Bruce Johnson

Charlie The Juggling Clown

Creating Happy Memories that Last a Lifetime


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The Napkin Rose

by Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

        I don't know the origin of the napkin rose. Several people showed it to me at different times over the years before I decided to practice it often enough to remember how to do it.

        It has become an important part of my repertoire. Since napkins are used at many events, they are easy to obtain, which almost makes it an impromptu skill. It is a good alternative to balloon sculpture. A napkin rose can safely be given to a child who is too small for balloons. A napkin rose can be used in hospitals that ban balloons. It can be given to cancer patients or cancer survivors who have developed an allergy to latex. They don't burst or loose their air so they can be a long lasting memento. At trade shows, napkin roses are visible so people will come looking for you. Napkin roses also have a romantic connotation. 

        People are fascinated by the napkin rose, and I often will teach somebody how to make one. At a birthday party I did for two sixteen-year old girls, I made a napkin rose for each birthday girl. Then I noticed there was an equal number of male and female guests. I gave each of the boys a napkin, taught them how to make the rose, and then had them give the rose they made to one of the girls.

        Frequently at a birthday party for a young child, I make a napkin rose for them to give to their mother.

        To make a napkin rose, open a napkin out fully. Fold the top two inches over towards you. Pinch the upper left corner between the first two fingers of your left hand. Take the upper right corner of the napkin in your right hand.


        Starting by moving your right hand away from you, wrap the napkin around the first two fingers of your left hand. (Looking down you will be going counter clockwise.) If you are doing it right, the folded portion of the napkin will stay on the outside. 




     Keep winding to within about two inches of the end of the napkin. Find the corner of the napkin and pull it up and to the left forming a triangle. This will be the outside petal.

    Finish winding the napkin the rest of the way.


        With your right hand, pinch the napkin together just below your left fingers. The portion above the pinch is the rose bud, while the rest of the napkin will become the stem and leaf.

        Start twisting the napkin below the pinch. The tighter you twist the stronger the stem will be. Once you have started the twist, you can take your left fingers out of the bud and use both hands to twist the stem. Stop about half way down.


            Find the remaining exposed corner of the napkin. Gently pull it upward so it is above where you stopped twisting. This will become the leaf.

        Pinch the napkin together just below where you had stopped twisting. Continue twisting the napkin in the same direction as before until you reach the end of the napkin and the rose is complete.



            When I was learning the napkin rose, I made at least one a day. Whenever I was in a restaurant that had paper napkins, I would make a rose. If we visited a friends house, and they had paper napkins, I made a rose to present to the hostess. Frequency is the key to learning and remembering something like this.

Flower Pot:


            One of the classic origami figures is a drinking cup.  I was experimenting with other uses for the paper cup and realized that it looks a little like a flower pot.  I played around with sizes and decided that an origami drinking cup folded from a six-inch square piece of paper makes an excellent pot for a napkin rose.  The pot makes it possible to prop the paper flower up against something providing a nice display.

            To make the pot, fold the paper in half on a diagonal


            Fold the paper down so that the right side of the triangle meets the bottom edge of the triangle.  Make a crease in the paper and then unfold.




            Fold the paper so that the lower right corner meets the point where the left side of the triangle is creased.



            Fold the paper so the lower left hand corner meets the point half way up the right side.



            The upper triangle is two layers of paper.  Fold the top layer down along the upper edge of portion that has been folded across.


            Flip the pot over and fold the upper triangle down so the top edge of this side matches the top edge of the other side.

            Insert the stem of a napkin rose into the top opening and you have a flower in a pot.



            Often creativity is sparked by an audience interaction. At a birthday party the guests were all little girls except for three boys. I decided to make napkin roses for everyone. (I always keep some napkins in my performance trunk.) I presented the roses to all the girls first. When I got to the first boy, he declared, "I want a rocket ship." I paused, and realized that a napkin rose without a petal or a leaf was kind of shaped like a rocket when turned upside down . Making the rocket, I wrote "USA" on the side to identify it further.

            The next boy said, "I want a race car." I twisted a napkin so there was a bud at each end of the stem. This formed an axle with two wheels. I made the second axle out of another napkin. I turned a third napkin into the rocket shape for the body of the car and wrapped the twisted section around the axles to hold it all together. The boy was delighted with his sculpture.

            Taking a deep breath, I looked at the third boy. He said, "I want a turtle." I opened out a napkin, bunched up the four corners and twisted the corners a little. This caused the center of the napkin to form a dome which looked a little like a turtle's shell with four feet sticking out. I used a pen to punch a hole in the front and back of the shell. With another napkin I made the rocket shape and twisted the end of the bud closed. I pushed the stem through the holes in the shell to form the head and tail. I used a pen to draw two dots for eyes. I liked the way the turtle turned out, so as soon as I got home I made several turtles to lock the design into my brain. Again, I made one a day over during the next week so I wouldn't forget.  Now the turtle is a part of my regular repertoire.  People recognize it as a turtle without me telling them what it is.  Sometimes with a small group I do roses for the girls and turtles for the boys.


            The paper rose is a good substitute for balloon sculpture, but it can also be used in combination with balloons.  When we appear at the Seattle Ronald McDonald House, Carole does balloon sculpture, and I sometimes make balloon roses.  A girl requested a balloon bear holding a bouquet of paper roses.  While Carole began making the bear, I made several roses.  Then Carole wrapped the arms of the bear around the stems of the roses and finished sculpting the bear.  We have also sometimes attached a paper rose to a balloon hat.

            Try the napkin rose.  It is a entertainment tool that can be used in many situations.

Excerpted from Creativity For Entertainers.  Copyright 2004 by Bruce "Charlie" Johnson.  All rights reserved.

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