Coral-colored dahlias, haze-blue hydrangeas, golden sunflowers. Blake Leaphart spends his days arranging these beauties and more into delicate bouquets. No, he’s not a florist.
The flowers he works with are made from felt.
Leaphart’s business, Leaph Boutique, burst into bloom in 2015. His inspiration stemmed from a garden-like display of felt flowers that caught his eye at a craft show. Intrigued by the fabric blossoms, he brought some home. Later, when he went to buy more, he found that the maker had gone out of business. That’s when the idea germinated to make his own “flowers that never die.”
He bases his artificial posies on real ones, taking his models from antique botanical drawings and local gardens. With a keen eye for detail and a love for making things, Leaphart designs the petal patterns and cuts out all the pieces himself from more than 100 different colors of wool felt before gluing the petals and leaves onto a stem. A single large flower can take as long as 30 minutes to complete.
While crafting flowers is a full-time job, Leaphart is also working toward an associate’s degree in small business administration. “I’d like to introduce other handmade product
lines in the future,” the artisan says. “But right now, making flowers is taking all my energy.”
Customers’ enthusiastic responses to his blooms have surprised him. “Everyone loves them, and people like to be part of the process by arranging their own bouquets,” he says. Of the dozen different types of flowers he currently crafts, dahlias and sunflowers have been best sellers, and Leaphart can’t keep the recently added hydrangeas—his most complex flower—in stock. New to his repertoire are felt succulents and stones, which simulate a terrarium.
“I am realizing that my flowers are automatically sentimental to so many people,” Leaphart says. Case in point is the man who sent Leaphart a photograph of his wife’s wedding bouquet so he could replicate it in felt for their anniversary. A perfect metaphor for lasting love, which like Blake Leaphart’s flowers, endures the test of time.