Doddington Place Gardens

Crossing the Borders

Petal and Pen

Artificial flowers: the very phrase conjures up tired dusty arrangements adorning a National Trust drawing room. Who in their right minds would ever opt for ‘artificial’? The delightfully named Petal and Pen will make you reconsider ‘fake’ flowers. In fact, I defy anyone not to be entranced by the exquisite tissue paper flowers meticulously created by Sarah Close-Brooks.

A bouquet of flowers.

A bouquet of flowers.

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A tissue paper rose.

Petal and Pen came about when Sarah offered to make fondant flowers to decorate her best friend’s wedding cake. ‘The wedding was in July, and I realised that the flowers would almost certainly wilt in the heat.’ Browsing the internet for a solution, Sarah stumbled across ‘The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers’ by an American, Livia Cetti, of www.thegreenvase.com. ‘I promptly bought it and taught myself the technique using the book and Livia’s online tutorial’ on www.creativebug.com.

Sarah cuts sheets of tissue paper into strips before immersing them in a diluted bleach solution. Next she dries the strips on a washing line in her back garden. ‘They crinkle and gently fade’ as they dry in the sun, creating a lovely soft palette of coloured tissue to work with. It is a meticulous fiddly business.

Tissue paper drying in Sarah Close-Brooks garden.

Tissue paper drying in Sarah Close-Brooks garden.

Each petal is individually cut by hand, and twisted to create a flower secured around a florist wire. ‘Sometimes I will have made the centre with a cotton bud – it all depends on the type of flower’. Naturally they vary in complexity -for instance, ‘roses are bit more labour intensive as one has to curl the leaves’. The quality of the light shining through the petals gives each flower a beguiling delicate transparency. A pleasing detail are the leaves which Sarah cuts out from card and then paints. They are an effective contrast to the tissue blooms.

Tissue paper flower and delicately painted card leaves.

Tissue paper flower and delicately painted card leaves.

A request to send a bunch of flowers to a lady in hospital who was missing her garden (these days real flowers are banned from hospitals so Petal and Pen bouquets are ideal) led to Sarah teaching herself calligraphy. ‘I was asked to include a message and thought wouldn’t it be lovely to write it in italic script.’ She has recently embarked on a part-time evening course to digitise her calligraphy skills so that she can start designing menus and invitations as well.

A hand painted menu design by Sarah Close-Brooks.

A hand painted menu/invitation design by Sarah Close-Brooks.

An enchanting wreath adorning a bridesmaid.

An enchanting wreath adorning a bridesmaid.

Sarah took Art A level but went on to study English at Edinburgh University. ‘I often found myself thinking I was in the wrong department’. Now a mother with three young children, ‘I wanted to do something creative to fit around my family. I absolutely love making the flowers and the calligraphy.’

A button hole.

A button hole.

A tissue paper hydrangea.

A tissue paper hydrangea.

Sarah generously gave me a bunch of her flowers. I was questioned several times as to where I’d bought them on my way from London to Kent. The bunch now has pride of place in my office.

Recent commissions include bridesmaids’ wreaths, buttonholes and sprays of flowers to embellish wrapped presents. Future ideas include wreaths made using just leaves and bunches of tulips. The scope is limitless.

www.petalandpen.com