Talking Shop with Paper Florist Margie Keates of The Lovely Ave

I am obsessed with flowers.

Soaking up the beauty of Italian wildflowers during my visit to Milan in 2016.

Like, anything to do with florals. I’m totally enraptured. I secretly dream of growing a flower farm on our acreage, of always having fresh-cut, home-grown flowers on my kitchen counter. I dream of traveling to flower shops and farms around the U.S., and I cherish the months that wildflowers bloom in my front yard.

But my dream isn’t limited to just real greenery. Nope, I love alllllll the flowers. Books about flowers, the gorgeous never-wilts felt flowers (like the amazing ones made by Lauren of Zella and Kay), floral embroidery, the watercolor florals of Celeste Clark, and at the top of my list: the incredible paper florals made by Margie Keates of The Lovely Ave studio.

When I first saw Margie’s work, I was swooooning. Life-like and beautifully crafted, her handmade paper flowers are blooming with color and charm. Margie’s talent is awe-inspiring, and she brings contagious joy to her work and her life. With a recently-released still-life collection and a monthly bloom subscription service, Margie’s studio The Lovely Ave offers a one-of-a-kind and breathtakingly timeless art. On today’s Talking Shop, she chats with us about how she creates her one-of-a-kind blooms, the way she lets pure creation guide her work, what she’s learned while running her business, and the importance of knowing your worth and finding your why. Everyone, meet Margie!

About You:

How did your passion for paper flower making start? 

I started making paper flowers for my wedding in 2013 but they are nothing like what I make today. I discovered high-quality crepe paper, along with a few incredible paper florists like Tiffany Turner and Jenner Tran in mid-2014 and it changed the game. I started making flowers every day after work and finally had the courage to open an Instagram account in January 2015. That got so much traction so quickly that I decided to quit my job in March of 2015 and open the website in April 2015. 

How did it become a business? Tell us about your journey to The Lovely Ave. 

A few months after making as many flowers as I could and opening the Instagram I realized how much happier I had become, but more importantly, how happy my work was making other people. Not many people have seen paper flowers like the ones we create and I soon realized how incredible it was to create wonderment and happiness in someone with something as simple as paper, glue, and your talent. It’s empowering, and it’s what has pushed me to keep working crazy hours and to keep trying new things. 

What inspires you? 

I am inspired by so many things! First and foremost, nature is the true inspiration for my art. I love how each and every flower is unique and lovely in their own way. Learning this early on has taught me to be a better artist and a better person.

Second, I am inspired by real florists who work with a fragile and difficult product yet they create such stunning arrangements. I love seeing how other artists use their products to create something beautiful and it inspires me to try new things.

Lastly, I am inspired by the new paper florists who are emerging every day. Each one of us uses the same paper and yet all of us have our own style because in the end, what we create with our hands is unique to us and that is incredible. 

A paper flower bouquet by Margie Keates of The Lovely Avenue studio.
BRB, going to fill my house with Margie’s gorgeous paper blooms. Photo by Ashlee Brooke Photography

What is your favorite flower? 

My favorite real flower is a poppy because I love how delicate but vibrant it can be. My favorite flower to create is a peony bomb because she’s fluffy and a showstopper and no two blooms will ever be the same. 

A paper flower bouquet by Margie Keates of The Lovely Avenue studio.
Photo by Ashlee Brooke Photography

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned as you’ve grown your business? 

Change is inevitable, failure will happen OFTEN, and nothing will ever be perfect. Your reaction to each of these lessons is what helps you and your business grow. I have learned that having an open heart to change, failure, and my need for perfection while also having a firm grip on my “why” has helped me try new things, which in turn have brought in more business. Knowing my why was my first and most important lesson. 

Margie Keates and Alexandra Dey of The Lovely Avenue floral studio.
Photo by Elisha Braithwaite Photography

What have you enjoyed most about entering the small business community in your area? 

The relationships! I collaborated a lot in my first year of business and in those collaborations I met some incredible women and men who are still my friends today. If you’re starting something new, I recommend collaborating as much as you can within your community, the relationships you build can help you grow! 

A paper flower still life by Margie Keates of The Lovely Avenue.
Photo by Ashlee Brooke Photography

Walk us through the process of creating a paper flower. 

When I am creating a flower for the first time I usually go off of a photo. However, I only view the photo for a little bit, then I let the paper and my scissors do their thing. I have learned to not try to recreate the flower exactly and just let the flower unfold like it wants to. I know that’s pretty vague but after 4+ years of doing this job, I know which paper will be best for what petal shape and I also know that imitation is way less pretty than pure creation. What I mean by that is if I sat and tried to recreate the flower exactly petal by petal it will never be as beautiful as what I can create when I remove the need to be exact, to be perfect. 

A paper bouquet by Margie Keates of The Lovely Avenue.
Photo by Ashlee Brooke Photography

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs or those looking to turn their passion projects into businesses? 

Know your why. Why do you want to share your passion and talent with the world? This why is your main foundation and it is what will keep you going when you’re in your lowest of lows and it will ground you when you are at you’re highest of highs.

Next, know your worth. At the beginning, you will want to take whatever work you can get, and that makes sense. It will help you learn what clients you want and what kind of work you really like to do. However, do your best to learn this as quickly as possible. Saying yes to everything will only lead to burnout and resentment. It’s okay to say no and it’s okay to ask for more. The right client will find you! 

What philosophies or principles guide your business? 

Be kind, stay humble, and “hold yourself to a standard of grace, not perfection”. 

Margie Keates stands in front of a paper flower arch.
Photo by Ashlee Brooke Photography

How have you been able to build a team and work environment that is creatively fulfilling? 

Finding like-minded people can be hard, but finding them is important because they will want to work hard for you and you will want to take care of them and make “coming to work” fun! I try to make sure that music is playing, food is available, and that I can help make the learning process fun and enjoyable. Communication is key and figuring out why they want to work there will help you keep them happy. 

Margie Keates and Alexandra Dey of The Lovely Avenue floral studio stand with paper flower bouquets.
Photo by Ashlee Brooke Photography

What is your ultimate vision for The Lovely Ave? 

I would love to grow this into a business with enough artists to fulfill multiple subscriptions, home decor projects, custom gift projects, and “how to” workshops. I would also like to focus more on Still Life Collections and building a fine art department under The Lovely Ave umbrella. 

How do you avoid burnout? 

Learning that it’s okay to take a break and its okay to focus on what you would like to create. For example, I just closed our custom order section of the website for about two months so that I can take the time to start on our new Still Life collection. Less money is coming in, however, I am working on what I want and that will help me be a better artist for my clients in the future. 

A vase with a paper floral bouquet.
Photo by Ashlee Brooke Photography

What is your proudest accomplishment? 

Being named America’s 100 Top Creative People by Country Living Magazine and the launch of our first Still Life Collection last year. Each piece was named after an influential woman here in Utah and we celebrated them and their incredible work at our first gallery. 

Margie Keates of The Lovely Avenue  studio holds up a paper flower still life.
Photo by Ashlee Brooke Photography

The Fun Qs:

If you had to, what is a meal you could eat exclusively for the rest of your life? 

Spaghetti. Give me alllll of the carbs!  

What is your favorite way to unwind? 

Take a canyon drive with my husband and a vanilla latte. Or binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy for the 100th time. 

Latest Netflix/Hulu binge?

Currently obsessed with Season 2 of Mindhunter.

What song is the soundtrack to your life? 

I can’t choose a song, but anything by Sara Bareilles or Beyonce. 

What is something that you collect? 

Starbucks “You are Here” mugs. I love getting a mug from every new place I go!

Follow Margie on Instagram @thelovelyave and visit The Lovely Avenue site here. To sign up for monthly blooms, learn more about their flower subscription service here.

Feature image by Ashlee Brooke Photography

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