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Quilling, also known as ‘paper filigree’, is an art form consisting of the use of strips of paper which are rolled, shaped, and glued together as to create decorative designs. Originally developed by French and Italian monastery nuns and monks during the Renaissance period, the art technique is undergoing a resurgence in popularity across the globe in present days.

During the Renaissance period, nuns and monks used the gilded edges of frayed and word-out pages of bibles when employing this technique; they would cut them into paper filigrees which could be used as adornment of religious icons. The art form came be perceived as a cheaper alternative to using real gold or silver metal as ornamental décor.

Nowadays, quilling is much easier to do due to the development and accessibility of a wider range of tools, colour paper materials, and applications employed when using the art technique. For example, modern-day ‘quillers’ can easily buy an assortment of paper readily machine-cut into strips, in a variety of widths, colours, and in varying textures. Further, quilling tools nowadays come as precision devices complete with ergonomic handles.

In recent years, the artist Lisa Nilsson, amongst others, has recently used the technique in a surprisingly creative manner, in her ‘Tissue Series’ art. Her work consists of ‘visceral anatomy cross-sections […] made entirely out of old books’. Deemed as ‘stunningly detailed and well-executed’, the artwork offers simultaneously grotesque and pleasing cross-sections of bodily parts including brains, abdomens and torsos. Her work is not the sole evidence that the art form is experiencing a resurgence in popularity: events such as Paint with a Twist!, which is a workshop focused on the fine art of paper quilling, are popping up across the world.

Applicants for Fine Art can further explore how this historically popular art technique is experiencing a revival, by tracing its evolution over time, and by considering how artists worldwide are now using it in novel, creative ways.

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