Paper, Flowers, and Memories.

Tara Phillips is growing a garden of stories out of paper collages.

"Crested Butte Wildflowers" by Tara Phillips

Sometimes you just need to indulge in some art that is delicate and refined. Denver artist Tara Phillips’ carefully cut paper clippings unite to form gorgeous flower arrangements, fruit bowls, and gardens. Her Instagram page illustrates both her process and inspiration, showcasing leftover clippings, still life arrangements, mountain scenery, and plants as the backdrop in the beautiful photographs that document her work. Tara also happens to be my cousin by marriage, and from pieces of paper, she has the ability to create memories. Here is the house in Washington Park that has been in my husband’s family for one hundred years and spanned three generations, an image that was made into Christmas ornaments for the whole family. More recently, Tara created a custom piece for the house that I live in, that also belonged to my husband’s late grandmother. His grandmother's favorite flower was the Colorado state flower, the columbine. Now, the columbines sit in our doorway so that we can remember her.

"Columbines" by Tara Phillips

Tara shared some of her own flower memories with us in an interview.

What is your favorite type of flower and why? 

It’s pretty difficult for me to choose just one so I’ll break down my favorites into categories. 

As a Colorado native, my favorite wildflower from our gorgeous mountains is the marsh marigold.  I love its simple elegance and the deep veins in the leaves.  

When it comes to garden flowers, I’d have to say dahlias. It’s their layers that intrigue me. 

Finally, as far as a favorite flower to collage, it has to be alstroemeria. I love making the little flecks on the petals with colored pencils. It is great when you can incorporate colored pencils or crayons into a collage because it really gives a piece depth and interest.  

What other mediums have you worked with? 

Back in high school I took a few jewelry making courses and fell in love with the craft. Those metal smith classes led to many craft fairs where I sold jewelry and at one time I even had a business on etsy. Of course, the jewelry included botanical influences. One time I used the floral end of a spoon to make a wax impression for casting. Later I turned it into a bracelet that, to this day, is one of my favorite creations. Even though I don’t sell jewelry any more, I still love to make pieces for family and friends.  

How did you start working with paper cuttings? 

About two years ago I stumbled across Cut Paper Pictures by Clover Robin. Her book is all about collage artwork and how to turn inspiration from your life into a collage picture. Using the book as a guide, I made a card with berries and fall foliage.  It was such a fun experience that I continued to collage cards, gift tags, and the pictures you see on my Instagram page.  I love how collage continues to challenge me.  Painting the pages with acrylic paint and learning how to make new textures is a fun and therapeutic process.  When it comes to cutting out the shapes for petals and leaves, I have really had to learn how to look for the simple shapes in flowers. It’s made me a much better observer of nature.  

Other than flowers, where do you draw inspiration from? 

Antiquing is something I like to do when I’m stuck in a rut and need inspiration. When I’m searching through old items, I take my time and really look at each find.  I love looking at children’s books, camping paraphernalia, postcards, and costume jewelry.  Looking at old objects can lead to color ideas or maybe a new texture or pattern to try. 

How do you think flowers play a role in memory? What are your favorite flower memories? 

So I think flowers are built into my DNA.  My grandfather was a gladiolus farmer in Michigan.  He even engineered a peach colored breed that is still around today.  So, perhaps his interest in flowers was somehow passed down to me.  

One of my favorite flower memories is taking a bouquet of carnations to my grandmother every Sunday morning after church.  My dad would take us kids to this tiny greenhouse on Colorado Blvd. and we would take turns choosing a bouquet to surprise her with.  It was such a simple thing but it brought her such joy. Every time I smell carnations I think of her.  

Take some time to smell the roses @tara_loves_flowers.

"Desert Flowers" by Tara Phillips

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