The Everlasting Blooms of Lilco Flowers

by Hilda Nathalia Raina
10th August 2021
In an age where most things are short-lived, the sculpted paper flora of Lilco Flowers are challenging the norm for single-use decoratives with ethereal floral arrangements, which equate in beauty, but triumphs over its living counterpart with their long-lasting nature.

Sprouted out of founder Lylian Corneling’s long-time approach to gifts and decorations she has been making handmade cards and gifts for friends as long as she remembersthe Jakarta-based paper flower business Lilco Flowers is quick to replace floral centrepieces and home decor across the city with its exceptionally realistic paper equivalent. Who said decoration needs to be wasteful, after all?

It all started back in 2017, when Lylian was asked to decorate a friend’s bridal shower. To none of her friend’s surprise, she responded with a determination to look for handmade alternatives, which eventually led her to discover the vast world of Paper Flower Art. Instantly drawn to the craft, she began re-creating shapes and textures of real-life flowers, sampling with various paper types before finally settling with crêpe.

For her, it wasn’t so much that she was interested in the beauty or anatomy of flowers, but the thrill that comes with transforming something two-dimensional into three which excites her, a passion she’s grown to nurture since her original pursuit of a career in architecture. “I’ve always been interested in manifesting abstract ideas into three-dimensional forms. I enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to assemble the pieces. Drafting up the right colour, creating the right texture, manipulating shapes, I take great satisfaction in every step,” the designer gushed.

Up until now Lilco Flowers have operated primarily on custom arrangements, where clients have the freedom to personalise their arrangements, be it for themselves or for a loved one. Specialising on life-like floral arrangements that artfully imitate its original forms, from classics like irises and magnolias, to the more elaborate spider lilies and ranunculus, though rivaling in beauty, these flowers don’t abide by the same cycle of  life and death that’s prescribed to their living counterpart—perhaps the spellbinding idea for our fascination with hyperrealistic manmade recreation.

Beneath the stunning impressions though, there’s a lot of methodical and detailed planning that goes into each piece: the size, the bloom, and of course, the hues. “All our colours are hand-dyed. Testing blends until we get the right shade takes up the longest time, sometimes we spend up to two days just on one colour,” Lylian explained. After the right tint is achieved, the sheets of dyed crêpe are then moulded using delicate techniques: trimming, folding, crimping, and twisting, to coax the paper into meticulous shapes and sizes, as per customer’s requests. 

As the demand for paper flora grew, her younger brother Rheza Paleva veered from his aviation career to help run the business, and now the sibling duo regularly churns out arrangements of cleverly sculpted flowers from their home studio. Their work is efficiently divided as such: Lylian manages production and all things creative, and Rheza handles communication and client interactions. 

“Because Lylian is the only one working on the flowers, our deadlines are always overlapping and back to back. She’s also quite a perfectionist, which means that when she feels it’s not good enough, we’ll have to start over,” Rheza laughed. By now, the pair is used to pulling all-nighters to finish their row of orders, where on average, one arrangement can take up to ten days to finish.

And though her arrangements have caught the eyes of fellow local creatives and have ventured into several cross-industry collaborations, including fashion, home-living, to larger-scale decoratives, Lylian shared that she’s most drawn to “personal arrangements. They feel most intimate to me. With smaller productions, I have more time to spend on really making sure each piece looks exactly as it should.” 

At the end of the day, their reward comes in being a part of their customer’s intimate stories, sampled through the handwritten “I love you” and “I’m sorry” that often accompany their flower deliveries. “Ultimately, if people feel loved and special receiving these flowers, I feel I’ve done my job right.” Lylian concluded with a smile.