Orem artist tells stories, preserves memories through florals

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Local artist Whit Olsen holds one of her art pieces, an arrangement of dried flowers framed in glass. Olsen began pressing flowers in 2019. (Sydni Merrill)

Artist Whit Olsen, an Orem native, captures identity and memories in her art with passion and a pocket full of flowers.

Her journey into floral art began in 2019 when Olsen’s husband gifted her a flower press for Christmas. Growing up in an artistic home, Olsen said she looked for her artistic niche for a long time before finding what truly inspired her. 

An engraved flower press sits on Olen’s worktable. Olsen uses several different types of presses in multiple sizes to dry her flowers. (Sydni Merrill)

“Everyone is an artist, you just have to find out what kind,” Olsen said. 

Olsen presses her own flowers and frames them in glass, preserves them inside jewelry, attaches them to candles, sells them as original prints, creates custom works and creates what she calls her “flower girls,” one of her most popular creations.

For her flower girls, Olsen arranges flowers and petals into human representations.

“The petals fell out of the press and it looked like a little skirt and I was like ‘wait a second, I can make a girl out of this.’ And that’s how it started,” Olsen said. 

Olsen said she received an enormously positive response from the community and often hears stories of people seeing themselves or their loved ones in the flower girls.

“People come up and they’re like ‘I saw this and it spoke to me and I’ve got to have it.’ It makes me feel so good because I hope that it speaks to people,” Olsen said.

Olsen grows most of her flowers at home in her garden, or sources them through other local growers.

Olsen picks up a pressed flower stem from off of her flower press with tweezers. Olsen almost exclusively uses tweezers when handling her dried flowers to avoid damaging them. (Sydni Merrill)

Olsen said she felt more connected to family and nature since creating art with florals, especially when she uses the flowers she and her husband grew themselves.

Olsen’s mother is a florist, and that family connection means a lot to her. Olsen said she notices an added spiritual boost and sense of mindfulness come into her life when she works with flowers. 

“I feel close to my Creator when I’m in nature. … I notice all the little things like how many butterflies we have on average each day in our front yard, or other things I’ve never noticed before, like what kind of insects like our yard like bumblebees and dragonflies,” Olsen said. “I’m taking in the small things a lot more.”

Along with her using her own flowers, Olsen takes custom orders, often preserving flowers from weddings, proms and funerals. 

“When I’m creating art from flowers that someone has given me I take it seriously, especially funeral flowers. That is like the most sacred art I can do,” Olsen said. 

Olsen is self-taught. She initially dove deep into YouTube tutorials and learned everything she could, with lots of trial and error. She currently sells her art on Instagram, Etsy and at local markets. She also takes custom orders via Instagram messages and teaches workshops. 

In July, Olsen worked with the Sun River Gardens to teach flower pressing techniques. She has also worked with Utah lettering artist Betsy Goodman

Whit Olsen stands in her workshop where she creates art with dried flowers. Olsen often experiments with different types of flowers to see what can be preserved the best. (Photo courtesy of Whit Olsen)

Olsen and Goodman connected over Instagram as local Utah artists, and Goodman expressed an interest in learning how to press flowers to include them in the wax seals she creates.

“The very first time I met her it was just like meeting an old friend. It’s kind of like I felt like we were already friends,” Goodman said. 

Olsen then invited Goodman into her home to teach her the basics of flower pressing. 

“Not only is she just pressing flowers and making her artwork, she’s involved in the whole process, especially with ones she grows herself,” Goodman said.

Since then, Olsen and Goodman have collaborated together in Goodman’s subscription box program, teaching a workshop to participants on how to dry flowers and include them in wax seals and lettering art. 

Olsen’s younger sister, Courtney Campbell, is a Provo photographer and has seen Olsen’s “addiction” grow and enrich Olsen’s life. Campbell said she loved seeing Olsen’s artistic pursuits come to life through florals. 

“Whit ventured into so many different ways to showcase the flowers, choosing different flowers, doing different designs, everything like that,” Campbell said. “I know she started mainly with flower girls, but it’s so cool to like see her do these big pieces, bouquets, the necklaces, the candles like, she’s added so much into her creative realm.”

Campbell owns several pieces of Olsen’s artwork and promotes them when she can.

“I get compliments on every piece that I have from her. And I just think, like, it brings me so much happiness because I’m such a nature child. And so is she. And so bringing that aspect into a house is so happy,” Campbell said.

Flowers from Olsen’s garden sit arranged in her work room. Olsen and her entire family enjoy the flowers that come out of their garden. (Sydni Merrill)

Olsen considers her art mainly a creative outlet, and currently has no plans to take on her business full-time.

“Selling the art supports my addiction to making the art,” Olsen said. 

Olsen will be selling her artwork at the upcoming September Beehive Bazaar and is always taking orders via Instagram.

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