Artificial flowers are imitations of natural flowering plants used for commercial or residential decoration. They are sometimes made for scientific purposes (the collection of glass flowers at Harvard University, for example, illustrates the flora of the United States).
Materials used in their manufacture have included painted linen and shavings of stained horn in ancient Egypt, gold and silver in ancient Rome, rice-paper in China, silkworm cocoons in Italy, colored feathers in South America, and wax and tinted shells.Modern techniques involve carved or formed soap, nylon netting stretched over wire frames, ground clay, and mass-produced injection plastic mouldings. Polyester has been the main material for manufacturing artificial flowers since the 1970s. Most artificial flowers in the market nowadays are made of polyester fabric.
Five main processes may be distinguished:
The first step consists of putting the polyester fabric in gelatine in order to stiffen it.
The second consists of cutting up the various polyester fabrics and materials employed into shapes suitable for forming the leaves, petals, etc.; this may be done with scissors, but is more often done with stamps that can cut through a dozen or more thicknesses at one blow.
Next, the veins of the leaves are impressed by means of silk screen printing with a dye, and the petals are given their natural rounded forms by goffering irons of various shapes.
The next step is to assemble the petals and other parts of the flower, which is built up from the center outwards.
The fifth is to mount the flower on a stalk of brass or iron wire wrapped with suitably colored material, and to add the leaves to complete the spray.
While the material most often used to make artificial flowers is polyester fabric, both paper and cloth flowers are also made with origami.