Metro-East Living

Paper flowers grow into a business for mother and daughter

Karen Nosovitch never expected that her hobby of making paper flowers would turn into a business, but it did. And it’s booming.

Karen and her daughter, Jennifer Clancy, have become partners in PK Paper Art. (The P stands for Karen’s husband, Paul.) Mostly, they use the flowers to create backdrops that are rented for weddings and other events.

“We work with brides, but we work more with wedding planners or people who rent things for wedding planners,” said Jennifer, 42, of Columbia. “At least that’s what’s been happening lately.”

They don’t really know what to expect in the future. They’ve been in business only since January and already helped with 20 weddings and scheduled 20 more. Their work has been featured in St. Louis Bride & Groom magazine, and one backdrop made the cover of the fall/winter issue of St. Louis Bride.

“I quit my job in May to do this,” said Jennifer, who was office manager for a kitchen and bath design company. “It was just too much to try to do both. But it was good timing. I really wanted to do something creative. I really wanted to do something I had a passion for. I’ve always had a love of art.”

Karen, 60, of Jefferson City, Mo., still works full time as an information technology service desk manager. She retired from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources last year.

“I’m not a person who sits still,” said Karen, who makes flowers in her free time, sitting at the kitchen table or watching TV. “I’m always doing something.”

PK Paper Art is headquartered at Jennifer’s house. Her desk in the former dining room faces a 4-foot-6-inch-tall wall-hanging of white, off-white and ivory flowers in the entryway.

The basement doubles as a warehouse for supplies and rentals. A black-and-gold flower panel on the wall represents University of Missouri in Columbia, where Jennifer and her husband, Sean, went to college.

“It’s great that the business has taken off so quickly,” said Sean, 41, a St. Louis estate and tax lawyer. “But at some point, we’re probably going to have to expand and find another space.”

Sean thinks his wife’s organizing skills and tendency to be a perfectionist lend themselves well to a wedding-related field.

“This has been the perfect way for her to use her creativity,” Sean said. “I’m more excited than worried about the inconvenience.”

Karen is a crafty person who used to sew and do macrame. Last summer, she read about making paper flowers on the Internet and thought it would be a good activity for Jennifer’s daughters, Summer, 8, and Ally, 9, while the family was in Jacksonville for 12-year-old son Riley’s baseball tournament.

Karen brought paper, patterns, scissors and glue and instructions on how to cut, fold, curl and assemble simple designs.

“It’s labor intensive, but it’s fun,” said Karen, who now makes all kinds of flowers, ranging from roses to peonies, zinias to posies, mums to poinsettias.

In September, Karen offered to provide a photo backdrop for a Christian music festival that Jennifer and Sean help organize.

“(Mom) shows up with this 6-foot-by-8-foot backdrop,” Jennifer said. “It was individual flowers that she had attached to some fabric. It was a lot more than I expected. I was floored. It was so beautiful.”

Other festivalgoers also were impressed, and they convinced Karen and Jennifer that there might be a market for paper art.

The entrepreneurial idea fit right into Jennifer’s head. She had earned a biology degree, once considering medical school, but enjoyed art classes almost as much.

“I’ve lived here for 13 years, and I’ve painted my kitchen like six times,” she said. “Is that bad? I have an interest in interior design. I rearrange my furniture all the time.”

Jennifer and Karen developed a website for PK Paper Art, displayed at their first bridal show in January and started promoting the business through social media. They also got referrals from Dianne Isbell, a Belleville hat designer who heard about them through a former co-worker at Scott Air Force Base.

“Their work is fabulous,” said Dianne, etiquette columnist for the Belleville News-Democrat. “It’s just so refreshing and innovative. “It’s such a simple thing, turning a craft for children into a business. It’s phenomenal. You’re only limited by your imagination and your enthusiasm, that’s what I think.”

In the past nine months, Jennifer and Karen have refined their craft. They use different types, colors and weights of paper (card stock, Italian crepe, even coffee filters) to make flowers look as real as possible. Sometimes they add sparkle with broaches or faux gems.

Each woman has her own techniques. Jennifer uses the edge of a marble desktop for curling, while Karen prefers paintbrush handles. Jennifer likes hot glue guns, but Karen doesn’t.

“We used to hand cut (fringe for flower centers) with regular scissors, and it was very time-consuming,” Karen said. “But now we have these handy-dandy fringe scissors from Martha Stewart.”

A 12-by-20-foot backdrop can take up to a month to make in their free time, depending on flower types. Hydrangeas are more intricate and time-consuming than roses.

Backdrop rentals range from $500 for 8-by-8 feet to $3,000 for 12-by-20. Bundles of seven flowers sell for $50.

“With all of the weddings, we’ve given them a few flowers from the backdrops or whatever we’ve done for them as a keepsake,” Karen said.

Beyond weddings, Mom and daughter have provided decorations for nurseries, bridal shops, birthday parties and charity events.

“We’re just flabbergasted that this has taken off so well in St. Louis,” Karen said. “But it makes you feel good that people appreciate it.”

For more information on PK Paper Art, visit the website at www.pkpaperart.com, email to sales@pkpaperart.com, call Jennifer in the St. Louis area at 314-467-8042 or Karen in the Jefferson City, Mo., area at 573-353-3051.

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