So how and why did I start Gilli’s flowers?

This is the question I get asked so often when people come across me at markets the first time. So as they always used to say,

“Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.”

Being creative has been a part of my life as long as I can remember and in fact one of my earliest memories is of spending time with my dad in his workshop using his offcuts of awards, shavings and sawdust together with wood glue to create what I imagined at the time wonderful models! Looking back my childhood there was a time when I didn’t have some kind of craft activity on the go and as I grew older my mother taught me to knit, I taught myself crochet and at school I learnt dressmaking and gradually took over from my older sister in making my own clothes. When I trained to be a primary school teacher my main subject was art, and as a classroom teacher, teaching Art and Design Technology was something I loved. I never took the easy way either. I even did block printing with a class of reception aged children in which they all designed,  made and then printed onto fabric using their own blocks, (all without a TA). I always retained this interest and passion not surprisingly when I had my own daughter I had a whole trunk full of paints, glues, paper and all sorts of things to use with her.

As I got busier with work and then became a single parent,  I had less time to be creative but it was still there bubbling away in the background. In my mid 40s, as my daughter grew older I had more time to explore this creativity and found a new passion in patchwork and quilting. I went on courses, joined the group and started to receive commissions and had begun to sell items at local craft markets. When my daughter got married I made her wedding dress and was about to start working on my City and Guilds.

Then, suddenly everything changed.

What began as a stiff and clicking neck was eventually diagnosed as a form of arthritis affecting my neck and I underwent surgery. What was almost worse than that severe pain was being told that I had to give up my beloved patchwork, quilting and sewing due to the strain this put on my neck and shoulders. I was devastated and not surprisingly this contributed to my becoming depressed. Post surgery things did not progress as I had hoped and a few other problems became apparent. I was trying to find different ways of expressing myself creatively as I’d always found this to be a great form of therapy but nothing felt right.

One day an occupational therapist told me I need to find a way of keeping my hands and particularly my fingers flexible I was thinking about this when I remembered that as a child I had enjoyed origami I ordered a book on some paper and started folding. I haven’t stopped since!

I found smaller things easier to fold than larger, thinner paper easier than thicker and I was not content with merely following instructions and filling my house with assorted models. I can’t quite remember how it came about that one day I wondered if is possible to make jewellery using origami. I started researching this, bought some basic jewellery making tools and equipment and Gilli’s flowers was born.

I love what I do now, I love the challenge of folding small piece of paper and have a paper stash to rival my previous fabric one. I started selling at local markets and online and not only did that bring in some much welcome extra cash it also restored my self-confidence with understandably had taken a huge knock. I kept working at it, trying out new things finding out what worked and what didn’t work and learning not just about jewellery making but also about selling online and in-person. One of my greatest achievements came in April 2016 when I was selected by Theo Paphitis to be one of his weekly #SmallBuisnessSunday winners.

Since then Gilli’s flowers continues to grow in ways I’d never thought of when I first started and one of my most popular range is now online, though surprisingly less so at markets, is my range of jewellery made from recycled maps, sheet music and particular books. It has become my passion and I love challenging myself as I learn new folds  and variations – and even develop some of my own.

If you’re still reading this, then thank you.

Gilli

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