Leftover tulips from the Floriade festival are recycled into paper
More than one million flowers are in bloom at the Floriade festival every spring, but once the gates close on this signature event, Canberra’s Commonwealth Park must be restored to its former state.
There is little waste, though, as social enterprise organisation Paperworks Inc sends in its workers to collect as many leftover plant materials as they can fit in their cars and trailers. It’s the beginning of a lengthy process that lasts many months, but the long hours of hard work turn those famous tulips into beautifully textured paper.
Starting from a modest initiative in 2009 to give children and adults with special needs a satisfying creative outlet through papermaking workshops, Paperworks has evolved to a fully equipped studio that employs three artisans.
The studio developed a recycled denim paper as its signature product, followed by unique ‘seed tiles’ that embed seeds in paper, ready for planting by those who have lost their fine
motor skills, or for encouraging children to get involved in garden projects. When Paperworks approached Floriade in 2013 with another experiment – to turn leftover tulips into paper – they were welcomed with open arms.
“We love experimenting, and it was a steep learning curve,” says Paperworks CEO Susanna Pieterse. "Now, every year, we gather an extraordinary amount of tulips, and separate them right away for drying. We also grab some of the pansies, daisies and groundcovers, and plant them straight into our studio gardens, so we can continue to harvest them, to dry them, press them and use them through the year.”
The finished product is by definition a limited edition, with the boiling process shrinking the material to about one-tenth of its original volume to produce at most 400 sheets of tulip paper. This is used to top notebooks made from the signature denim paper, and can be found online at paperworks.org.au, at the Mitchell Green Shed in the ACT, and at a number of retail shops in Canberra.