Inside the Beautiful World of Paper Quilling

March 8, 2017 by Erin Behan

In our increasingly digital age, paper-based arts and crafts have been experiencing a comeback. Quilling — rolling, bending, and affixing strips of paper into formed shapes — is one such resurgent art form, and the creativity by artists working in the field is nothing short of amazing.

Inside the Beautiful World of Paper Quilling
The origin of the word quilling may be a reference to a quill pen, which was once used in its creation. While quilling's origins predate the Renaissance, it was in that period that it took off, as French and Italian monks and nuns used the process to decorate religious texts and items, their forms often imitating ironwork. In the 18th century, quilling was taken up by women of the upper class as a ladylike diversion.

Today's quillers use strips of paper in varying colors and widths, depending on preference, and several tools (usually a needle tool, slotted tool, tweezer, circle template, and glue), which allow the artist to roll, shape, and secure the paper into a 3-D art form. Finished designs are as varied as the designers, but they all celebrate the versatility of paper.

Inside the Beautiful World of Paper Quilling
A current superstar of the quilling movement, Yulia Brodskaya, broke herself and quilling into the mainstream with this 2016 Valentine's Day postage stamp that showcased romantic paper swirls in the shape of a heart.

Brodskaya's whimsical, often colorful pieces, which include more subdued, detailed portraits of older people, have attracted the attention of collectors such as Oprah Winfrey, the San Francisco Museum of Art, and Issey Miyake. She's in high demand and has done editorial pieces for A-list clients, including Neiman Marcus, Starbucks, and Godiva.

Of her technique, Brodskaya has written, "Paper always held a special fascination for me. I've tried many deferent [sic] methods and techniques of working with it, until I found the way that has turned out to be 'the one' for me: now I draw with paper instead of on it."

Inside the Beautiful World of Paper Quilling
Another big name in quilling is Sena Runa, whose beautiful pieces jump from botanicals to dragons to intricate typography. Her Instagram following of more than 100,000 is a testament to the magical draw of manipulated paper, and she also has an Etsy shop where you can pick up a framed work for around $100.

Inside the Beautiful World of Paper Quilling
Anthropologie recently picked up on the quilling trend, decorating its store windows across the country in February with paper quilling to celebrate everything spring, with paper flowers blossoming in all sorts of styles and colors. Check #anthrowindows on Instagram for more of the shop's inspiring designs, each unique to its city and designer.

For those who want to try their hand at quilling, check out Craftsy's 7 Tips for the Paper Quilling Beginner, or dive into some books on the subject like Beautiful Quilling Step by Step, Quilled Flowers: A Garden of 35 Projects, and Paper Quilling Chinese Style. Each tackles a different side of the art, but they will all walk you through the process of turning strips of paper into a creative art.

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Erin Behan

Written by Erin Behan

Erin Behan is an L.A.-based writer and editor who considers fine paper one of life's little pleasures.


Visit Distinct Papers to buy high-quality paper or card stock for your next project or to find the right copy paper, correspondence stationery and envelopes.


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