For artist Jess J, the push to start a business around preserved flowers came in a rather harsh way. Whenever her husband gifted her a bouquet of fresh flowers, the romantic gesture was returned with bouts of sneezing and tears.
Is there a way to enjoy flowers without dealing with the pollen allergy? — she wondered. As it turned out, there was.
Jess found out about a way to treat flowers with a non-toxic solution that doesn’t just wipe out the pollen, but also keeps them intact for about two years at the least. When kept away from the sunlight and in a dry place, they last for longer; when kept in a glass case, they can last forever, she said.
“They are soft to touch, just like fresh flowers except they don't die.”
And they are less brittle than dried flowers, she added.
Jess, who quit her corporate job during the pandemic to follow her passion of preserving flowers, had to scour the internet for classes that teach the art of flower preservation in a way that’s sustainable.
She found that most classes offered in Canada taught flower preservation using Silica gel (which helps absorb the moisture and keep flowers fresh for longer). But, “the flower preserved this way isn’t as fresh looking.”
Through further research, she found that flowers can be preserved by adding chemical solutions, and that there are toxic and non-toxic options out there.
Preserving flowers in a sustainable way
She was particular about learning the art using non-toxic chemicals. It’s the authentic way, she said.
“Pretty much, you can dump it (the preserved flowers) into your toilet, and it doesn't affect any household living. It’s a great eco-friendly product.”
She finally found someone in Japan who could teach her how to sustainably preserve flowers.
Jess would attend the classes that begin around 4 a.m. Pacific Standard Time to learn how to preserve a rose of hydrangea, all through the COVID lockdown. In fact, she said, she is still continuing to learn from the same artist.
In the meantime, she has gathered enough knowledge to make a business out of it.
In December 2021, she founded La Petite Fleur, and through her brand, started exhibiting her rose boxes (preserved roses in a glass box), little glass domes, preserved bouquets, preserved flower corsages, floral frames, and more, on her website, and at markets in the Lower Mainland area, including New West.
Along with Jess’s preserved flowers, La Petit Fleur sells preserved flowers imported from Japan and Ecuador.
Each flower, she said, takes about two weeks to preserve. That's why a single preserved rose is listed for $30 on her website.
Currently, her works are part of the 'Inspired by Nature, Made by Hand' show at North Wing Gallery in New West's Massey Theatre (till Sept. 30). In the meantime, she is also prepping large wedding bouquets that are to be part of the Vancouver Wedding Expo on Sept. 17.
Learn the art of arranging preserved flowers
Soon after that, Jess will be at the Gallery at Queen’s Park for a ‘preserved flowers arrangement’ workshop organized by Arts Council, on Sept. 27.
Arranging preserved flowers is a bit different from arranging fresh ones.
“With fresh flowers, you pretty much just use scissors, trim, and make sure that they have water and food," she said. "But preserved flowers mostly come without a stem. You have to add legs to flower heads, and arrange them in a way that the 'legs' aren’t seen.”
Participants can choose to be done in 30 minutes, or work through it slowly for the entire two hours of the workshop, or even take an extra hour.
“It’s fun, and relaxing,” she said. "It's floral therapy."
The event is on between 10 a.m. and noon on Sept. 27, and between 2.30 and 4.30 p.m. on October 1 at Gallery at Queen's Park. It's open for registrations, and is priced at $59.55. You can participate individually or as a group. For more details about Jess' products, reach out via her Instagram page.