Sometimes, when I am sitting in my family in the evening and quilling, while watching television or chatting, it occurs to me what a peculiar thing this is to be doing. What on earth can be the appeal in rolling, looping, twisting and curling little strips of paper? I have no simple answer, except to note that this is something I did long before I became a quiller, in 1980. It was always the case that, by the time I left a waiting room, the corner of my magazine was rolled, folded or crimped and, by the end of a bus journey, my ticket was manipulated beyond recognition.
I am sure I am not alone in this. Give almost anyone piece of paper and enforced idleness and they will most probably “fiddle” in a similar way. Part of the appeal may be a certain therapeutic effect. Rather like worry beads, quilling provides a soothing, repetitive action which calms and relaxes. Unlike worry beads, basic materials are almost always near at hand. Paper is everywhere. Find a decent glue and you can produce a finished quilling in just a few minutes.
This is exactly what happened to me when I first began. I found it hard to believe that such simplicity could produce something so charming. And that, of course, is another attraction of quilling. The final result is so intriguingly lovely, which is why people who see quilling for the first time almost invariably frown and smile at the same time. ” Isn’t it lovely – what is it?” The sight of the natural forms and shapes of our world, depicted in tiny spirals, curls or loops, somehow adds a whole new dimension and the result is something fascinating and delightful to look at.
Our quilling ancestors recognised this, of course, and many modern quillers find delight in knowing that they are involved in an ancient craft, adding to its history and, with the help of our modern materials, putting it to new uses.
And what a lot of uses there are! One of the most appealing things I have discovered about quilling is its versatility. Quillers create an amazing variety of pictures and plaques, models and mobiles, boxes, jewellery, decorative eggs and, of course, most popular of all, greetings cards, which say in such a personal way that you are thinking of someone.
Quillings can be simple and quick, large and elaborate, plain or colourful, cute or classy; appealing to all ages and both sexes; quilling bridges more than one generation gap and often helps and sustains in a practical way those of us with a physical or mental disability.
But the versatility of quilling is not only in the variety of finished products. It is also in the way that traditional ideas continue to be changed and developed. I enjoyed nothing better than to play about with those little paper strips, developing what I know and inventing something new. If my efforts bear fruit, I have been known to stay up well into the night to finish the new creation, too excited to sleep.
As I said at the beginning – a peculiar thing to get carried away with! However, the simple fact that it is possible to sit with one’s family and quill at the same time is a great point in its favour. Judging by the party atmosphere which prevails in my classes and workshops, I would say quilling is one of the great social crafts of all time.