Silk flowers are so common and so diverse nowadays that it is sometimes difficult to sketch a historical picture of their origins. However, it is important to know where silk flowers started their journey into mankind’s heart to really understand why these flowers hold such an important place in modern décor. The word “silk” is actually a broad term for any artificial flower created using conditioned fabrics, silk or not.
Many believe that since the nomenclature of “silk” was added to these artificial flowers, these flowers were first developed in China following the technology of extracting silk from pupae of silk moths. The veracity of these claims is still not entirely confirmed, as the indigenous Chinese people did create a diverse amount of silk-based craft, one of which could have been the first silk flower.
Although artificial flowers have existed throughout history and include ancient Egyptian flowers made out of papyrus, the recorded period of silk flowers begins in the 18th to the 19th centuries when Europeans wished to preserve the fleeting beauty of real flowers. Paris, the birthplace of many art forms, is also believed to be the birthplace of the modern silk flower. The first flowers were either made of crepe paper or silk fabric. The tradition of folding crepe paper into flowers is still taught in many art and craft schools around the world, being easy to learn. However, it is, as all other craft, very difficult to master. The silk fabric could easily be folded into a flower that could retain its shape for a long period of time if done properly.
In the early 20th century a large amount of research was performed on polymers and polymer-products which would eventually revolutionize the flower world. Celluloid became a promising raw material for recreating exquisite blooms in the 1920’s when Japanese craftsmen became very versatile in the art. However due to its flammable nature, celluloid was soon banned from common use. In its place foam and other products soon crept their way into the silk flower industry and colored foam sheets as thin as petals were to overshadow crepe paper flowers. A small segment of traditional artists still folded real silk flowers, but these were very expensive compared to the foam flowers. Nevertheless, the accuracy and realistic look of silk flowers was rarely to be found with the foam flowers.
However, this was not the end of beautifully crafted artificial flowers. Recent advancements in technology have paved a new path for silk flowers. Cotton and polyester blend fabrics that are as soft as silk, while being a little more resistant to wear and tear have now become the base for artificial flowers of all kinds. These hold dyes and textures equally well and are cheaper to produce than real silk while retaining all the properties of real silk. The future of silk flowers now rests upon the advancements to these conditioned artificially produced fabrics and mold injected PVC. Even so, the silk folding craftsmen around the world still hold the true secrets of folding silk flowers perfectly, recreating the beauty of real flowers.