In most homes, used books, out-of-date maps and sheet music that has been handled until the edges fray are all likely headed to the trash, destined to be replaced with newer versions. But for Milton’s Allegra Murray, they’re prime materials just waiting to be turned into something new.
“When we think about paper – we all have these boxes and drawers filled with papers that are meaningful to us but they live in a closet or storage,” Murray said. “I find that my clients really appreciate having the opportunity to take out and celebrate this paper again.”
Murray is two years into running a small online business — called The Petal Peddler’s Shop — where she sells flowers, succulents and bouquets made from various kinds of paper. Used or worn books are her most common material, but she’s had clients bring her menus, newspapers from the early 1900s and even children’s artwork.
“It means a lot that people share these stories with me,” she said. “I don’t have a stock, I don’t just store flowers to pull out and sell – every flower is made specifically for that person and it really makes it meaningful to me.”
The Petal Peddler’s Shop was born from a need Murray discovered while volunteering at the Milton Public Library. The library was planning a Jane Austen-themed tea party and brainstorming decoration ideas when it suddenly came to her.
“We were thinking about what to do with centerpieces and I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to make flowers out of up-cycled book pages?‘” Murray said. “Someone said to me ‘Do you know how to do that?’ and I thought ‘No, but it could be fun.’”
She learned quickly, and ultimately made and donated 26 flowers for the library’s event.
“The flowers got such a wonderful reception and so many people were asking where they could get some, which inspired me to take this journey,” she said.
Since then, Murray’s flowers have been a part of people’s weddings, proms and even memorials. She has about 35 books in her stock that customers can choose from, but she said a lot of people bring their own materials to her.
“Everybody picks a different book for a reason that is special to them. They remember their mother reading them the story, or a character reminds them of loved ones,” she said. “What’s so meaningful to me is that it’s giving them a different way to look at something they love. The book goes on the shelf or the sheet music goes back into the piano bench, but this way it’s on display and they see it everyday.”
Murray’s background is in music — she studied vocal performance and opera in college — but visual art was new to her.
“The arts have always been a huge part of my life and this is just a natural extension to that,” she said. “It’s another way to be able to express myself.”
In her short time in business, Murray has already sold 1,000 flowers — and got a citation from the State Senate for doing so.
“I absolutely love doing it. From the first to the 1,000th — I’ve loved them the same. The flower always comes out different, and it’s as much as a surprise to me as to the client. I’ve always said I’ll stop doing this when it’s not fun anymore, but it’s just continued to be a joy.”
The flowers are done entirely by hand — not even a paper cutter or hole punch is used. They ship across the country, and can be ordered on thepetalpeddlersshop.com or on the business’s Facebook page. Depending on materials, they cost between $4.50 and $6 each.
Photos in this post were taken by the wonderfully talented Greg Derr. They were originally published in The Patriot Ledger.