A creative way to cope with the COVID-19 lockdown, for herself and others, has led a Wagga woman to do what she loves – and help earn a living while doing it.
Jenelle Gray had a job but needed to make a little extra money. Jewellery, she thought, so she started making diffuser bracelets – a portable way to take the fragrance of your favourite essential oil with you throughout the day.
“Not only do they smell good, but they’re also said to have health benefits,” she said.
“But after a while, I realised I was wearing more than I was selling so I started looking for something else I could make to earn a little extra money.”
For Jenelle, it was paper flowers. But not just any paper flowers, paper she would take from old books destined for landfill. It was also to become a craft that kept her sane during lockdown and seemed to do the same for her online customers who bought them and others who watched how she made them via her online tutorials.
She discovered that her local op shops were throwing away books that couldn’t be sold because they were damaged – so she started buying them and giving them a new life – as flowers.
“The really old books aren’t much good because their pages are too brittle,” she said. “Books that are, say, 10 to 20 years old are the best – they also have that old antique sort of colour to them, which people like.”
And like they do. Particularly Harry Potter fans.
She was asked by one Potter fan to make a bouquet of flowers from pages of one of the J.K. Rowlings books. She trawled the op shops to find some damaged ones and that was the start of what has become a blossoming new career. The bouquet was such a success, Jenelle found herself with a new online boutique bouquet business.
“I posted a picture of the bouquet online and all of a sudden everyone wanted one,” she said.
“Some people want to be able to read the words in the bouquets, while others want the fuller flowers where you can’t see the words as clearly.
“I remember one of the special bouquets I did was for a woman who was launching a book about her IVF experiences,” she said.
“There was another one for a wedding where the bride wanted her flowers to come from a particular comic book, while the groom wanted his from a specialist car racing magazine. Now that made for some interesting images.”
Jenelle, who is originally from Sydney, moved to Wagga more than eight years ago – the place where her husband grew up. Prior to that, she’d lived in the small NSW town of Warren.
“It was quite a change going from Sydney to a place like Warren,” she said. “But then going on to Wagga felt right because it was a nice place in the middle of the other two.”
A qualified counsellor, Jenelle believes more people today are looking for ways to cope with stress.
“It’s a very different time we’re all facing now. It’s important for people to take time out, to bring back a sense of pride in what they do.
“Because of the interest in the bouquets, I want to do more workshops online where people can learn new skills like this to help with stress management.
“There’s no worse feeling than when you lose a job, that feeling of worthlessness.
“For me, there’s nothing more satisfying than creating something, something you’re proud of. It does wonders for self-esteem.”
Check out more of Jenelle’s work on her website.