LONDON — By the time fall rolled around in 2020, Jessie Beaumont had been furloughed from her job as a studio manager and had done “all the usual banana bread and trying to get fit.”
“I think I woke up one day and was like ‘Ah, you know, do you know? I should do something crafty, I feel like doing something with paper’,” she said.
Ms. Beaumont had spent the summer cutting flowers in her garden and, when she turned to Google for floral references, she discovered a whole world of paper craft flowers. “I just got a bit obsessed with it and just kept on doing it,” she said. “I had all this time.”
By April 2021, it had turned into a business called Leo Flowers. And now Ms. Beaumont, 29, was talking, surrounded by rolls of colorful crepe paper, in her studio in Hackney, a neighborhood in East London.
When she started to experiment, she said, she used tissue paper but found that its structural capabilities were limited. So she moved on to crepe paper, initially making a sweet pea (On this particular day, stems of them in pink and white were in a vase on a large round table, along with vases holding other paper flowers: a rose, a peony, several kinds of poppies, a hyacinth). She shared some photos with friends, who asked to buy blooms for their friends, so she set up a website in January 2021 to handle sales.
Ms. Beaumont said that “four days into me just having this little side project, that I wasn’t really very serious about,” she received a message from Bryony Sheridan, a buying director specializing in housewares and interiors, who had seen the flowers on Instagram.
“They were unlike anything I’d really seen in the U.K. before,” Ms. Sheridan said. “They are a beautiful piece of art in themselves.”
Fueled by this encouragement, and some initial sales, Ms. Beaumont realized she could make a career so she established her business, using some money she had saved during lockdown.
As for the name, “Leo season is July and August, which is when all the best flowers are in bloom,” she said.
Her collections typically feature the blooms she likes. Poppies are her personal favorite, and a best seller. Prices start at £45 ($55) for a single poppy while a more complicated bloom, such as a foxglove, with its multiple spotted petals in lilac, is £130.
Every flower is made to order — she estimates she has developed a total of about 25 different designs since the business began — with prices based on their complexity. She still sells only through the website, and orders can be shipped internationally.
To make her flowers, Ms. Beaumont said she prefers to “start with a blank canvas,” using natural dyes to color small batches of white crepe paper, which she sources in Italy. “I think color is the way that I feel most creative and I associate most with flowers,” she said. “And so now I’m really into dyeing and producing all those, like, nuanced colors.”
For a peony, she may add dark and light washes to the paper before beginning any construction. While for a variegated rose, she would paint its stripes onto some paper, allow it to dry, and then cut out the petals. Fine lines and other details may be added later.
“It’s better,” she said as she began cutting out a rose petal to demonstrate, “that things aren’t perfectly symmetrical.” Much like its real-life counterpart, each paper flower is unique.
Using the stretchy but solid structure of the crepe paper, Ms. Beaumont worked the petals into shape, gently tweaking or rolling them and curling their edges. She used florist tape to join them to a stamen (made from crepe paper and yarn), and then to the wire stem. Leaves were added in the same way.
“It is a very slow craft,” she said. But she estimates that she now has a poppy down to about 45 minutes, exclusive of dyeing. “The time I spend on it really, really shows and you can’t really rush it necessarily. The more time that I spend on it, the better it generally becomes.”
She primarily uses crepe paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, an international organization based in Germany that promotes forest management through timber certification — so the paper is both recyclable and biodegradable. It was, she said, “essential that everything could be as sustainable as possible, just you know, for my conscience, but I think because there’s that natural sustainable element to them” — that her blooms last while natural flowers die.
But “it’s kind of not about replacing your flowers,” she said. “It’s about kind of just trying to capture some of their fleeting beauty, in a way, and capturing their character.”
She said she is not aiming for realism, although her creations do look very convincing. “I would quite like people to sort of see my flowers in the same way that they might, you know, see a lovely painting of flowers, or a beautiful photo,” she said.
Since starting the business, her clients and collaborators have included the London-based perfumer Jo Malone, Gucci, Liberty London and even the local government of the London borough of Islington. Projects have included displays, store props and workshops, something Ms. Beaumont has found herself conducting more frequently of late.
Ms. Beaumont now plans to introduce a new collection of flowers — updates and refinements on her current designs — by the end of the month. “It’s just limitless possibilities with flowers,” she said.