Athens Messenger and the Passion Flower

Story of the Passion Flower

For ten years Passion Works Studio was housed within a sheltered workshop that offered assembly line work options. The work was repetitive with a clear expectation of an end product. People, with severe physical challenges, were matched with jobs that required very fine motor skills like capping pens, folding paper and stuffing envelops. The focus and effort necessary to put a cap on a pen can be extraordinary for a person with cerebral palsy.

What if we thought about work differently? Instead of people fitting into jobs the studio became committed to creating work that fit within people’s interests and talents. The Passion Flower was born out of this desire, and remains a burst of color and a story of love and celebration of what is possible when we imagine otherwise.  

In 1998 Ohio Arts Council Visiting Artist Kate Kern came to Passion Works and shared her process of making paper sculpture. We decorated paper, cut pieces into petal shapes (drawn by Passion Works Artist Carolyn Williams) and stapled the shapes together making floral designs. One of the things that Kate shared with us, which changed the trajectory of the studio forever, was the technique of the dart. A 2-D object turned into a 3-D object by making a simple slit at its base, folding it under and securing it.

About the same time we started experimenting with aluminum printing plates from our local newspaper The Athens Messenger. The plates responded like paper when we cut out petal shapes, made darts, and screwed the aluminum petals onto blocks of wood. People loved these flowers and we loved making them. We set up systems for production and in doing so created an innovative and engaging employment option. The artists were invited to create whatever they liked—cats, textures, polka dots, love letters to Smokey Robinson, monsters— we were free to explore.

During this time of Covid we are still in flow and making! The printing plates are cleaned (they are covered in ink from the printing process) and given a painted base coat (paid employment) on location at Serenity Grove Women’s Recovery House: a residential program providing a safe, transitional environment for women working through addiction and honing skills for independent sober living.  The prepped metal is then delivered to Passion Works Artists, working from home, via our ART VAN. We pick up the decorated metal, bring it to the studio - cut, assemble, ship and sell from our retail space.

 Passion Flowers are the Official Flower of Athens, Ohio and to date the studio has made over 30,000 floral sculptures. You can find Passion Flowers throughout Athens: on porches, The Mayors Office, restaurants, businesses, Ohio University…..So many places and uses - as center-pieces, wedding decorations, for OU Alumni they are a portal back to “Athens Days” and they are the perfect OU Bobcat graduation gift- “A Passion Flower for Every Bobcat!”