The gentle art of paper quilling - re-imagined by Yulia Brodskaya

Have you heard of the art of Quilling before?

Quilling or paper filigree is an art form that involves rolling strips of paper of different colours, and pinching them into shapes, then gluing them to hold the shapes. These decorative designs can then be arranged to make greetings cards, pictures, boxes, jewellery, portraits, hanging mobiles, etc.

I always thought that Quilling was a Japanese art form, but it seems that the exact origins of quilling is unknown.

Some say it began in ancient Egypt, but it was certainly used by nuns and monks in 15th Century Renaissance France and Italy to decorate book covers and religious items. The paper most commonly used was strips of paper trimmed from the gilded edges of books. These gilded paper strips were then rolled to create the quilled shapes. 1

Quilling often imitated the original ironwork of the day, and so the gilded paper strips used were hard to distinguish from metal, making it a cost effective alternative for struggling churches trying to save money!

In the 18th century, quilling became popular in Europe where gentle ladies of quality ("ladies of leisure") practiced the art. It was one of the few gentile things ladies could do that was thought not too taxing for their minds or gentle dispositions. 1 Amazing!

Quilling uses relatively simple tools, such as tweezers, a crimping tool, a needle, a circle ruler and a slotted hand tool.

Quilling paper, pre-cut into strips of varying widths is readily available in craft shops, in over 250 colors and types of paper. The paper can be single coloured, graduated, two-tone, acid-free, etc . The most common widths are 3mm, 5mm, 7mm, and 10mm. Using different widths and more advanced techniques enables three dimensional items to be created, such as portraits and objects.

Today, quilling is seeing a resurgence in popularity. It is used for decorating wedding invitations, birth announcements, greeting cards, scrapbook pages, and boxes. Quilling can be found in art galleries in Europe and in the United States and is an art that is practiced around the world.1

Then there are artists such as Russian Yulia Brodskaya who take the art of quilling to a whole new level! Born in Moscow in 1983, she moved to the UK to continue her education at the University of Hertforsdshire. She graduated with a Master of Art in graphics communication degree in 2006. She started working as a freelance graphic designer, but she very quickly switched to the illustration field 1 and fell in love with quilling the first time she tried it, and hasn’t looked back since! She has many high profile clients including Oprah, Hermes, Cadbury, The Washington Post, Wimbledon and Paramount pictures, just to name a few!!

This short AnArt4Life video shows examples of what can be done, starting from the simple through to the compelling sophistication of Yulia Brodskaya! 2

If these pictures have inspired you to try quilling yourself, (maybe if you are in lockdown like me), the following 6 minute video is a tutorial on how to get started, including the tools you will need.


  1. With thanks to Wikipedia
  2. With thanks to Yulia Brodskaya, website: