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The ability to make and appreciate art is unique to humans and has been part of the human condition for thousands of years, from ancient cave paintings, dating back to the dawn of our species, to renaissance art, to handmade art such as embroidery or Quilling art has continued to define the human condition. Quilling, or paper filigree is an artform that has seen a resurgence in the last few years. This is an artform with a rich history, dating back thousands of years, spanning multiple civilizations, languages and cultures and an art form that has found a solid footing in the modern world.
Quilling in The Ancient World
(Image source: New England Genealogical Society, Phillips Arms by Mary Lemmon)
Quilling began as an art form in the ancient world. Although its exact origins are unknown it is believed that Quilling began in Ancient Egypt. The etymology of “Quilling” is thought to have originated from the bird feathers, or “quills” that were used as a primary tool to roll the strips of paper. Although this artform has ebbed and flowed throughout the centuries, Quilling makes many appearances throughout history and gave birth to spinoff artforms such as metal filigree, a popular artform used in Renaissance churches
Quilling in Renaissance Europe
During the Renaissance Quilling was practiced by French and Italian nuns who would use the rolled paper strips to decorate relics and holy artwork. The paper strips would often be gilded or silvered, making them almost indistinguishable from gold or silver filigree artwork. This was especially common with less affluent churches.
Quilling in the 18th and 19th Centuries
Quilling saw its greatest popularity during the 18th and 19th centuries when it was practiced by affluent women. In a 1786 edition of the New Lady’s Magazine, Quilling was cited as a safe hobby, '......it affords an amusement to the female mind capable of the most pleasing and extensive variety; and at the same time, it conduces to fill up a leisure hour with an innocent recreation...' Quilling was even immortalized by Jane Austin in her first novel, Sense and Sensibility.
Quilling in the 21st Century
Over its long and storied history, the art of Quilling has had admirers and talented artists who were instrumental in keeping the artform alive. Unfortunately, many of their names are lost to history. Today, as Quilling has started to again grow in popularity a new generation of artists and companies have emerged with the aim of popularizing the art of Quilling and making this beautiful artform accessible to the masses. A prominent company that has emerged in the world of Quilling is Quilling Card LLC. Quilling Card specializes in Quilling greeting cards, as well as in Quilled art. Some Quilling artists who have gained prominence in recent years are: Yulia Brodskaya - a Russian born Quilling artist who has emerged as a leading artist in the Quilling community, Farah Al Fardh - an Emirati born artist who specializes in making whimsical 3-D Quilling art, and Ann Martin - a well-known paper artist who specializes in Quilled art and paper art for weddings, as well as countless DIY Quilling enthusiasts who create beautiful artwork for the enjoyment of family and friends.