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The Origins of Paper Filigree

Jun 22, 2008
No one really knows when or where paper filigree actually started. However, it is believed that it did develop very soon after paper was invented. Since precious metals were used to create ornate ironworks and latticework, the art of rolling paper was intended to replicate the same designs in a simpler and smaller fashion. Because paper does not age very well and can be destroyed when it gets wet, there are not very many surviving examples of filigree designs from paper.

The belief that this art form originated in religious institutions, such as monasteries and convents, is quite possible. These institutions were considered to be places of learning and scholars. The people spent a lot of their time preparing religious books with gilded edges. They them trimmed these edges so that the pages of the book were uniform. Instead of throwing way the scraps of strips of gilded paper, they rolled the paper and created designs to decorate the covers of the books.

Filigree with paper, also called paper quilling, can easily be created to look like intricate gold or ivory carvings. When you look at pictures of book covers from the 19th and 20th centuries, you will see examples of this craft. It was at this time that the art work moved beyond religious uses, such as to decorate boxes. Some of the finishing schools for girls taught this craft as one of the subjects in the curriculum. During the Victorian era, it was quite common for daughters and wives of wealthy households spent their leisure time rolling paper to make various designs, usually flowers. No matter where they were they always had a quilling tool because they had hatpins they could use.

The examples of paper done during the 19th century were used to decorate wall sconces, tea caddies, and cribbage boards. They were also used to decorate family crests so that they had borders, flowers in the corners. At this time, this craft was known as paper mosaic and mosaicon. When colonists moved to America, they brought this pastime with them and used the strips of paper to add decorative touches to items in their homes. It was at this time it became known as quilling because the tool used was a goose quill. Some of the colonial women used porcupine quills.

In the 18th century, the practice of rolling paper was looked upon as a waste of time and many thought that young ladies would be better off learning how to run a household. The practice faded in favor of embroidery. It was not until the 21st century that the interest in paper quilling once again became popular with the interest in decorating pages used in creating scrapbooks. Although you can buy the paper decorations already made, many scrapbookers want to make every part of the scrapbook pages themselves.

Paper quilling is time consuming, but the results you produce from such an activity are well worth the effort. You can decorate invitations and cards in all kinds of flowers and designs reflecting the elements of nature such as animals. There are basic shapes involved in quilling and by using variations of these techniques, you can make many others.
About the Author
For more information on paper filigree, instructions on how to paper quill and lots of quilling techniques visit http://www.MyPaperQuilling.com
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