Alumni

Portrait

April showers bring May flowers — unless you’re Carrie Fleck Walters, ’00. Then you just need some crepe paper, a little creativity, and a bushel of talent.

Walters first started making paper flowers when she was looking for a way to use her hands and unwind after a day working in graphic design.

“I can’t sit still,” she says. “I can’t just watch TV without doing something. I need a side project.”

She was a painter in college but doesn’t have the space for a studio at home. She tried knitting, but that wasn’t right, either. Then, she stumbled on a paper flower kit in Martha Stewart Living magazine.

“Working with paper was just a natural thing,” she says. “It’s malleable. There are a lot of different weights and textures to crepe paper, and they each have their own ability to be molded. I can sculpt the petals and position them so they’re more real.”

Walters has since packed away the kits and looks instead to nature for inspiration.

“I really love finding a specific species and pinpointing its characteristics,” she says. “In the spring, I made Shirley Temple peonies, which are white, really frilly peonies that have this bright fuchsia inking that sinks through.”

The allure of flowers stems in part from childhood travels with her mom, a biology teacher. Every vacation, Walters’ mom would take pictures of plants and name them. Now Walters tests her accuracy and realism by sending photos of her creations to her mom to identify.

Last year, Walters started posting photos of her handmade flowers on Instagram along with a behind-the-scenes look at her process. She quickly gathered a following. Even her former Richmond painting professor Duane Keiser chimed in that he was happy to see her creating art again.

[The flowers are] my interpretation of nature. It's more of an art form than a product.

Requests to buy flowers and custom-made arrangements soon followed. Initially, selling her flowers was a way to support her habit and keep her studio stocked in crepe paper.

But over time, her hobby turned into a side hustle and now, a growing business: Paper Rose.

Launching a business isn’t new to Walters. She knows how to spot a marketable idea and make it sell. She started her own graphic design and branding business. She also owns Blunt Objects, a product line of posters, local artists’ prints, and a cookbook series featuring Richmond-area restaurants.

Still, Paper Rose is by far the most personal, she says. Graphic design is all about using her skills and talents to help clients solve problems and build their own businesses. The flowers, though, are completely her creation.

“Nothing I design is ever 100 percent me. There’s the scope or the audience or the requirements of the project,” Walters says. “With the flowers, it’s my interpretation of nature. It’s more of an art form than a product.

“There are no rules,” she adds. “I cut every petal and position everything by hand, so no two flowers are ever going to look exactly the same. But I like that about them, because you’re never going to get two flowers that look exactly the same in nature.”