Protagonists: Paola Ferrua&Manola Dessì

Quilling from Italy with love


“Quilling” is an ancient papermaking technique in which strips of paper are used, shaped and glued together to create a pattern that can be used to decorate names, characters, cards, realistic or abstract pictures. It is very well known all over the world, and is also spreading in Italy thanks to a very ambitious community.

Quilling from Italy with love is the first real quilling community in Italy. The project originated from the passion and creativity of two people, who, although distant and different, met thanks to the web. «Although we are very different from each other, our love of paper and our passion for shapes, colours and quilling have brought us together in a working partnership that we would not have thought possible until a few years ago» say Paola Ferrua and Manola Dessì, i.e. the founders of the project. «In less than three years we have become a reference point for many quillers, we have made important partnerships, worked on ambitious projects, created a wonderful community, opened an e-commerce dedicated entirely to quilling, created a group of quillers who together have carried out a fantastic charity project and we have run both classroom and online courses. In short, we have been working very hard and this is what encourages us to do even better.

Two very complementary artists: Manola is the more artistic soul, while Alice – as she likes to define herself – is the “social do-gooder”, because any project needs an echo and resonance in order to spread. Even though they live more than 500 km away, they have managed to work together and create a close-knit team that is making quilling known throughout Italy and beyond. The search for the most suitable materials and the ever-changing subjects that they propose in their courses show their enthusiasm and love for this technique: a passion that they know how to transmit also with their friendliness and competence. From live courses they have moved on to online courses during the lockdown, and finally they have opened their own website dedicated to the sale of everything that imagination suggests to make with the quilling technique.

But what exactly is quilling?

«Quilling is an ancient papermaking technique in which strips of paper are used, shaped and glued together to create a pattern that can be used to decorate names, characters, cards, realistic or abstract pictures.

Quilling has ancient origins, the historical period from which the most information comes is from 1500-1600 onwards: this is the period to which some of the most important finds refer, a technique used above all for decorating relics and religious texts by cloistered priests and nuns. Later it was an art that was also taken up by young noblewomen, used as an artistic pastime. Nowadays, it is well known abroad – where it is also practised in schools – while in Italy it is still a small niche among paper artists». 

How is it practised?

«The beauty of this paper art is that it is “transversal”: it can be practised by children as well as adults. The important thing is to take the time and be patient. To do it, you need strips of paper, very few tools, a good dose of imagination and above all the desire to have fun creating new shapes and compositions».

What tools are used?

«The tools for quilling are easy to find and beginners can even think about making their own and then moving on to more “professional” tools.

The main tools are the quilling needle, a template, tweezers, small precision scissors and a glue dispenser to be as precise as possible.

These are the indispensable tools you need to get started; then there is a range of additional tools to help us make different shapes and shape the strip in alternative ways».

What types of paper can or should be used?

«You can use pretty much any paper, because it’s up to us and our experience to choose what shape and work that paper is best suited for. We don’t set any limits, from 80 to 280 grams, and we have used every type of paper in our work: from translucent, to wood-effect, to marked leather-like, metallic, hammered, linen-effect, porous and smooth papers».

 What difficulties does it involve?

«The difficulties often encountered by those who fall in love with quilling are more subjective than objective. Basically there is a lack of visualisation of the work, a fear of daring to experiment and to create according to one’s imagination. I often find myself with students and quilters who prefer to “reproduce” a piece of work that has already been done rather than trying their hand at uniqueness and creating their own style. In recent years, this problem has diminished somewhat, as there are many patterns on sale – we, for example, have several in our shop and they are very popular – and those who can’t draw or don’t feel able to do so can still have fun.

Another difficulty that emerges is hastiness: quilling is a calm art that leads you to relax and that requires a lot of practice to be well executed, but – unfortunately – the practice part is almost always too accelerated or even skipped. But – I repeat – these are subjective difficulties that are easily resolved».

What motivated you to create this community?

«Since we started on this path, our aim has always been the same: to make as many people as possible aware of this wonderful and relaxing art.

In the pre-Covid period, we took quilling to the major Italian cities with our courses and immediately realised that there was too little talk of quilling in Italy and that interested people had nowhere to meet, exchange ideas, suggestions, advice and even support. This is why our quilling group was born on Facebook: “Quilling Italia quillovers group”. A little corner of our own, where our art has united people, stories and created wonderful friendships and collaborations, and which also has an Instagram page».

What plans do you have?

«We have several future projects. At the moment we are working hard to realise two really ambitious projects of our own and a third that will involve our community next autumn. The first is a book on quilling written by Manola, the second is a real challenge that I hope to accomplish in 2022 – for superstition we can’t say anything else – and the third is a project that we really care about, which will involve the quillers of our community and will be aimed at raising funds for a project for an association that helps women victims of violence. We are always working in progress».