I first learned of quilling the same way most of us learn just about anything: from Martha Stewart. A magazine article ages ago piqued my interest and I started experimenting with twirled up little bits of paper. Since then I’ve gotten completely hooked. It’s like when you were a kid and played with legos or tangrams, taking little shapes and combining them to make something else. But with gorgeous scroll patterns and elegant swoops.
Despite how intricate it looks, quilling is easy enough for kids to do. It’s just a matter of combining shapes. Typical flowers are made in an arrangement, but I wanted to let the flowers make a shape out of negative space.
Paper quilling art supplies:
- 12 x 12 Wood shadow box frame
- Acrylic paint
- Strathmore watercolor paper pad
- Quilling strips in various widths and colors
- Darice quilling starter kit
- Aleene’s Tacky Glue
You can make your own quilling papers, but you’d have to cut them by hand, and not every paper trimmer leaves a clean edge. After years of doing it myself, I find using the premade papers to be worth it.
For this project the first thing I needed to do was paint my frame. You can use any frame you’d like but you wouldn’t want any glass on it that might crush your quilling. I like this shadowbox because I could use the sides to really make it look full.
Use the tool to roll the paper up. Keep a steady pressure on the paper as you roll and you’ll get a nice tight circle. To keep it a tight circle and glue down the end before removing it from the tool.
To make a loose circle, take the rolled up paper off the tool and drop it to let it unravel.
Use a fine glue applicator or a toothpick to put a little glue on the end of the paper and stick it in place.
A loose circle can become any shape you want, just depending on how you pinch it. Pinching one point creates a teardrop shape, which makes a great looking leaf, but you can pinch triangles, squares, ovals, even random freeform shapes. The great thing about making flowers is that as long as you have enough of each shape to make petals, it will always work.
These triangle shapes look great bent over onto each other.
Pinching two points creates a marquis shape. These look great with a bunch piled together, and even mixed up with other sizes and colors of petals. There’s no way to go wrong with your combinations, the more varied they are the more interesting they’ll look.
To create your negative space, cut your watercolor paper into the shape you want to remain blank and use repositionable tape to stick it in place. You want to use a thick paper here because you will almost definitely get glue on it and you need a paper that can stand up to that without making a mess.
Then just take the flowers you’ve built and glue them down to your frame, nestling them right up to your shape first to make a strong outline. I found it easiest to paint the entire board with glue and put the flowers on top rather than trying to put the glue on each delicate flower.
Keep adding shapes and flowers, building out from your negative space. I loved my big gorgeous flowers, but I found it just as useful to have extra tight circles and loose circles to tuck into awkward spaces. I like to use a variety of widths – the quilling papers come in 1/4″, 1/2″ and 3/4″ widths – to create different levels so that it wasn’t just a flat arrangement. I spread the flowers up onto the sides to make it look like the flowers were going to grow right out of the frame. When your space is surrounded by quilling shapes, lift off the watercolor paper to reveal the empty space left behind.
I love the symbolism that the flowers created. That big heart in the middle makes it looks like all those flowers are blooming from love, and by spilling up the sides, it looks like the love is abundant. Such a wonderful message and such a lovely way to give it.
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Tresa is a writer, craft designer, and award winning activist whose work has been featured in publications as diverse as Better Homes and Gardens and Bitch Magazine. Tresa makes videos guiding you through projects and life at youtube.com/reesedixon, and blogs daily at her creative living blog, ReeseDixon.com, where she sets out to prove that creativity is powerful enough to make your life what you want it to be.