Karen McCarty captures the beauty of nature in paper; learn her tricks of the trade
Like the flowers she creates by hand, Karen McCarty can thrive in any situation. After a lengthy career in marketing and sales, she immersed herself in sculpting, usually working with clay polymer. When arthritis made that impossible, she discovered paper, which is much easier to work with and ignited a new passion. “You can do awesome things with paper,” she says. “When one door closes, another one opens.”
She loves exploring in nature and taking an up-close look at flora and fauna to figure out how best to capture them in paper. “It’s exciting to make flowers, because as you make them, it’s almost like you see them grow,” she says.
As her art career began to flourish, she added teaching to her docket, and she now teaches classes at Greenville Center for the Creative Arts in the Village of West Greenville, White Rabbit Fine Art Gallery in Travelers Rest, and Holly Springs Art Center in Pickens. Her work is also on display and for sale at White Rabbit.
Teaching has its own rewards McCarty has found, as she has been able to interact with so many people who dream of creating art but aren’t sure how to get started. She makes it her goal to remove any intimidation, leaving room for nothing but creativity and enjoyment. “They say, ‘I couldn’t do something like that,’ but they could,” she says. “All they have to do is learn how, and I’m there to teach them.”
Try This at Home: Hellebore Paper Sculpture
Supplies (all available online and at crafts stores)
- 160-gram crepe paper for petals, color of your choice
- 60-gram crepe paper in green
- faux flower stamens in yellow
- floral tape in green
- 18-gauge paper-wrapped floral stem wire
- Hot glue gun
- Needle-nose pliers
- Wire cutters
- Paper scissors
- Vessel or vase of your choice
- Cut out patterns for petals and leaves, paying attention to crepe grain lines. (Download McCarty’s patterns at vivesc.com, or make your own.)
- Use pliers to bend the stem wire, forming an open U-shape. Insert stamen pieces, secure with glue, and close the wire circle.
- Use floral tape to cover where the stamen wires meet, wrapping layers to create a small ball.
- For flowers, cup each petal cutout with your thumb and index finger to create a natural petal appearance.
- Put a small amount of glue on the bottom (pointed end) of the petal and attach, lining it up with the bottom of the stamen center.
- Position the second petal directly across from the first. Fill inside gaps with the third and fourth petals.
- For larger petals, create ruffles across the top, using your thumb and index finger.
- Turn the flower upside-down to place calyx pieces on the bottom of the petals.
- Use the stretched strip of green paper to wrap the stem. Be patient—this part takes practice!
- Attach the leaves to the stem, using a small amount of glue. Place them opposite each other or staggered. Manipulate the leaves to create a natural look.
Once you have made a few flowers, it’s time to arrange them. McCarty uses vases, ceramic dishes, bowls, and trays as containers, and likes to add twigs and branches she finds in the woods to fill out her arrangements. Stones, shells, and moss can also add to your design. “A walk in the woods, a field, or beach can offer endless ideas,” she says.