Surrounding herself with color, felt artist Bryanne Rajamannar mimics natural forms, creating floral art that never wilts. Her designs look complex, but Bryanne has broken them down into simple steps that she shares in workshops and a new book. Her inner dancer choreographs individual felt flowers into a joyful performance.
How did you start designing felt flowers? Always an artist, or was there a “moment”?
I’ve always been compelled to make things. I find making and creating very fulfilling. Always a creative/artistic dabbler, I like to DIY.
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With the flowers, it started because I wanted to make a hair accessory for my daughter’s 1st birthday party. I ended up making lots of them, and a friend (also an artist) encouraged me to set up a shop on Etsy. That felt like such a leap at the time, putting myself out there in that way because I am pretty introverted. It took some getting used to, but was also encouraging and inspiring. I have a “moment” nearly every time I make a flower! It’s almost addicting to see pieces of felt transform into flowers.
What inspires you to create?
Nature inspires me. I love to be surrounded by all the things that are living and quietly growing before our eyes. Rocks that have been around forever. Moss that creeps along unnoticed. Weather. Water. Movement.
I really have a special love for flowers and plants. Green is my favorite color. Smell is my favorite sense. Almost all of the decor in my home and the clothes I wear are neutral colors, but when it comes to flowers I surround myself with all of the color. I think that’s one reason making flowers has stuck with me, despite my tendency to “hummingbird” (A term I heard from author Elizabeth Gilbert that describes perfectly what I’ve always called my “creative ADD”).
When I’m creating flowers, the colors have such an impact on how I feel. Even when I’m completely overwhelmed with projects I need to complete, I am always truly delighted when I’m working on them because of the colors and beauty that unfolds as I work.
Are you creative in more than one area? What else do you like to create?
I have a BFA in Dance, I studied interior design and compulsively repaint and DIY the heck out of things in my home. I’ve taken courses in various mediums such as pottery and watercolor, just for fun. I am very visual, so making something tangible is extremely satisfying for me. Sometimes I go off the rails and create something like a goldfish pond / water garden in my backyard… You just never know how that urge to create is going to come out!
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
I really never follow a template or pattern when I’m making my flowers. Until I wrote the book, aside from some kits I’ve made and classes I teach, I had never written out or created patterns for myself for any of my designs. I work them all from memory and my petals and pieces freehand for the most part. After almost 10 years, the flowers are pretty uniform at this point, but each one is still an individual. I like it to feel organic and authentic, like in nature. It’s also a more joyful way for me to work, so that I feel like I’m always creating rather than mass producing.
What is the most important takeaway you want readers to gain from your new book, Felt Flower Workshop?
I’d like readers to realize that they can create even complex looking flowers by using simple steps. When broken down, making something really beautiful can be achieved without fancy equipment and its really quite rewarding. I also want this to be a springboard for people to modify the designs or create new flower designs. Once you know the techniques, the sky’s the limit and you can really let your imagination take over – don’t feel like you always have to follow the instructions and templates to the letter – I don’t!
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
The sunroom in our house has been converted into my home studio. As its name implies, there’s lots of natural light from windows on three sides. It has a high ceiling, white walls, black hexagon tile floor and wall to wall workspace for creating, packaging, and shipping. I wanted the space to feel bright, clean, and neutral, so that when it’s taken over by flowers, it doesn’t get more crazy than it has to be!
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
High quality wool-blend felt, a mini low-temperature glue gun – small enough to keep in my hand while I add petals and not so hot that its blistering. Luckily the low temp is all you need to hold the felt securely. I also have a couple pairs of super sharp scissors, and floral wire. Those are really the only essentials!
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
It depends on the work I’m doing. If I’m doing something repetitive, like making 100 magnolias, I’ll listen to a podcast (currently We Can Do Hard Things (Glennon Doyle), or Ologies (Alie Ward). If I need to concentrate a little but still need entertainment and encouragement to keep working, I’ll put on music. I bounce all over with music. But if I have to concentrate, like if I’m creating a new design or doing something that requires my full attention, I’ll work in silence. I can’t even listen to music if I really need to focus because my Dancer brain still habitually choreographs to nearly every song I hear. My brain equates music with movement so it can be particularly distracting and draining.
Tell us about a challenging project. What were the obstacles and how did you get past them?
The book was by far the most challenging project I have ever worked on. Not only was it completely new territory for me, but the real work began just as Covid was rolling in. My husband was suddenly working from home, my daughters were “schooling” from home, and my Father-in-Law, who was visiting from India, was unable to get a flight back. Since I was on a steep learning curve with figuring out the photography everything else involved in making a book, and had all of the flowers and project tutorials to create on a deadline, my preference to work in peace and solitude was not an option! It was obviously a stressful time, nationally and globally. The thing I was reminded of is that it will get done. Whatever it is. One foot in front of the other, time passes, the important things get done.
What is the biggest challenge to being successful in a creative field?
The biggest challenge for me has been figuring out what my definition of “success” is. Is it a dollar amount? Is it recognition? Or is it being creatively fulfilled or having work life balance? Defining success is ongoing.
How many projects do you have going at once? Or do you focus on one creative project at a time?
I usually have 3 or 4 projects running at time. Some of them overlap. Right now I’m at work prepping for some workshops I have scheduled, building inventory for an upcoming Market, filling online orders and wholesale. The reality is that I only have two hands and can only make one flower at a time. As I type this, I think that I could really use some help!
When you begin to create, do you visualize the finished piece? Or does the work evolve?
Both. I have in mind how I want the project to look, and it rarely ends up that way. I like to think they end up better because along the way I have “oooh, ahhhh” moments and make changes. And I have habits and muscle memory that often bring my style back to ways I’ve created before. I sometimes wish I could take a photograph of what I see in my mind to reference as I go along. But, alas, that isn’t how it works. Unless I’m working from an inspiration photo, like in the case of a bridal bouquet reproduction, new designs are pretty fluid until I finish them.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
Both. Creativity is something everyone has. People just usually think of it in terms of arts or crafts. People are creative in all different ways, anytime they create something. Even tasks that are often thought of as analytical have a creative nature, I think. For example, creating a schedule or planning an event. I think people who don’t believe they are creative are putting rigid labels on themselves.
Anyone who wants to tap into their more “artsy” creative side would benefit from doing it, in my opinion. Letting go of preconceived ideas of how your “art” should turn out is the biggest hurdle but also a great practice in learning to let go a bit and play a little. Most of us think we need to produce a certain result from every activity we participate in. It’s good to give yourself space and lower your expectations. Find out what is fun to you and see what comes of it.
Interview posted August 2021
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