started, I was a part of a small community of flower artists. All I wanted to do at the time was to create something beautiful for our little community, tackle technical challenges and share the findings with others. It made me smile every time I contributed to someone else’s progress or made others want to join our little group. Having a pure intention to contribute encouraged me to explore my strengths, invent new methods and share my work without pressure or restrictions. I grew so much during this period of freedom and selflessness. And surprisingly, such rapid growth brought me so much attention and organically turned Papetal into a business.
Talk us through how you use your limited edition Jurlique products throughout the day
I like to use the Rosewater Balancing Mist Intense Deluxe Edition on both my face and hands. For the face, I only use it twice, once in the AM and once in the PM and it’s just enough for my combination & sensitive skin. For my hands, I use the mist quite a lot during the day. As I work with paper and PVA glue, my hands get really dry especially after a long session of flower making. I often spray the mist three times on my hands, rub them together until the mist is fully absorbed. I then apply a dollop of the Jurlique Rose Luxe Edition Hand Cream again rub in it to cover every inch of my skin. I find this process very therapeutic as I get to inhale the uplifting scent of the Jurlique Rose.