Open Coil


In November 2015 Josie was invited by C-Platform in Xiamen, China to undertake a residency and deliver workshops and a talk relating to her work as a quiller. The project resulted in an exhibition of work made by Josie and the people who participated in the workshops.

C-Platform is a non-profit art and design platform located at Xiamen, China. Dedicated to the concept of “Inspiring Art and Design Ideas in Daily Life", it conducts a series of explorations and practices via curating and launching international and domestic multi-perspective contemporary art and design exhibitions, workshops, salons and interviews. It attempts to establish an interactive platform that continuously releases cultural energy and creation inspiration spanning the boundary among artist, designer, art project, institution and the public.

Josie was interviewed by C-Platform about the project. scroll down to the bottom of this page for a full transcript of the interview.

































C Platform Interview

1. ????????????????
Can you introduce yourself and your works.

I live and work in Liverpool, UK, as a quiller and a fine artist. As a fine artist, I work mainly with painting and drawing, exhibiting and teaching. I also work as a director of my studio group, Arena, but I do this on a voluntary basis.

I do not sell my quilling work, as my main interest is to pass on the heritage of quilling and use it to inspire people. I keep all of the quilled pieces that I make and instead, I use them for displays, when I am demonstrating and teaching. I present talks and demonstrations and teach classes and workshops for beginners and advanced quillers to galleries, museums and to local groups.

I do not remember a time when quilling was not a part of my life. My parents started a business selling quilling supplies around the time that I was born and they were founder members of the ‘Quilling Guild’. I have been a member of the Quilling Guild’s committee since 2008, and now I am in the position of Chair Person. My work for the Quilling Guild is also on a voluntary basis. In 2014 I was awarded a Fellowship by the Quilling Guild.

I always wanted to be a painter and I studied for my degree in Fine Art (painting) at Norwich School of Art, graduating in 2002. My paintings explore the way we shape the landscape that we live in. I take inspiration from the subtle incongruity between the natural and the unnatural elements, as well as the more noticeable order and disorder found in our modern landscape. My paintings often include ambiguous elements, or images from different sources, assembled like a collage. This not only emphasises the physically confused spaces which I find so intriguing, but also the confusion that I feel when I question the landscape’s beauty and the ethical responsibility of mankind, who is forever manipulating it.

In 2013 I won the Valeria Sykes award for a painting called ‘Geograph Collage with Paperclips’ which had been selected for the New Lights Art Prize Exhibition, showcasing young British artists from the north of England. The award gave me the funding to visit Xiamen for an artists residency in 2014. This opportunity had a huge impact on my artistic practice and of course the award raised my profile as an artist.

2. ?????????????,????????????????????
As an artist and quilling designer, how do you understand paper as media in your art work and quilling?

Paper is a wonderful invention. It is no wonder that artists like to use it for both 2D and 3D work. It is incredibly versatile. As a quiller I am only concerned with paper strips, which are rolled, looped and manipulated. My focus has never been on paper folding, modelling, sculpting etc. It takes time to learn how paper behaves. When I teach my students I describe paper as ‘having a memory.’ By this I mean that when you manipulate it, it remembers what you did, and will stay in that position, more or less, depending on how long hold it there. As you manipulate paper, you break down its fibres and so the paper changes. This has advantages and disadvantages, depending on what you are trying to make. The weight of the paper is also important and this relates to what you want to do with it and the size of the artwork that you are making.

When I came to China last year I began to work with paper and ink and I have continued working with this medium since returning to the UK. It was only then that I started thinking about combining painting and quilling techniques. I had never found a way for the two to fit together until then. Painting on paper is a completely different experience from painting on canvas. I feel like I am only just beginning to discover how paper behaves with paint and ink and I am now beginning to see how these techniques can be used, together with paper manipulation.

3. ???????
What is quilling?

Quilling, also known as ‘paper filigree’, is the art of rolling and manipulating narrow strips of paper and then shaping them to make the most exquisite designs. Projects can range from simple cards to pictures, jewellery, three-dimensional models or the decoration of boxes.

Paper-rolling, paper-scrolling, filigree, mosaic and quilling are all names which have been given to this art during its long history. Examples of historic quilling can be found from the 16th and 17th Century (1500s and 1600s), when nuns on the continent were known to made reliquaries and holy pictures from quilling, adding gilding and much adornment. When gilded or silvered, it was difficult to distinguish it from real gold or silver filigree work. Qulling was then adopted by the upper class gentile ladies, who were known to make quilled pictures and cover tea caddies and furniture in quilling. Examples from the 17th and 18th century can be found in museums and galleries across the UK.

In 1983 a group of quillers, who wanted to revive quilling and pass on its heritage, formed The Quilling Guild. The Quilling Guild is a charity which exists to encourage, support, preserve and publicise the art of Quilling. The work of the Quilling Guild includes a yearly convention with displays and competitions. There are now quilling organisations all over the world and the Quilling Guild has many members from countries including North America, Holland, Germany, UAE, Jordan, Japan, Brazil, India and Australia.

4. ???????????????????????????????
When you talk quilling, people think it is practical and decorative, do you think it can be related to contemporary art and design?

In the past, Quilling has been used purely for decoration and is still considered a ‘handicraft’, a craft for people to do for pleasure or relaxation. Many handicrafts are quite repetitive and designs are often copied rather than new designs created. For quilling this can also be the case, but from history, right through to the present, there have been quillers who aspire to create elaborate works displaying highly developed skills and innovative designs. There are examples of contemporary designers making inspirational graphic work inspired by quilling. My favourite is Julia Brodskaya .

In terms of contemporary fine art, there are many examples of artists who have used quilling techniques to create artworks. Sometimes the boundaries between what is considered to be ‘craft’ and what is ‘fine art’ are blurred and for quilling this is no exception. The idea of quilling as a ‘handicraft’ can hinder the viewer’s perception of it. Of course, whether an artwork is good or not is always a matter of opinion and a question of taste. Personally, when I look at fine art or craft, I am interested in the originality of the idea or design and the skill displayed in the use of the materials. In many cases the amount of time it has taken to make an artwork is also a factor, but I believe very strongly that in contemporary art and design, the time taken to construct the art cannot stand alone as a factor for deciding how much value it has. In contemporary art and design, ideas, originality and refinement are everything.

Although there are some incredible examples of artists who have taken inspiration from quilling techniques, I believe that the potential for creating artworks using quilling has still not yet been fully explored. On one hand this is a shame and on another it is incredibly exciting for artists and designers to consider.

5. ????????????
Could you brief us on what is your recent project?

The focus of my work as a quiller is on the heritage of quilling, but at the same time pushing the boundaries to discover new ways of creating art and design using quilling techniques. My interest in the heritage of quilling is displayed in my commitment to using the traditional techniques that were used in historic quilling and in ensuring that the application of these techniques is of high quality, no matter what I make.

My favourite quilllngs are the ones that surprise and intrigue the viewer. I have made a three dimensional bird from quilling and I always enjoy telling people that it is made completely of paper strips and glue, nothing else. Some people can’t seem to believe it. I also like the idea of making functional things from quilling. I have made jewellery, bowls and a lampshade for instance. I believe that people connect with functional objects in a different way form purely decorative items.

More recently I’ve enjoyed the process of experimenting, more than making finished items. I believe that, if you want to really push the boundaries with a craft like quilling, then you must keep experimenting with it in different ways. Many of the things you try will not work out, but it will really pay off if you hit on a unique idea that no one has seen before. I can spend hours working on something that amounts to nothing, but something that I have discovered with art, is that you must take risks if you really want to achieve something. One great artwork is worth a million mediocre artworks.

In my recent experimental work I have tried painting on large paper strips with ink and then rolling them in order to allow the painting to stand up of its own accord and sometimes become a three dimensional picture with layers created through the rolling of the paper. I have tried burning the paper and then rolling it and also modelling a bowl and then using sand paper to sculpt it. I have even made some stop motion animations with quilling.

I also try experimenting with quilling techniques on a larger scale. I like the idea that everything I make has the potential to also be made much bigger, but working bigger has its constraints, as the paper weight must change in relation to how big you work, but then your hands may not be enough to manipulate it in the same way as when you work small.

For the C Platform Exchange I want to deliver workshops that pass on the heritage or quilling and then give the participants the freedom to use the techniques they have learnt to try anything at all, within the boundaries of quilling. As with my own practice, these trails might not result in finished artworks or objects, but will inspire the participants to continue to experiment and develop their ideas after the workshop. Once you learn how to quill, all you need to be able to continue is paper and glue.

The work that is made in the workshops will be exhibited at C Platform as an installation.