2022 Speaker Profile: Ronni Nicole Robinson
Meet artist Ronni Nicole Robinson and learn about her muse; botanicals and nature. Contributor Jo Ellen Meyers-Sharp recently interviewed Ronni Nicole for this Slow Flowers Summit feature.
Almost from the beginning, botanical artist Ronni Nicole Robinson was interested in flowers and paper. As a child, she’d walk to church with her family through her Philadelphia neighborhood. She frequently plucked dandelions from the cracks in the sidewalks and placed them in the Bible she carried with her.
“I was preserving the flowers, but it took me a while to figure it out. I’d come to a scripture and there was a flower,” she recalls. “I always knew I wanted to do art and work with flowers.”
A trip to the Barnes Foundation, a famed Philadelphia art collection, introduced her to relief sculpture. At Barnes, it was a brass metal relief with portions of flowers that drew her attention.
Immediately she wanted to create flower reliefs in paper but couldn’t quite figure out the process. She shifted to plaster, a material with which Ronni worked for several years before developing the right consistency. She practiced daily with all types of flowers to see how they worked in clay and plaster. This is how her Floral Inspired Fossils came to be.
Plaster to paper
Ronni worked in raised plaster for about six years, but along the way, she accidentally figured out how to create her art with paper. “I needed to work with plaster in order to use paper as my medium,” she said.
The process of making embossed paper is very similar, but more forgiving than with plaster. First comes the clay pressed into a form. The flowers are placed on the clay. The flowers emboss the surface (paper or plaster) that is placed onto of them. Paper is more sustainable and does less damage to the environment than plaster, Ronni explains. She makes the paper, tints it appropriate colors and embosses it with flowers. Her work can be found on Instagram at iamronnicole.
A botanical passion
Although she’s not a florist, Ronni says, “if I did anything else, it would have been floral design." She continues: “A really good florist envisions how to be an artist in the arrangement. Similarly, I look at the design, how to lay those flowers, work with a circle or a square and make sure everything is arranged in a pleasing way.”
At the Slow Flowers Summit, Ronni plants to share her journey while creating a piece of her art. She wants to challenge the attendees to get out and experience flowers and what to do with them.
A New Studio A move to a farm with the dream of growing her own flowers was short-lived. When she and her husband learned that a company intended to purchase adjacent land and start a rock quarry there, they moved. The idea of investingin a property and a farming lifestyle against the backdrop of of mine blasting and water issues was not in the plans.
Instead, Ronni applied to New Hope Arts in New Hope, Pennsylvania, to lease a standalone building along the Delaware River for her studio. Her new home is a short walk away. Ronni’s art has flourished with the move. While the embossed plaster pieces were what brought her notice, she has ceased creating what she calls Floral Inspired Fossils, a process that takes a lot of patience with plaster, clay, and flowers.
But now, “They are not available to the masses. It’s wrong to push plaster out there. Where does the trash go?” Now her work is focused on embossed handmade paper, which she finds more environmentally friendly because if something gets messed up, she can remake the paper.
Slow Flowers Summit welcomes Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp as our profile contributor for the 2022 season. Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp is the Hoosier Gardener. She’s a 25-year, award-winning veteran of print journalism and owner of Write for You! LLC, a freelance writing and editing business.
You can find her blog at hoosiergardener.com. Jo Ellen is immediate past president of GardenComm: GardenCommunicators International. She's the former editor of four regional gardening magazines. She is a garden coach and has a four-season commercial and residential container planting business. For nearly 25 years, she has worked at a large, independent garden center in Indianapolis, including a stint as buyer of perennials, trees and shrubs. A popular speaker, she has more than 50 5-star reviews at greatgardenspeakers.org.