What you need to know:
- Due to the intricacy of the process, Fatema says, an artist requires a work-board on which to place their artwork and tools as they work on a project.
- “Examples of quilling boards in the market include the precision guide board and the grid board. Some boards come with a guide of making various articles.”
- The challenging part, according to Fatema, is the aligning and arranging of the paper coils to create a decorative configuration.
- “This stage of work depends on the artist’s sense of judgment and geometrical acuity to successfully create an artistic article.”
Are you bored with the monotony of sending Happy Birthday, greetings and Thank You cards that virtually everyone else is sending? Do you always have to buy knickknacks to wrap gifts for your loved ones? Perhaps you would want to customise gifts to lend them that unique element that soothes the sensitivities of the recipient while communicating your personality? If so, quilling might just be the answer.
Quilling, also called paper filigree, is a technique where strips of paper are rolled, looped, twisted, curled, manipulated and glued together to create coils and scrolls that are then used to make ornamental designs.
While the origin of quilling is shrouded in dispute, this form of art has been around for more than 500 years. It was first practiced by Italian and French monks and nuns of the Renaissance and Medieval times to decorate books and other religious gear. According to historians, strips of paper trimmed from scrolls or books were preserved rather than discarded, because during this period, paper was both scarce and a highly prized commodity. Then creativity set in, where people found use for the strips: embellishing items.
RELATIVELY UNKNOWN IN KENYA
Despite its popularity elsewhere in the world, paper filigree remains relatively unknown in Kenya. In a bid to promote paper quilling in the country, Fatema Qureish, a pioneering quilling expert in Kenya, founded Amathus Arts in 2009. Ms Qureish, who is based in Nairobi, conducts workshops and training in quilling.
“Besides decorating gifts, pictures and cards, quills are used to make picture frames, jewellery, flowers, Christmas trees, custom-made paper art murals and other decorative two-dimension and three-dimension miniatures,” says Fatema Querish.
According to Fatema, a graduate of Burhani Finishing College in Mombasa, quilling art is less costly, and even easier to learn.
“You only need quilling paper, which comes in various sizes of strips, colours and shapes, a quilling needle, tweezers, scissors and adhesives to stick the paper coils together, and you are good to go,” says Fatema.
The first step involves rolling strips of paper around a needle to make coils that are later punched or pressed into different figures. “To curl paper, a slotted quilling tool or a quilling needle is needed. The slotted tool is the commonest, easiest and fastest to use, where the paper is placed on the slot and curled. The needle on the other hand is harder to use by beginners. Advanced quillers however use it with much ease,” Fatema explains.
Unlike in the earlier days when quilling artists had only needles to use, today, artists have at their disposal a host of more advanced forms of tools in the market, all that have made the practice more exciting to quilling lovers.
CRITICAL IN TOOLBOX
Also critical in a quilling artist’s toolbox are cookie cutters, and as Fatema explains, they make work easier for the artist. “Essentially these are objects of different sizes and forms around which papers trips are coiled to form quills of various shapes according to the artist’s needs. It is also faster rolling paper around them than trying to come up with diverse shapes with just paper.”
Due to the intricacy of the process, Fatema says, an artist requires a work-board on which to place their artwork and tools as they work on a project. “Examples of quilling boards in the market include the precision guide board and the grid board. Some boards come with a guide of making various articles.”
The challenging part, according to Fatema, is the aligning and arranging of the paper coils to create a decorative configuration. “This stage of work depends on the artist’s sense of judgment and geometrical acuity to successfully create an artistic article.”
Two-dimensional articles are simpler to make than three-dimensional ones, and as Fatema says, a butterfly miniature for instance takes between three to four hours to complete, while a hamper takes between ten days to two weeks to finish.
Today, online tutorials, particularly videos on YouTube, are inarguably the most popular method of acquiring skills in most do-it-yourself arts and experiments. While Fatema believes the power of tutorials for beginners in any art, she emphasises that practical learning under a trainer yields the best results. “I would recommend this approach because the trainer is always there to correct and guide you whenever you get the process wrong.”
“Quilling is a highly expressive form or art, which allows the artist to bring out their imaginativeness in the most intricate manner. This art requires patience, but most importantly, precision,” stresses Fatema, adding that besides earning them an income and saving on expenses, quilling cultivates self-discipline and a sense of confidence in the artist.