Quilling with Adelina: From The Ancient Egypt To Our Modern Times – The Odyssey Of Quilling

The art of paper quilling

Quilling with Adelina is a series about the art of quilling. In this series Adelina will write about a variety of topics, from the basics to quilling to pro tips!

A few years ago, while I was taking a nap during my incredibly boring 9 to 5 job, a colleague of mine woke me up by simply saying the word “quilling”. You see, she was a bit nuts about origami, something I was never very good at… So, after she got tired of not being able to teach me how to fold lilies, butterflies, and cranes, she said the magic words – How about quilling? You can do amazing things by rolling paper! From that day on, my office hours became much more interesting (but that’s for another time to tell).

Long story short, it was love at first Google search. I saw the thousands of online photos and I knew I wanted to roll paper ‘till my fingers will bleed – no worries, though, I didn’t get there, yet.

Little I knew at the time that this art, also known as paper scrolling, filigree or even mosaic, dates back since the Ancient Egypt. Today, most of the people trying to learn this technique don’t even bother to discover its roots. If you’re even a tad curious like I was, here is what you should know:

Through time, the interest in quilling fluctuated. A lot.

As mentioned, the basic techniques seem to date from ancient times. However, it was during the Renaissance when the Italian and French nuns started, in the 16th and the 17th centuries, to decorate different religious items with quilled shapes. Adorning holy pictures and reliquaries was highly appreciated, but the practice extended, during the 18th century, in Europe and America as well.

Once taken out from the Church’s territory, rolling paper became a sophisticated way of decorating stands and cabinets, ladies’ purses, cribbage boards, frames and pictures, tea caddies and so on. From there to combining it with painting or embroideries, to create even more powerful visual effects, it was just a small step.

Perhaps the most important reason why this relatively simple technique stood the test of time is the one formulated by the famous French writer, Victor Hugo, in Les Misérables: “Beauty is just as necessary as the utility. Maybe even more.

One by one, major personalities such as George III’s daughter, Elizabeth, the Bronte sisters, the famous author of Sense and Sensibility novel, Jane Austen, the famous locksmith Joseph Bramah and many others embraced this art and contributed to its spreading popularity. Back then, quilling was something that the women from the working class wouldn’t have even dreamt of. Today, however, things have considerably changed.

Nowadays, quilling has become a more accessible art

The art of quilling

Image by Wikipedia

Yes, this technique is a form of art. It relies on rolling and shaping different strips of paper and gluing them together, to create gorgeous decorative designs. In theory, it looks quite simple. In practice, however, rolling, looping, twisting, curling and everything else you need to do with paper might take a little practice. I was also caught in the trap of “Oh, but it looks so easy”. And the only reason why I didn’t give up was that I just loved the way those quilled figurines look. I wanted to create them with my own hands.

Make no mistake, though – quilling is an art and there are festivals and trade fairs around the world to prove it. Here’s a list with some of them, since 1984 to the day! All these left aside, there are hundreds of websites, blogs, dedicated channels on social networks, virtual shops on crafting websites – an inexhaustible list of resources for one to discover, learn, experience and, why not, start a business out of this interesting art form.

I am heading there! If you would like to join my journey through quilling and learn from my mistakes, you’re more than welcome. So stay close, I’m rolling some other information strips to share with you.

In the meantime, happy quilling, digging and paper rolling!

Image on top by djeckie, released under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Written By

Adelina is a writer with a huge passion for quilling.

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