Garden Variety
Tiffanie Turner is a master gardener—minus the green thumb. Rather than bother with soil and shovels, the 46-year-old San Francisco artist uses paper and glue to sculpt astonishing flowers in eye-catching colors: poppies in bright pink, bougainvillea in fuchsia. The bigger the blossom, the better; Turner's talent also lies in crafting sculptures of marigolds, chrysanthemums, dahlias, and peonies that require 15 to 26 rolls of crepe paper each and are roughly the size of inner tubes.

Turner puts finishing touches on a bouquet of California tree poppies.

Planting the Seeds
In 2012, Turner was on the hunt for a faux-floral costume. "I was playing Frida Kahlo in an art history–themed burlesque show," says the trained architect. "I was determined to create my own headdress, but it had to be hardy—it certainly couldn't fall to pieces while I was performing." Her secret weapon: Italian crepe paper, which is thicker than the flimsy streamers seen at birthday parties. "Once I found that paper, I couldn't stop dreaming up different ways to use it," she says. "And the headpiece was a hit."

A peak inside Turner's studio.

A Cut Above
While the blooms have an effortless beauty, they're the product of serious labor. Using a real flower as a guide, Turner cuts out the general shape of one or two petals before manipulating them to achieve the right silhouette. "No two are created equal," she says. "A marigold's edges might take hours of rippling and curling, while a peony's may need a lot of stretching. Some flowers require 1,000 petals or more—and can take 200 hours to perfect."

A crepe paper rose.

Life Recycled
Some of Turner's most recent pieces, a collection of fresh and wilted flowers, examine environmental change. "I've always been drawn to dried and desiccated things, which are also beautiful to look at! And I have a lot of nostalgia for my upbringing in New Hampshire, where you could watch the seasons turn." But the decaying blooms present their own design challenges. "When you're working in muted whites, you've got to make sure your flower doesn't resemble a crumpled wad of toilet paper."

Blossoming in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

Photos from top: Courtesy of Tiffanie Turner (3). Sarah Deragon


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