You’ve heard me mention Castle in the Air numerous times in various posts about the classes I’ve taken there. And you’ve read about all the crepe paper flowers I’ve learned to make at Castle. Well, one of my very favorite instructors there is Lynn Dolan, a crepe paper master. Her meticulous attention to detail brings an uncanny life-like quality to her floral creations. The amazing thing is, she has been doing this for only a short amount of time. I finally got the chance to interview this talented artist for my blog.
Q: Were you creative as a child? Did you grow up in a home where creativity was encouraged?
A: I had three general occupations as a child: running feral outdoors, reading whatever books I could get my hands on, and making LOTS of things. Our family, being military, moved a lot, so there were periods my siblings and I had to entertain ourselves because we hadn’t made friends at our new stations yet. That meant being creative to stave off boredom. I loved to draw, paint, make paper dolls, and craft rude houses in the woods from which we would explore. There wasn’t any real encouragement for the “arts” from my parents. I think that as long as I excelled in school and didn’t burn anything down, I could do as I pleased. If there was anyone who encouraged any creative spark in me, I would have to say it has been my Japanese grandmother. There isn’t anything she hasn’t done expertly, whether it is elaborate silk embroidery, calligraphy, or tending a beautiful garden. She has been an extraordinarily patient and kind teacher to me. I think our shared curiosity for natural things – and appreciation of handicraft is our special bond.
Q: How did you get started making crepe paper flowers?
A: Crepe paper flowers were something I became interested in when my grandmother gifted me with a kit during a visit to Japan. I must have been 11 years old. The kit had beautiful, soft, pink paper for making a cluster of sweet peas. I was enthralled. That was a summer spent drawing whatever crossed my path in the neighborhood gardens and fields. There was an obsession to capture whatever was growing out there and hold onto it a little longer than nature would allow. Those little, crepe-paper blossoms satisfied the need for that illusion. I remember being perfectly happy that afternoon I spent making them.
At some point during adolescence, I got the message that those activities needed to be put aside so I could concentrate on “more important” things. So, I put the pencils, paints, and paper away and spent the rest of the time in books. I rediscovered crepe paper a couple of years ago when I thought about recreating the sweet pea blossoms as a gift for a friend. I was looking for a source for that particular kind of paper when I discovered Castle in the Air right in my backyard. And they had scads of delicious crepe paper – more than I could have ever imagined!
Q: When did you know you had found your medium with crepe paper? What is it about crepe paper that inspires you to create?
A: I was lucky to be able to take Anandamayi Arnold and Aimee Baldwin‘s crepe paper rose class shortly after my first visit to the Castle and was immediately hooked. I wanted to play with this paper every day.
The crepe paper at the Castle is wonderful material. I love the color saturation of the paper, the suppleness of it, even its quirky “non-paper” behavior. It even responds wonderfully to abuse – the pinching, pulling, scraping, etc. It is a fantastic medium for people who really like to handle their work and create three-dimensional objects, without being excessively messy. (Just call the small bits of paper “confetti” and then it seems more like a party than a mess).
Q: How did the opportunity to teach at Castle come about?
A: I was asked if I would be interested in teaching a class after I had a brought in a potted paper pansy and a couple of other small, crepe-paper plants as gifts. I was terrified, but everyone at the Castle was so kind and supportive of my work, there was no way I could say ‘no’.
Q: Does your love for creating flowers stem from a love for the real thing? Do you garden or have an interest in horticulture or botany?
A: I am an indiscriminate lover of flowers and trees, but I am certainly no botanist or horticulturalist. I do have a garden, but it’s usually a disaster. Let’s just say that I’ve learned a lot about plant pathology and garden pests as a result of my endeavors. Anyway, flowers are so wonderful, I can’t comprehend how anyone could not like them. My paper efforts are just very humble love notes to Nature and her artistry.
Q: What is your current profession? Do you see yourself eventually creating and teaching full time?
A: Having had a long, interesting run as a DoD linguist, I’m currently waiting for the right opportunity to begin a clinical nursing program. I’m also a single “hockey mom” to an 8 year old boy who keeps me very busy. I’d love a career where I can serve others. If I can also continue to teach craft like this, I would love nothing better than that.
Q: What is your favorite part about teaching?
A: Teaching at the Castle is a real treat because I can indulge in my desire to play with crepe paper and meet wonderful people. I am continually impressed with the creativity that students display. I think there are days I honestly learn more from them than they do from me! I also love the personal experiences and memories people share – and hearing why a certain flower holds special meaning for them. It’s also deeply satisfying to see the gift be multiplied as students share their completed works with friends and loved ones as gifts.
Q: Congratulations! You were recently commissioned by event planner, Stanlee Gatti, to produce your party poppers for one of his events. How did that opportunity come about? Do you have any other plans to work with other professionals in the near future?
A: Mr. Gatti’s commission was a complete surprise. I hope he and his guests had as much fun cracking those crackers as I did making them. I am always desperately anxious that my work won’t be up to snuff, so I don’t go looking for large projects. I still consider myself a hobbyist , but if there is something that I can do to make a potential client happy, of course I want to do my best!
Q: What has been the proudest moment for you as an artist?
A: I don’t think there is one specific moment where I could say I was proud of myself as an artist. Perhaps when I was 10, or 11, and I was doing something just for the sheer pleasure it gave me and no one else. I’m always dissatisfied with my results, but there are times when I think I’ve gotten pretty close to what I was aiming for, and I was happy during the process. Perhaps, I should be proud that I’ve managed to hold onto that child-like ability to be lost in the creative moment!
Q: Other than Castle in the Air, where else can we see and purchase your work (online presence – Instagram, Facebook, website, etc)?
A: I don’t keep a portfolio or anything like that. If anyone is interested in seeing what I am currently working on or any recently finished project, they can look me up on Instagram (Tag: lmdolan75). I like to spam my unfortunate followers with my projects!
As you can see, Lynn is very humble about her work and accomplishments. She certainly has reason to brag, but she downplays her achievements. That’s what I love about Castle in the Air and all the artists who teach there; they are among the most talented artists whose work I have had the pleasure of seeing in person, yet they are all very down-to-earth! Lynn is such a patient instructor, staying late for her students, until all their questions are answered. I can’t say it enough; if you haven’t visited Castle yet, do yourself a favor. Go visit it and take a class as soon as you can!
Thank you again, Lynn, for your time, but especially for the generosity of your spirit :0)
Are you a fan of paper flowers? Who are some of your favorite artists? Please share in the comments.