The Ancient Art of Quilling

by | Jan 27, 2024

You may have stopped by Judy Turple’s booth at the Pugwash Farmers Market. You may have been amazed by her art work, including acrylic paints, cards, intricately decorated beach stones and her intriguing quilled creations. If not, I would recommend you search her out when the market opens again in May.

Judy has always been an artist. Her father taught her to knit when she was the tender age of five. Since then Judy has been an avid maker of things, eager to try her hand at any decorative medium and art project she was introduced to. 

When Judy and her husband had the opportunity to purchase an arts and crafts store, Leisure World, in Truro, all her dreams were realized. In the first year they grew the business by 30%. They eventually expanded to five retail outlets and one wholesale operation.

Judy’s natural inclination to make art meant that she has vast experience with materials and tools, where to find them and how to use them. She has tried many crafts, including tole painting, tie dying, dot art and stained glass paint.  She has also enjoyed sharing her knowledge with others, hosting workshops through the arts and crafts stores and engaging others in the joy of creating.

Judy and her husband moved back to Pugwash six years ago. Having grown up in Pugwash, she still has many relatives here. This is where her roots are. Her art practice is now focussed on acrylic painting, Dot Art on beach stones and quilling.

Judy first tried quilling to make snowflakes for friends in the local Women’s Institute in West Pugwash about four years ago. Since then she has created many more complicated designs, sometimes taking more than 280 hours for an 8″x10″ image. The 3-D effect of the quilled paper images Judy crafts are startlingly life-like, the technique lending itself to furred or feathered subject matter. Judy works with all types of paper, including card stock and rice paper. She uses tweezers, ink markers, paper cutters, fine scissors, tacky glue and other specialty tools to create special effects. She orders most of her stock on-line, including matting and frames. Judy admits that drawing is not her strength, preferring to use commercial patterns or photographic images as the base of her work.

Her well-stocked studio space is evidence of her organization and enthusiasm for creating. It is a ‘makers’ delight, with every kind of material well displayed and readily at hand. She approaches quilling by being well prepared, spending many hours cutting paper in shapes before she starts the actual art work. The studio contains bins of pre-cut leaves and flowers in all different sizes, shapes and colours and containers of quilling paper strips in every colour of the rainbow. Her husband has been recruited to help cut paper but also do all her matting and framing. 

For Judy, quilling is a stress reliever. It is repetitious and meditative, well suited for a creatively driven personality who is not happy unless she is doing something with her hands.

Judy sells her work at the Pugwash Farmers Market from May to October. She has also sold her work in a shop in Chezzetcook and markets through her Facebook page, Paper Plus: She is currently working on a series of quilled bird images.

Positive feedback from her customers and admirers is the thing that brings Judy the most joy and encourages her to pursue more ways to express herself. As a seasoned professional, she knows what pleases her, how much time she wants to devote to her art work and how much effort she wants to exert to market her product.

Judy finds inspiration in the work of Yulia Brodskaya, renowned paper artist who pushes the boundaries of the centuries-old craft.

What is quilling?

Some researchers say it began in ancient Egypt, while others believe it originated in ancient China following the invention of paper. Quilling became even more popular in 18th century Europe as gentle ladies of quality (women from the nobility and ruling class) took up the art.

Today, quilling is often used for decorating wedding invitations, for Christmas, birth announcements, greeting cards, scrapbook pages, picture frames, and mobile phone cases.