A recent birthday card introduced me to an old art form. It’s called quilling. When I first looked at the card, I thought its design was simply raised. On closer inspection, I found the design was three dimensional and composed of small, coiled strips of paper. The intricacy of the work is evident.
I became curious about this decorative art form. Below is some information I found about the history of quilling – from mymodernmet.com :
Like many forms of craft, paper quilling can trace its origins back hundreds of years to at least the 15th century (maybe earlier). It is believed to have been created by French and Italian nuns and used to decorate religious objects in an effort to save money. The filigree was fashioned to simulate carved ivory and wrought iron—two very costly details. When the paper quilling was gilded, it was hard to distinguish from metal, making it a good option for struggling churches.
Paper quilling had its heyday in England during the 18th century. It, in addition to embroidery, was considered a “proper pastime” for young women and was taught in boarding schools, as well as to “ladies of leisure” because it was seen as not too “taxing” for them. Quilling’s influence spread to the United States, but the practice waned by the 19th century; there are relatively few examples of paper quilling during this time.
Quilling earned its name because to coil the paper, it was cut into thin strips and wrapped around an actual quill. Then it could be shaped and glued. The technique is also called filigree, paper filigree or scrollwork. Today there are quilling kits and specialized tools.
On the literary side of things, Jane Austen made use of quilling as “stage” business while two characters chatted and the conversation moved the story forward. In Chapter 23 of Sense and Sensibility:
“Lucy directly drew her work table near her and reseated herself with an alacrity and cheerfulness which seemed to infer that she could taste no greater delight than in making a filigree basket for a spoilt child.”
The above is one reference. There are more within the chapter.
I don’t think that I personally will ever try this art form. I have visions of coiled paper stuck to all of my fingers. But I am intrigued and can certainly appreciate the creativity and skill needed to produce the work.
And thank you to my friend for the birthday card that brought about this short exploration!