The Petal Connection mother and daughters artists create one of a kind wearable pieces made of all natural flowers, petals, leaves and now even butterflies. The whole flower-power family obsession started out several years ago with identical twin sisters, Alanna and Gennelle Dedek, who were about twelve years old at the time.
They have always been very crafty, making their own cards and even venturing into hand-made paper at an early age. Encouraged by their parents to explore their right-brain side, they would spend hours on the weekends picking and pressing flowers, appliqueing bark and various other objects onto homemade cards, throwing petals into the blender to include organic pieces into handmade paper, and generally getting messy. The pressed flowers were beautiful, one of a kind, and the girls always leaned toward nature-related projects, rather than the standard girly glitter, ribbon and rhinestones. One day, nobody really remembers when, a lightbulb went off: Two matched flowers, what excellent earrings these would make! And the kitchen experimentations took on a more practical approach, as the girls applied various science experiments to see what might work to preserve the flowers. Soon, the girls were sporting their own flower earrings, and were seeking out better methods to preserve the flowers, and widen their personal flower jewelry collection. Their friends started asking for their own earrings. Then, someone stopped them on the street to ask where they bought them. A friend commissioned them to make a set as a birthday gift for someone else. The leap from there was obvious: “Hey, girls, you really should be selling these, you know…”.
That is how The Petal Connection was born. Mom agreed to help the girls with a website. The whole family is in on the action now, the venture having outgrown Gennelle and Alanna’s early after school efforts. Radim (dad) is the designated California gardener, maintaining an extensive garden that rotates flower crops with the seasons. Flowers that don’t contribute to inventory are simply not tolerated in the limited space. Extended family grows and picks flowers to The Petal Connection specifications out of the state, and even internationally. Grandpa in the Czech Republic has a fruit tree orchard, and his cherry blossoms are so delicate. Grandma in British Columbia, Canada, is now a pro pansy grower. Another grandmother contributes georgeous leaves from her raspberries and strawberries, as well as linden tree blossoms. Simona (mom) is now the business manager as well as webmaster of http://www.thepetalconnection.com, and steps into all the other roles, as required.
The flowers and leaves are preserved to maintain their beauty. Some flowers are cold pressed, while others may like heat treatment for best results. After hundreds of hours of experimentation and thousands of flowers, the “petalers” have developed a proprietary method of preservation, that includes UV protection, and application of a liquid compound that hardens into a mirror-shine sturdy finish that makes the flowers appear brighter than in real life, and shiny -the same material is used to repair windshields and to cover surfboards. The resulting jewelry pieces are very light-weight, and the natural colors are not enhanced in any artificial way.
Mother Nature makes each piece of real flower jewelry unique, like snowflakes. For the earring line, the hardest part is sometimes finding matching pairs, but no two flowers are exactly alike. Sometimes starting out with a promising batch of a hundred flowers, only two or three actual matched pairs will emerge. This is part of their (albeit frustrating to the young artists) beauty – they are designed by nature. Sometimes Alanna and Gennelle have to walk away from the giant dining room table bearing hundreds of flowers laid out. After you’ve been at it for a while, your eyes will start crossing over! Saturday evening may find the whole family at the dining room table, “playing” with their flowers.
Each piece of The Petal Connection jewelry is hand crafted in Southern California, without any machines, mass-production, or hired workers. The jewelry line has grown to include earrings, pendants, bracelets, brooches and rings, as well as pieces made out of real butterfly wings. Each of these natural works of wearable nature art will set the wearer apart from the crowd, and is guaranteed to generate interest and amazed comments. Currently, they are working with a silversmith on a line of one-of-kind sterling silver leaves to incorporate into a new line of bracelets and necklaces.
Many of The Petal Connection customers are satisfied repeat clients, who return for yet another pair or two to match another outfit, because their jewelry is so light and comfortable, and eye-catching. Often, women are heard lamenting: “I need more, because my daughter borrowed my daisies, and she won’t give them back!”
In June 2010 Gennelle and Alanna finished their freshman year at CalState LA, in the prestigious Early Entrance Program, having skipped the last two years of high school. They have just turned 16. They have declared Civil Engineering and International Business as their double major, with their sights set on Architecture as their long term goal (yes, you guessed it, both of them). While they don’t have quite as much time to attend all the art shows that The Petal Connection participates in, and often stay home to study on the weekends while Simona and Radim tend the booth, they continue to work behind the scenes, creating more pieces, filling website orders, and designing new items.
The Petal Connection has chosen Kiva as their charity of choice to give back – helping our world is important to the Dedek family. With Kiva, a non-profit organization, the girls extend loans to women in third world countries trying to start their own businesses, like their own. Alanna and Gennelle feel really connected to the world in this way, being able to pick the individual women they can help. They keep adding funds to their Kiva account, and keep lending out more each time, to give other less-fortunate women entrepreneurs should the chance to follow their dreams as well. It’s a powerful and sustainable way to empower someone right now to lift themselves out of poverty.