In 2014 Brooklyn-based artist Corrie Beth Hogg was looking to decorate her living room with a fiddle leaf fig. The problem was, her living space didn’t have a window; she tried a few times to keep a real one alive, but never could. Rather than swap the real one out for a plastic plant, she had a different idea: To craft her own fiddle leaf fig out of paper. Six years later, Hogg is still making paper plants and is now teaching others how to make their own as well. I chatted with her about the creative process of putting these paper creations together and learned more about the projects in her award-winning book Handmade Houseplants, $17.96, Amazon.
Courtesy of Christine Han
After she made the fiddle leaf fig for her living room, Hogg says she caught the DIY paper plant bug and had to make more. She told me the creativity involved is part of why so many people prefer them to faux plants you can buy at the store.
“Sure, plastic versions may be easier, quicker, and last longer, but the plastic itself is such a turn-off,” she says. “When people see my work, I often hear a chuckle and an exclamation of, ‘Oh paper! Plants I can’t kill!,’ rather than a disappointed, ‘Oh, it’s plastic.’”
Courtesy of Corrie Beth Hogg, Handmade Houseplants
Just four years after discovering this new art form, Hogg released her collection of 30 paper plant tutorials meant to help readers craft their own paper versions of monstera, philodendron, and other popular houseplants. The instructions are easy to follow, so anyone (from the most seasoned paper crafter to a complete novice) can create their own masterpieces with paper, paint, and glue. Given the current situation with the new coronavirus, Hogg is also hosting a free online class so you can learn how to make your own at home while you're practicing social distancing. She'll be hosting the class on Saturday, March 28 at 1:00 pm EST via Instagram Live, which means you'll have the opportunity to ask questions in real-time as you make the plant. She's also put together a list of materials to order online ahead of time (no trip to the store necessary!) and a set of free templates so you'll be ready to go when the class begins. For more information on the class, visit the Handmade Houseplants site.
The Artistic Process
When I asked Corrie what she hoped her readers would gain from working through the projects in the book, I was surprised she didn’t say something along the lines of ‘to be able to make the perfect plants’. Yes, she’s excited for readers to make their own gorgeous creations, but her main goal is for each person to get more than just a handmade plant out of the process.
“I very firmly believe art-making is just as much about the process as it is the end result; what we learn, what we earn in doing something for ourselves, the satisfaction, are all valuable and worth the little extra nudge we may need to give ourselves to take the first step,” she says.
As for how to get started, she suggests setting aside a special place for yourself to work. It doesn’t have to be a big fancy craft room, it could just be the dining room table. All that’s important, Hogg says, is that you give yourself permission to make a mess and do things that put you in the creative mindset.
“Download some good podcasts or an audiobook and get in the zone,” she says. “As Elizabeth Gilbert says in her book Big Magic ($10.49, Amazon), you just have to show up. To me, that means: A little bit of time, a little bit of space, something good to listen to, and zero judgment.”
A Connection to Nature
While her creations are made from paper (and don’t need to be watered!), Hogg says her projects aren’t disconnected from the living, breathing plants outside her windows. “Being in nature is like setting the recharge button,” she says. “I feel refreshed from the sunlight and fresh air and I feel inspired by what I see to make more plants.”
She says the detail and intricacy of real plants is what inspires her to keep creating new designs. “I have such genuine affection for plants and find them to be a worthy inspiration,” she said. “We’re all accustomed to ‘faux’ plants being the plastic variety. With paper versions, there is artistry, creativity, and also the joy in the act of making itself.”
I have such genuine affection for plants and find them to be a worthy inspiration.
—Corrie Beth Hogg
Of course, she also appreciates the artistic license she’s allowed to take with her creations. “When the mood strikes, I do occasionally make the paper version a touch more colorful or more stylized than it’s real-plant muse,” she says.
If you're feeling inspired, these are a few of the plants you can find in Hogg's book, Handmade Houseplants.
Polka Dot Plant
This pink and green creation might be my favorite of Hogg's plants because the stunning color combination stops you in your tracks, yet it still feels like an attainable project. To make it, dress up pink paper leaves with uneven splotches of paint before securing the leaves together and adding to a short pot.
Swiss Cheese Plant
So, this plant is technically called monstera obliqua. But it's a lot more fun to say you're making a swiss cheese plant! To make it, Hogg cuts leaf shapes from various shades and weights of green paper, then attaches a wire stem to each one. Then, she uses a crafts knife to cut small holes in each leaf before wiring the leaves together. To learn how to make your own, check out the instructions on The House That Lars Built.
Fiddle Leaf Fig
Although fiddle leaf figs are trendy in the home decor space right now, they weren't as popular when Hogg made her first plant. She noticed them slowly starting to pop up on interior design blogs and "loved how Dr. Seuss-esque they looked." Now, Hogg is sharing her tutorial for the plant that started it all. The tree trunk and branches are made from wood dowel rods and paper mache, and each leaf is carefully crafted from double-sided paper folded to mimic the leaves' veins. Read the full tutorial in the book or on The House That Lars Built.
African Mask Plant
If you consider yourself a crafting novice, start with a project like the African Mask plant. You'll only have to make about 10 leaves (compared to the 50 or so individual leaves on Hogg's more intricate plants) and the method is pretty fool-proof. To make it, cut large leaf shapes from green paper (the edges don't have to be perfect!) and use a light paint color to add a pattern of veins. Attach the leaves to long wires, add to a pot, and your plant will be ready to display.