Amity Beane’s family moved from Massachusetts to an old potato farm in Washington County when she was 9 years old, and the thing she remembers most is discovering the wonder and beauty of the natural world all around her.
“I’ll never forget that first day, when we were exploring the property,” Beane, 39, recalled. “It was our magic kingdom.”
That sense of the magic of nature has stuck with her, and lately she has combined her passions for botany and art in a way that is resonating with a growing circle of fans. In her new business, Florabeane, she makes and sells delicate paper flowers that are as true to life as they are lovely. Beane, who lives in western Maine, is returning to Washington County at the end of this month to teach people how to make their own paper flowers at a workshop held in the tiny community of Waite. Attendees will gather at the Ladies Aid Society meeting on April 30 to learn how to make anemones out of white, pink or yellow crepe paper.
“It just seemed like a really sweet spot to start my teaching journey, in the place where I was nurtured,” she said.
Flowers — the nonpaper kind — have long been a part of her life. Beane described her parents as “back-to-the-landers a billion percent,” and after they moved to Talmadge, they converted the potato farm into a certified organic farm.
“My mom did dried flowers, and our barn was full of hundreds of bunches of flowers,” she said.
Later, after graduating from the University of Maine at Machias with an interdisciplinary fine arts degree, Beane took a job at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay. She worked there developing a pilot program in science and social studies for middle school students with staff botanist and education director Melissa Cullina, whose love of scientific accuracy has proved contagious.
“That’s the voice in my head today, saying, ‘You need to make sure that everything is correct,” Beane said.
Several recent life changes led Beane toward her new art. She and her partner, farmer Owen Libby, are expecting a baby at the end of June, and she moved into Libby’s remote farm at the end of a long dirt road in the western Maine foothills. Several months ago, Beane found herself living in a new community and with some time on her hands.
“I found myself not working for the first time in my life, and I was on Instagram a lot,” Beane said, adding she discovered several paper flower artists that way. “The pictures just blew me away. I could feel my pulse quicken. I got so excited. After that, I said I’m going to get some paper. I’m going to get some materials, and I’m going to get started.”
She found several free tutorials online at the beginning of the year and started out making paper peonies, but her repertoire grew quickly. Now Beane is doing custom orders and has had steady work from people who have found her shop on Facebook or Instagram. She has been selling three flowers with greenery for between $25 and $35 and half a dozen flowers from $40 to $60.
On the farm, Beane and Libby are planning to grow and sell real flowers. But in the winters, she will take brightly colored crepe paper and turn the pieces into paper flowers.
“The beauty of paper flowers is they do last a long time. You’ll be able to keep your paper bouquet forever, and I think that’s pretty special,” she said. “The joy I get working outside in the summer with plants and inside in the winter with paper — it’s intoxicating. I can’t get enough.”
For more information about the Waite workshop or Beane’s paper flowers, visit Facebook.com/Florabeane.