This Artist Trades Palette and Paint For Petals and Plants

Sister Golden, the Chicago-based mother-daughter dream team, is an online boutique selling specially handcrafted, unique pieces across the fields of art and design. Celebrating high-quality craftsmanship, their boutique is a cove of treasures, rich in colour and character.


Mother Vicki’s distinct flower prints perfectly define the company’s dedication to their ‘one-of-a-kind’ ethos. Not only for their unique aesthetic, but also because each detail on every piece will be different from the last. Why? Because Mother Nature and the great outdoors are the source of all Vicki’s materials.

After a morning stroll collecting her leafy treasures, she returns to her studio to painstakingly lay them out, creating beautifully intricate and vibrant masterpieces.


“A fallen leaf goes into the bag, later it may become an eyebrow or a dog ear. I pick up twigs hoping they’ll work as a cheekbone or chin”, she explains. When the portrait is complete, she documents it with a photograph before returning her findings back to nature again. This is the embodiment of eco-friendly art.

Knowing that it could be gone with a single breath (or sneeze), the work has a certain fragility about it, which is beautifully captured in each photograph.

“There’s a freedom in knowing that everything I’m doing is temporary”.

It certainly left us feeling breathless.


The Plus: Where do you get hold of the materials? Some of these don’t look like your regular wildflowers…
Vicki Rawlins:
I try to use as many flowers from outside as I can, but I live in the Midwest, so a run to the farmer’s market or florist is a must sometimes!

TP: So why do you focus on portraits in particular?
I’ve been doing portrait work with paint and pencil for years because it’s one of my favourite subjects. That’s why I just had to try a foliage portrait, and challenge myself to use twigs and so on as my lines. Well, I can tell you it’s much harder than painting or drawing! No glue or tape to hold the those rolling twigs in place!


TP: Using natural materials for temporary compositions is pretty niche; how did you get into this?
I’ve been a professional artist for almost 40 years, but just started working with foliage about a year and a half ago. I’d seen some art made with flowers on Instagram and thought it might be a fun challenge, “drawing with twigs”! I did one piece and haven’t stopped! It’s really not surprising to me that I fell in love with it: I’m big on gardening, and I grew up with a mother who was a floral designer.


TP: What sort of flowers do you most like working with?
I love peonies and ranunculus because they have so many petals, and usually last a couple days even when pulled apart. The flowers that can’t be out of water for more than a couple hours are harder to work with…but I really don’t have have a flower I don’t like! I love when I can dry a flower and use it over and over. Dusty Miller is one I use over and over again, it never fails me.


TP: If you could forage for materials in any other place in the world, for variety, where would you pick?
I would say probably the Pacific Northwest, just because the climate is so great for beautiful flowers, and also because of the access to the ocean and forests. So many great materials to choose from!


TP: How do you feel when you sweep away the arrangement that you’ve made? Do they take you a long time?
Sometimes it’s really tough seeing it go when I’m finished, and other times I’m ready because I’ve fussed way too much over it. Some just go quickly, and others I can fuss over for a couple days if the flowers last. But I’d say profiles and portraits with hands take the longest.


TP: Do you start with an idea of what you want, or do you let the shape of the materials guide you?
Sometimes I just play and let the flowers be my guide. I’ve planned out a couple of my Frida Kahlo’s, because I was inspired by what I could do with her.

TP: What’s next?
After I finish this commission work I’m headed to California for a couple months, so working with some west coast foliage will be fun – new inspiration!


All images are copyright of Vicki Rawlins of Sister Golden.