How did you discover paper craft/quilling?
As long as I can remember myself paper always held a special fascination for me, but if someone had told me all those years ago that I will become a paper artist and won’t be even remotely interested in using any other materials, I would have never believed that. Over the years I've tried many deferent methods and techniques of working with paper, just as a hobby ‘on a side’ because I was convinced that all things digital is the only reliable way to make a living. However after finishing my Masters degree in Graphic Communications I realised that I would rather try to become an illustrator and create with my hands, so I spent about 1.5 years drawing and searching for my unique drawing style, but instead I found paper…
Back then I was working on a little self-promotional booklet with my best drawings in order to get editorial commissions from magazines and newspapers. The only crucial thing missing was an eye-catching cover image that would make certain my booklet would be noticed. I decided to illustrate my name for the cover and created several hand-drawn versions of my name Yulia, but none of them seemed to be good enough, so I discarded them all. What happened next turned my career aspirations upside down.
I can’t remember how I got the idea exactly (because back then I never even heard the term Quilling), but I cut some paper sheets into strips and glued the outlines of my name adding more coils and frills inside. The work took me couple hours and once it was done, I realised that I’m definitely onto something much more interesting than all my previous drawn illustrations; immediately I abandoned the booklet idea, and instead emerged myself into this new territory of making art with strips of paper.
That first ‘Yulia’ paper creation felt so right, like I’ve finally arrived home… I felt joy and excitement while bending and gluing strips of paper, so I knew intuitively that I’m on the right track with this medium and particularly with this technique! – sometimes it is not just about the medium, e.g. paper is so versatile that I can name plenty of methods/techniques using paper that are 100% not for me and I wouldn’t be interested in using them myself.
How has your work evolved over time?
My paper art practice is a journey, it evolves and changes constantly, and I learned to readily allow these transformations to happen… I started ‘drawing’ with paper strips at the beginning of my paper journey when I was doing mainly typography-based paper designs (where every line or element was neat and clearly defined); but then gradually moved on to ‘painting’ method – a lot more expressive method of working with paper strips.
When I ‘draw’ with paper strips, I simply follow a pencil line that I previously sketched on a background with bent or shaped segments of card or heavy paper which I glue on top, thus creating a 3D interpretation of a line.
Several years ago my techniques made another evolutionary turn from ‘drawing’ to ‘painting’ with paper. Painting with paper means imitating brushstrokes with tightly packed strips of paper, achieved by combining different colour strips in a similar way as mixing paints on a palette. This new technique comes as close to the real painting as possible, but with added quality of a third dimension. Obviously combining coloured paper strips in this manner won’t give you a smooth new colour that you can get when mixing paints, it is more of an optical illusion explained by limits of the human eye's ability to perceive alternating colour stripes — at a certain distance the eye struggles to discern individual stripes and begins to perceive the new blended colour as a whole.
Creating a tight stroke-like shape (or pack) is simple: bend a strip or several strips together multiple times alternating the direction of the bend (if you let go of the strip at this point, you’ll get a zig zag shape); dip it into a puddle of glue (I use PVA), place onto the background surface and secure with a clip until the glue dries completely.
How long does it take to create one of your paper artworks?
That's the most frequent question I get. Smaller size/simple artworks can take from a couple of days to about a weeks. In general portraits take longer than nature-based designs. The largest portrait pieces (that are 1x1.5m in size) can take me 4-6 weeks.
It all comes down to the level of detail, size and design complexity; there are hardly any short-cuts – if you want to create something beautiful and intricate you have to spend long hours working on the piece.
What kind of paper and tools do you use? Can you describe your technique?
There are no special tools needed for my techniques, for instance I a cocktail straw made of
firm plastic to curl and shape paper strips. There is no specific reason why I use it, except for the fact that it happened to be the first suitable item that I found when I made my first “Yulia”artwork. I’ve used straws ever since For making spiral coils on the end of paper strips, I use
cocktail sticks (wooden toothpicks), exactly for the same reason as the straw—because that’s what I found at home. Other tools are very basic as well: scissors, cutting knife for cutting paper into strips, tweezers and PVA glue.
The most key material in my art practice is obviously paper – I’m a bit of a paper shopaholic – I’m constantly on the look for new colours, new weights of paper. I love working with thick paper – the thicker the better, so you can’t imagine my excitement when I manage to find sheets that are 1-1.3 mm thick – paper manufacturers started to offer them very recently; in general, there is a HUGE difference in the variety of paper that was available in the beginning of my career 12 years ago and now. Having thicker paper makes it easier for me to create artworks on a larger scale (in general this is a relatively compact artform and only in the recent couple years I managed to create several artworks that are 1x1.5m).
What inspires you most?
Nature has always been my main source of inspiration. I created numerous compositions featuring various flowers, butterflies, fish, feathers, birds and other natural motifs; however I often feel an urge to expand my subject matter: it feels that depicting just a beautiful flower, a pretty shell or a decorative wave on its own is simply ‘not enough’… A human presence is needed to deepen the visual experience, the feel & emotional charge coming from the artwork, so I end up combining the natural motifs with human faces. I might create natural elements (flowers, birds) on their own when I need a quick break from the challenges of working on human faces, but I still think that I create my best work when I combine the two together. I make more and more paper portraits these days – I seem to enjoy them more now when I have more experience depicting human faces using paper strips.
How can I buy your artwork?
I sell some of the originals from past projects directly. Please feel free to send me an email and I will get back to you with the list of available artworks. I ship worldwide, the delivery cost will depend on the size of the selected artwork and your location; artworks are not too flimsy and travel well.
I also take on selected personal commissions depending on schedule, please email me the details if you would like to discuss this option.