Tucked away inside Karin Hope Geoghan’s Pennington home is a studio filled with piles of flower petals, stems and vases ready to be combined into beautiful bouquets. Each flower is organized by color, and they are left near the window to allow the sun to slowly turn each petal a different hue. All of the flowers are kept far away from water, however, as it would ruin the unique folds of each petal.
Geoghan has spent almost a decade creating origami paper flower sculptures. Much like real flowers, her artwork includes single flowers and full bouquets. However, she uses a wide variety of different materials to add a personal touch and new twist to bring each petal to life.
“There is a challenge in sort of figuring it out and then making it my own,” Geoghan said.
Geoghan—founder of Karin Hope Designs—uses everything from printer paper to book cover paper to create her artwork. She combines traditional origami folds with her own unique folds, bends and curves to make the flowers. Geoghan mostly operates under a trial and error method, open to experimenting with new types of paper and folds to discover what works and what doesn’t.
“I’ve done a fair amount of experimenting in the beginning with the actual blossoms,” she said. “For the most part, I just experiment and I play.”
Sometimes the experiments lead to new surprises. She once left the flowers made from printer paper in the sun, and the colors began to change and fade. At first, Geoghan was disappointed—she already made flowers that people couldn’t water, she worried that telling people they need to avoid sunlight as well would have been too much—but then she learned to embrace it as part of the flower’s design.
The sun turns each petal a distinct color, meaning no two flowers—even ones made from the same paper—were the same.
“They do sort of have a life in a way,” she said.
Playing with different materials is only half the fun of making the blossoms for Geoghan, who mostly enjoys creating her artwork for others.
“I really like making things for others,” Geoghan said. “I know a lot of people buy my stuff to give as gifts for other people, and I like making them to give other people. It’s about trying to make other people a little more cheerful with flowers and something special.”
Geoghan makes custom origami flower bouquets for bridal showers, weddings and other events. For these, she often uses personal items to create the flower sculptures.
One of the bouquets in her studio was from a bridal shower. Traditionally, brides take the bows from all of the cards and gifts they received from their shower and use it to tie their wedding bouquet together, but Geoghan had another idea in mind. She took all of the guests’ envelopes and folded them into flowers, with each person’s handwriting displayed along the sides of the petals.
Geoghan enjoys making her artwork for others, so much so that her company originated from her desire to turn her artwork into gifts.
“I was working in a coffee shop and one of my coworkers told me a story about how she went to a dinner with some couples,” she said. “One of the husbands took the napkin and folded it into a rose for his wife.”
Her coworker was touched by the moment, and Geoghan went online to try to find the napkin rose as a gift for her birthday. While she couldn’t find the napkin rose, she came across instructions for an origami one. She created an entire bouquet and bought it to work—impressing not just her friend, but many others as well.
“I worked at two coffee shops, and each coffee shop had a vase on the counter and they just sold my flowers,” Geoghan said. “The momentum kept going when people started asking for costume bouquets.”
She got one of her first custom orders from Julie Sansone, vice president of the board of trustees of the Hopewell Harvest Fair, who asked for a bouquet for a bridal shower with a Mad Hatter tea party theme.
“It was just the creative question that worked because I started doing things you don’t really find in other origami things,” Geoghan said. “I mixed stems with multiple flowers and did the twisting more. I put them on Etsy, and that’s when things really got going.”
She created her Etsy website, EverlastingBlossoms.com, in 2007 and began selling her artwork to people outside of the Hopewell Valley.
Despite still having a passion for her artwork, she only works on the origami flower sculptures part-time since giving birth to her son Ted, who turns 3 at the end of March. Geoghan said balancing her artwork with being a full-time mom can be tricky.
“We decided to really let the business slide a little bit while I’m home with him,” she said. “I’m really focused on being with him and taking care of him. As he’s gotten a little older I’ve gotten to do more while he’s awake and playing which is nice, but I couldn’t do both full-time that’s for sure. “
Geoghan said when Ted gets older and goes to school, she hopes to pick her artwork back up and make it a little more substantial again. For now, she’s happy doing little bits here and there.
“I have a little box and I take it with me, and when I’m in a waiting room or chatting with someone or watching TV I take it out and start folding,” she said. “It sort of fits into the little spare moments of the day.”
She also occasionally finds way to involve her son in the process of creating her artwork.
“My son and I, we sort of collaborate—as much as you could collaborate with a toddler,” she said.
When she visits her grandmother, her son will pick out paper he likes and she will create a flower. Ted will then go and give the origami flower to his grandmother, which she puts in a vase. In her grandmother’s room there is a vase with all of the flowers her great-grandson has given her overtime.
“It’s not a huge collaboration, but he is there participating as I sort of make the decisions and pick things out because I want it to be from him,” Geoghan said.
While Geoghan didn’t plan to have a career in origami artwork, she comes from a strong arts background. She grew up in Hopewell Borough doing crafts with her mother, Connie Dixon and brother Brian.
“I was always doing stuff—always sort of collecting things for possible craft projects—so it’s sort of always been in there,” she said.
Connie currently works at the Hopewell Public Library and her father Doug Dixon runs Manifest Tech Blog, a website that explores the latest in digital technology. Her parents were always supportive of their children’s interest in the arts.
Geoghan and her brother both ended up taking the art route in college, with Geoghan graduating from Rider University with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and Brian attending Northeastern University studying music technology. He is now based in Lawrenceville and works as a videographer, focusing primarily on capturing musical performances.
The family’s artistic roots can be traced all the way back to 1914, when her mother’s grandmother Harriett Butler graduated from what is now the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Butler went on to work for a Philadelphia design firm, and didn’t retire until she was 80.
“We have a lot of artistic people in the family, creative people,” Connie Dixon said.
Geoghan settled in Pennington with her husband Rob, a township native. Rob is a System Administrator for Hutchinson Industries, and Geoghan said he’s very supportive of her artistic ventures.
The family support was helpful for Geoghan, especially during the early years of her business. Her mother would help Geoghan make large quantities of flowers for fairs, and then help her work the booth to sell them.
“She’s been doing it for a long time, and it’s been a really interesting process to watch,” Dixon said.
Geoghan doesn’t have any immediate plans to pick her business back up full-time, but she is still involved in the Hopewell arts community. She participates in Transformations, the annual art show held at the Hopewell train station.
“It’s a lot of fun, and since having a kid it’s kind of the main thing I do each year,” Geoghan said.
Geoghan said Hopewell has a thriving arts community, citing the Hopewell Creative Arts Studio as just one example of the talented local artists.
Even though her origami flower sculptures have become a part-time venture, as long as people are getting enjoyment out of her artwork, Geoghan is happy.
“If they get a bouquet and they enjoy it for a while and it’s not doing it for them anymore, I am happy to have them take it apart and use it in a different way,” she said. “They can add something else or change the vases, I really think of it more as I’m handing it off to them and they get to do whatever they want to enjoy it as much as they can.”