In support of incredible local artists around Melbourne, we discovered the work of Amanda May Lee, a paper artist who is best known for handcrafting beautiful paper flowers. We reached out to collaborate with Amanda in order to repurpose our old ELK catalogues and continue their life cycle in our journey to reduce waste and landfill at ELK HQ.

Amanda has transformed our catalogues into custom-made, distinctively unique paper flowers that will liven up our Little Collins and Preston stores in time for Mother's Day.

We visited Amanda in her home studio to learn the story of how she began creating art, her practice and lifestyle as an artist.

Your background is in fashion and fashion accessories, can you tell us about your creative journey from studying Fashion Design to your work now?

At the end of my Honours year in Fashion Design, I met a stylist who needed some giant flowers for a commercial photoshoot. I had done a lot of silk flowers in my final collection so it was a matter of scaling that up and reinforcing it so that a model could sit within it.

I was really interested in lingerie design but had difficulty getting into the industry. I continued to do little jobs for fashion and event stylists on the side of two office roles.

Both my part-time jobs wanted someone in the role full time and I knew that if I accepted one, I wouldn’t make the time to have my creative side hustle.

So it was the right moment to take the plunge and just see how I went with my props!

Your work includes crafting Australian native flora and other beautiful flower species, why did you decide to work with flowers predominantly?

To be honest, I have ended up predominantly doing flowers because that is what I get asked for!

I have my own theories on why this is. Firstly, we are used to the idea of flowers being a necessary part of events and one that is budgeted for. Perhaps this is why clients are happier spending on paper flowers (that they can reuse or have as a keepsake) rather than spending that budget on decorative paper lobsters.

Another possible influence is that I love millinery; both in paper and other materials. Conventional millinery techniques cover a lot of flower making – you can pretty much pop any flower on a millinery base and have a great start to a headpiece.

The Australian natives were developed when I was starting out and things were a bit quiet. I’ve continued to refine and add to the styles that I do since then and I find that they are really appreciated and well received.

We have such amazing, unique flora in Australia – they’re almost like fantasy flowers and with the general culture at the moment being influenced by ‘slow’ movements (slow food, slow fashion) and what is naturally around us, in season, local and so on, the interest in Australiana is strong. Native flowers are a great expression of patriotism in an aesthetic and inclusive way.

What are three things you can't live without in your creative space?

My laptop – I design almost all my work on a computer first, so the laptop is an indispensable part of my process. It’s also great for catching up on Netflix and documentaries in the background

Glue gun – I’ve got all the glues in my kit but for me, nothing can beat a hot glue gun.

Teapot – I love working from home because I am 1. near the snacks and 2. the kettle and 3. a box of T2 tea. I probably average 2 pots of tea a day (flavoured black tea, fruit tea or herbal tea).

Can you tell us about the materials you used for the ELK Mother's Day window display?

When ELK contacted me to discuss doing a window installation and mentioned a pile of past catalogues sitting at the warehouse, I was really keen to repurpose that paper for the pieces.

I am always looking for ways to make my practice more sustainable and environmentally friendly, so it was a great alignment with the values of ELK.

Customisation is an important part of the service I provide, so it also meant that the flowers we produced are totally unique to ELK and really have that ELK vibe – it’s printed all over them!

What is your favourite piece/display you have made and why?

I think one of my favourite projects was doing natives (waratah, banksia, gum blossoms) for Museums Victoria. The pieces supported the Love Exhibition that was on at The Immigration Museum.

I do a few large-ish projects, but the pieces often get split up – a single flower sent to each invitee or 5 flowers per shop window. In the Love exhibition, there is one central space with a lot of big flowers and paper gum leaves. It’s just a calm place to be and feel connected through stories of love.

What does Mother's Day mean to you?

I think we’re all guilty of taking our mums for granted. Obviously, we should be celebrating all that they do more than once a year but Mother’s Day is a nice reminder to make sure that you consciously appreciate how the mother figures in your life have helped you on your journey.

If I could add a fourth thing that I can’t live without in my creative space, it would be my mum! She’s always willing to come up and help me out when I have a last minute order or just when I’ve got a lot on.

She’s my number one helper and is responsible for my crafty tendencies, having done both a lot of craft activities and also sewing with me throughout my childhood.

Can you tell us about your adorable dog, Noah?

We got Noah in September last year from a group called Senior Dog Rescue – I found him on Facebook! He is 8 years old and pretty much sleeps all day. He’s an old man at home but behaves like a puppy on a walk or at the park.

He’s also the clingiest dog I know - follows me from room to room at home, waits outside the bathroom, sits right next to my chair in the studio, starts quivering if he thinks he is going to be left alone. When he has a rare moment of independence (usually to lie in the sun outside), he’ll suddenly rush back in and check all the rooms to make sure he hasn’t been left alone.

Noah is very easy and the perfect dog for our lifestyle. Sleeps at home with me all day, loves to travel in my bike basket or the car, happy to be put in a bag for public transport."

You can discover Amanda May Lee's gorgeous custom-made ELK paper flowers around our Preston and Little Collins store from Monday 29th April 2019, click here to see our store details. To discover Amanda May Lee's work, click here.

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