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Noblesville mom builds photo backdrops despite recent tragedy

After her husband's shocking death, Casey Russo is honoring her husband by doing her best to push forward in her new business.

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — When Casey Russo decided to build a photo backdrop for a family baby shower during the COVID-19 pandemic, she had no idea what she was getting into. Her plan was an 8-foot tall wall covered with paper flowers.

"I thought it would be no big deal, except it took forever and forever. I think for the week before, we were up until 4 in the morning every night trying to finish this wall," Russo said. "But what happened was people were trying to buy it from me and take pictures in front of it, and it just clicked that there's obviously a demand for this, and nobody has this, so why am I not attempting it?"

Russo came up with the name Paper and Petals Indy and got to work. Her father helped her come up with a design for the wall so it would be sturdy and not fall down, while her mother tested out different types of flower designs with her.

Credit: WTHR
Anne Marie Tiernon poses with Paper and Petals creator Casey Russo, center, and her mom, holding handmade paper flower petals.

Working with the sparkly stems is quite a departure from her day job at her family's asphalt paving business.

"I do construction during the day and then all the pretty at nights," Russo said. "It was trial and error. There are a lot of tutorials online, but they will not tell you all the nitty gritty. We had to kind of come up with our own petals our own way to put them together that worked for us."

She also scoured the area looking for unique paper with a glimmer that is thick enough to hold its shape.

From the start, her husband, Evan, encouraged her and helped load the panels from a storage unit and set them up at events all around central Indiana.

However, everything changed Oct. 3, 2021, when her 36-year-old husband died by suicide. It was a shock to all.

"It's just my 11-year-old daughter and myself now, so things are completely different," Russo said. "Never could have seen this coming, and it's really hard to explain to my daughter because I just know that something had to have taken over that day because it wasn't him."

Casey and her daughter joined a support group at Brooke's Place.

"There's such a stigma with what's going on. You know, people don't talk about it, but maybe that's the problem — maybe we should be," Russo said.

The mother and daughter hope to honor his legacy by persevering and doing their best.

"I'll never give up," Russo said. "We've had a million trials and tribulations, but here we are, still trying to push forward."

The Paper and Petals custom walls are hits at weddings, corporate events, birthdays and graduation parties. As we get closer to the holidays, Russo said orders are up — for which she is very grateful.

"So much of the city has supported me, followed me, found me and have been cheered me on, and I need it now more than ever. So honestly, thanks to everybody."

Each design is cut by hand, and Russo curls the paper edges before hot-gluing the petals one at a time. Russo said it can take up to an hour to build a larger bloom. 

She customizes the colors and delivers 4x8 panels to events in a specialized trailer, where the panels are stacked on shelves on top of each other.

Right now, she has 16 panels and more in production. The cost to rent a custom backdrop starts at $400.

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