By day, Anna Gaseitsiwe investigates financial crime. After hours, she turns paper into unreal blooms.

By Robin Pfeifer
Paper roses
Look again! These English garden roses are made of paper (yes, even the leaves).
| Credit: Courtesy of A Paper Florist

Anna Gaseitsiwe has a thing for paper trails. When she isn’t managing a team of financial crime investigators in Minneapolis, she’s holding scissors (and feeding a killer Instagram: @apaperflorist). Her hobby has now blossomed into a part-time business, A Paper Florist. Interview with Robin Pfeifer.

Anna Gaseitsiwe
Anna Gaseitsiwe
| Credit: Courtesy of A Paper Florest

RP: Financial crimes and paper flowers seem like two very different worlds. Is there a connection?

AG: They couldn’t be more opposite. It’s going from one personality to another, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But I like that my worlds do not cross. I’ve drawn a thick line between the two.

RP: How did A Paper Florist come to be?

AG: About two years ago, I was searching for that thing I’m really good at. I went to a bookstore and found a manual on crepe paper art. I’d never worked with paper but had some supplies at home. I learned the basics—paper, scissors and glue—and began experimenting with more advanced techniques.

RP: How has the process evolved?

AG: I’m currently working on a water lotus diorama and I’m taking extreme care to get it as realistic as possible. It requires employing my entire technique arsenal: wax dipping, water coloring, embossing, crepe manipulation, fringing, pastel painting. Just about everything I’ve learned to date. It takes hours.

RP: Were you into real flowers before starting your business?

AG: I liked them but couldn’t really tell them apart. Now I’ve become an accidental botanist. When making something new, I find a fresh sample and pull it apart. Or I find scientific images of the anatomy of a flower to re-create it.

RP: So that’s how you get them to look so real?

AG: When I look at what nature gives us, it’s never perfect. I love looking at rose petals to see cupping and curling and how they fit into each other naturally. If I’m working on a flower, and a petal isn’t hanging right, I remind myself that it’s not meant to be perfect. This has actually been good for my anxiety and perfectionist tendencies.

RP: In what way?

AG: If I feel I need to control something, I can do it through experimentation or trying to perfect one thing. But if I’m making flowers for someone else, I have to find a balance between what I deem enough versus what they think is enough. I get paid by the hour and I can’t charge for my perfectionism.

RP: Why do your clients want paper flowers instead of the real thing?

AG: If someone’s coming to me, they’re already looking for something different. I do a lot of weddings, funerals and large installations using flowers that are rare or out of season. (Small bouquets start around $150.) But I wish more people were aware of the large environmental footprint of using a traditional florist. Most flowers need to be shipped, which creates a significant carbon footprint. When you’re done with my flowers, they’re just paper. You can recycle them.

RP: How long does a paper flower or bouquet typically last?

AG: They last for years if placed away from moisture and sunlight. I also use high-quality paper to lessen color fade over time. A long lifespan is one of the biggest benefits of paper versus real flowers.

This conversation was edited for length.