My first paper flowers

My first paper flowers

“Hi, you must be Carrissa! Oh! I thought you’d be taller.”

I laughed nervously as my boyfriend’s younger sister Kim, an inch shorter than me herself, invited me into their home. I was 19 and had flown across the country to meet Nick’s entire family for the first time.Throughout the midnight flight from Perth, I’d been anxiously flicking through reasons for why they might not accept me: would I be too Singaporean? Or too Australian? My Fine Art degree wasn’t exactly what you’d call conventional. But my lack of height? Who would’ve thought of that!

She must’ve sensed my worry. “Oh no, I just meant, because Nicky’s tall, so I thought you’d be tall. But you’re more like us!”. Kim gestured to their older sister Nat, who smiled warmly from the kitchen table while feeding spoonfuls of cereal to her toddler. I breathed a sigh of relief. “This week is more about them than it is about you”, I remembered, kicking myself for being so self-conscious. 


Already, wedding festivities were in full swing. We were in Melbourne to celebrate Kim’s marriage to her fiance Matt. Nick’s parents had flown in from Singapore, along with a throng of excited relatives and friends bearing colourful gifts and childhood anecdotes.With a Chinese dad and an Australian mum, Nick and his sisters grew up in a household of Western and Eastern values. This was something we could both relate to, as I’d moved from Singapore to Australia at 14 and was learning to embrace being part of both, yet belonging to neither. 

Still, Nick and I had only been dating for three months, so I thought of myself as an ‘outsider’. The house was filled to the brim with wedding plans, noisy chatter and family jokes that I believed I hadn’t yet earned the right to connect with. Mumbling something about being tired, I slipped into a back room, hoping to buy some time away from feeling awkward and helpless. They didn’t take long to notice I was gone though.“Where’s Carrissa?” I heard someone say, before Nick’s brother-in-law Ruiyang popped his head in. “You don’t have to be in here, you know”, he coaxed gently. “You can come out if you feel like it, we want to get to know you too”. “But I’m painfully awkward!” I wanted to scream, before eventually giving in. Their kindness was magnetic. 


Outside, I scanned the room to pinpoint the quietest corner. Over on the sofa, Kim and Nat were sitting among boxes of paper, wire and glue. (Now that I’m married to Nick, I’ve learned that his sisters always have something ‘crafty’ up their sleeves!) Using dyed coffee filter paper, they were cutting out pink petals to make roses for the wedding arch.“Do you want to have a go?” Nat asked. I sat down, picked up a petal and got glue-ing. In that instant, I was hooked. 

About fifty paper roses later, my shoulders had relaxed, the little voice in my head telling me to keep my guard up had gone on permanent vacation. I found myself smiling and chatting away with these people I’d met only that morning.The rest of the week flew by. We laughed, we cried, we praised God as Kim and Matt walked under their rose-covered archway and into their new lives together. When Nick and I flew back to Perth, I took some paper petals and wire with me. While making paper roses in my window seat, a thought popped into my head: “I wonder if I could sell these..?”. But that’s a story for another time. 
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You see, I’ve always found art to be a kind of balm for the soul. Whether I was 9 or 19, I could always rely on creativity as a way to escape from whatever was going on, to let my hands speak when I’d lost the words to say.Just like how it helped me open up to Nick’s family, making paper flowers in my studio is now how I get to meet people from all different walks of life. Through the simple act of making, we get to share our names and our stories, all while learning something new.

To experience the joy of flower-making for yourself, come along to a workshop, I’d love to share this peaceful craft with you.
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