Studio Tour: Livia Cetti of The Green Vase

by Amy Azzarito

Photographs by Maxwell Tielman

What Livia Cetti is able to do with paper is nothing short of magical. Her flowers are so meticulously crafted that it’s difficult to tell they’re actually made of paper. Livia started making paper flowers three years ago as a solution to a client’s problem of finding a beautiful cake topper for her Caribbean wedding (one that could also double as a wedding keepsake). Livia immediately thought of the hibiscus flowers that grow wild in the Caribbean and how beautiful they would be made out of two-toned double-sided crepe paper. She began experimenting with making the flowers, and to get the color graduations in the blooms, she tried dipping the paper in bleach. It worked beautifully, and she was hooked. From there, she moved to tissue paper and slowly taught herself how to create all of her favorite flowers out of paper. Now Livia can be found in her Riverdale, NY, studio designing flower arrangements for special events and magazines and creating handmade flowers that you can purchase on her site, The Green Vase, as well as at John Derian in New York. Livia is currently at work on a paper flower book with Stewart, Tabori & Chang. I, for one, can’t wait to read it! — Amy Azzarito

Image above: Garden rose and ranunculus

Design* Sponge: What are your craft room essentials? What sort of creative objects can you not live without?

Livia Cetti: Binder clips, Japanese KAI scissors, Olaf rotary cutter, crepe paper of all kinds, every color of tissue paper possible, Canson paper. Vintage stamen. Muji clothes drying racks. I buy brown craft paper by the roll.

Design*Sponge: What do you do to make your workspace an enriching and inspiring place to be?

Livia Cetti: I try to keep the cool, fun, interesting projects rolling in. New projects and challenges keep me inspired. I’m always telling new clients, “Lets customize your order.” Crazy! But it’s hard for me to do the exact same thing again and again. I like constantly making small changes to my flowers. Almost every flower is different; they are always evolving.

Image above: Livia’s workspace. “Paper and debris are usually knee deep.”

Design*Sponge: What sorts of things are inspiring you right now? Where do you look for inspiration?

Livia Cetti: My garden — nature and growing things are a constant source of inspiration for me. My large collection of vintage flowers, fabric, vintage ribbon. I love old things in general. They are better made, with finer detail, and are faded and soft. The World of Interiors is the best magazine ever. African floral headpieces by the Surma and Mursi tribes. Everything Japanese. My collection of old plastic pieces that I gathered from a beach in the Bahamas. Tropical fruit stands.

More images and the full interview continue after the jump . . .

Design*Sponge: What do you do to keep yourself, your space and your time organized?

Livia Cetti: Sterilite tupperware bins in the studio. They keep everything clean and dust free, and they stack nicely, and there is something so satisfying about putting a bunch of loose things into a bin and closing the lid and poof you are organized! Post-it notes on my phone. I make them for everything. The act of putting things in a list both reduces the stress of trying to remember and helps you not forget.

Image above: Works in progress/projects for my upcoming book

Design*Sponge: What are some of your favorite shopping sources, either for inspiration or for supplies?

Levia Cetti: For supplies — Castle in the Air, Tinsel Trading, Bell’occhio and Addison Endpapers. For general inspiration — John Derian, of course, Erica Tanov, De Vera, Ted Muehling, Rosedale Nursery and Tail of the Yak.

Image above: Bleached and cut tissue paper. Livia prepares “tons” of this in advance.

Design*Sponge: How do you combat creative blocks?

Livia Cetti: I switch gears, do something else, make dinner, turn up the music really loud and dance with my kids. Go running. Go shopping. Work in my garden.

Image above: My cabinet of curiosities

Design*Sponge: If you could peek inside the studio of any designer/artist/craftsperson, whose would it be, and why?

Livia Cetti: Vladimir Kanevsky because I think his work is incredible. Every detail is considered, and every process is perfected. Or Francis Bacon, well, because I’m super curious.

Image above: Goddess/good luck altar. We constantly offer and add beautiful things.

Image above: Cherry blossoms

Image above: Our floor. My husband and I saw the same floor in The World of Interiors years ago and both fell in love with it! When we completely gutted and remodeled our home, we both really wanted to include the floor. It makes me really happy every day!

Image above: Forest creature, named by my oldest son, Dante.

Image above: Shell collection from trips to Bali, Jamaica and the flower market.

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