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Bringing the Outdoors In with Foliage Faces

“Have you seen foliage faces on Instagram?” Vicki Rawlins asked the table. A group of 20 women peered down the table towards her, nodding. The assembly inside the Town Hall Bakery in Jacksonport was the first Sister Golden Flower Portrait workshop.

Last year, artist Vicki Rawlins discovered the flower portraits on Instagram and began to experiment. Her first portrait was of her, and her daughter and business partner Brooke. The mother-daughter team created the online shop sistergolden.com, where they sell handmade goods and art.

Prior to founding Sister Golden, Vicki worked as a designer of textiles and in interior design in Chicago, and sold her artwork to boutiques and galleries in the Chicago area. Her family has a vacation home in Jacksonport and she feels strong ties to the community.

Vicki published the portraits to Instagram and noticed they were receiving a lot of attention. Her followers began to send photos and request their own portraits.

“At this point I was doing them for free,” Vicki said.

She now does commissioned flower portraits. “People have me do their children or the pets.” A commissioned golden retriever portrait has been most challenging thus far.

Gravity is the only force that adheres the portrait to the piece of paper behind it.

“Nothing is glued down,” Vicki told the group, “Everything is just laid down.”

A hush spread across the table. As we worked, Vicki instructed us not to sneeze.

Vases of flowers and piles of sticks were spread across the long tables.

“Cut the bud right off the stem,” Vicki said, “That way you won’t drip water across the surface.”

When Vicki began to create the foliage faces, she avoided cutting the petals and stems. “I didn’t know the rules,” she said. “I wondered, do I get to break a stick? Can I bend it? Can I cut the flower?”

In her brief demonstration portrait for the group, she used a delicate pair of silver scissors to cut the petals and stems.

“I always have my scissors on me,” she said. When she’s driving and foliage catches her eye, she stops the car, and grabs her scissors. “I call them drive-by clippings,” she said.

At the workshop, which was a collaboration with Door Blooms Flower Farm, our fresh flowers were pre-clipped.

Arranging the flowers, sticks, petals and stems was surprisingly tedious. Vicki places the more intricate elements of the portraits, the iris of the eye or a nostril, with a tweezers.

After working with the flowers and drinking wine, the group became more relaxed. “Mine looks like a fourth grader’s,” a woman seated across from me said. She picked up the piece of paper and her face fell. Ten minutes later, a handsome Labrador of sticks had taken its place on the paper.

Part of Vicki’s attraction to the foliage faces is that the works she composes are temporary.

“It just goes back into the environment,” she said. “It doesn’t involve computers or phones or anything. It’s a peaceful sort of exercise and I’m really enjoying it.”

Though phones and computers are not part of the process for creating the portrait, technology is an important aspect of the Sister Golden business. Each portrait is photographed with a high-resolution camera. The prints are then sold in the online store and promoted over social media.

Social media also played a large role in the evening workshop.

“We found out about it through Facebook,” the woman to my right said. Portraits were photographed at every stage, created into collages, and posted to Instagram.

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