Thursday, November 6, 2008

What exactly is quilling anyway?


Quilling or paper filigree is an art form that involves the use of strips of paper that are rolled, shaped, and glued together to create decorative designs. The paper is wound around a quill to create a basic coil shape. The paper is then glued at the tip and the coil shaped, these shaped coils are arranged to form flowers, leaves, and various ornamental patterns similar to ironwork.

During the Renaissance, French and Italian nuns and monks used quilling to decorate book covers and religious items. The paper most commonly used was strips of paper trimmed from the gilded edges of books. These gilded paper strips were then rolled to create the quilled shapes. Quilling often imitated the original ironwork of the day.

In the 18th century, quilling became popular in Europe where gentle ladies of quality {"ladies of leisure"} practiced the art. It was one of the few things ladies could do that was thought not too taxing for their minds or gentle dispositions. Quilling also spread to the Americas and there are a few examples from Colonial times.


If you are willing to search you can find many varied examples of quilling. Many of the pieces that have been preserved from this time are found religious plaques and artwork.

It seems that no surface was safe from woman who quilled. You see many varied quilled art works on cabinets. stands (both specially designed for quilling with recessed surfaces), cribbage boards, ladies purses, a wide range of both pictures and frames, work baskets, tea caddies, coat of arms, wine coasters, caskets (not the type you use to bury people but rather storage boxes for the varied items a person of quality would need to store personal items. These are larger then most jewelry boxes with drawers and/or tops that opened), quilled lock boxes, and much more, the list is truly endless. It's also interesting that quilling was combined or married with other techniques such as embroidery and painting. There is even dimensional quilling and 3D items that were created with quilling. Anyone interested in antique quilling should find the book Rolled, Scrolled, Crimped, and Folded: The Lost art of Filigree Paperwork published by Florian Papp. The book is 50 pages of beautiful pictures of antique works of art and tons of information. Inside the book is a piece that mimics lace work so closely you can not tell it's quilling and not lace.

Anyone who believes this is a hobby rather than an art form should really look at it with a new eye. The craft has gone through many transformations and changes through the ages. Like all art forms it expands and new techniques, styles as well as supplies are added. Popular around the world you'll find quillers (people who practice the art of quilling) on every continent and in every walk of life. No longer confined to the "upper classes", this is truly a peoples art form and the beauty of the art is always expanding.

Today, quilling is seeing another resurgence in popularity. The craft has become increasingly popular due to the low cost of the basic material, paper, that is required to make the shapes. It is used to decorate wedding invitations, birth announcements, greeting cards, scrapbook pages, and boxes. Quilling can be found in art galleries in Europe and in the United States and is an art that is practiced around the world.

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