Enchanting Silver Quilling by Astari G. Swatantri

I have long admired quilling, but I had never tried this wonderful form of art before until I had an opportunity to participate in the Silver Quilling Certification training at the Art Clay Headquarters in Japan, I had zero expectations. I was so lucky to have Ms. Motoko Maggie Nakatani, a renowned quilling artist, as my teacher. She was also the curriculum supervisor of the certification program. (Top Image: Astari’s award winning piece from the Silver Accessories Contest: “DoPositive” combines many metal clay techniques including silver quilling. Click image to enlarge.)

Quilling is a technique to manipulate strips of paper. We can create a paper element by rolling a paper strip into a coil, then securing its end with glue and shaping it further using fingers. An arrangement of elements can form a simple or intricate pattern to create objects like jewelry and mini figures, as well as to adorn surfaces on items such as boxes and frames. Another name for quilling is ‘paper filigree’, pretty obvious as its look resembles the traditional metal filigree work.

There is not clear information when exactly the art of quilling started. However, some of the earliest quilling works came from Renaissance period. Using the leftover of gilded paper of books, the nuns and monks in monasteries in Italy and France created quilling art which adorned books and religious items of sacred art pieces. (Image: Quilled Reliquary from the end of the 18th century.)

Then, in the 18th century, quilling became the activity of the royal and higher class ladies. The range of works varied from a small tea caddy to a large cabinet. Different objects were intentionally created with quilling in mind, for example, a wooden container with decreased surfaces to glue the quilling elements on. Quilling art can appear on its own, or in combination with another form of art such as embroidery work.

A quill was used in rolling the paper strips in the past

It’s said that in the past they used the tip of a quill to roll the paper strips, hence the name. You can indeed use a simple pin to quill, but the best tool would be a slotted tool, which can ‘lock’ the end of the paper strip while rolling. Nowadays, the slotted quilling tool and other quilling supplies are widely available for fairly economical prices. Quilling is very relaxing to do. With limitless design possibilities and charming appearance, it’s not a wonder quilling is such a popular activity.

To start quilling, you only need a few tools.

Quilling paper is readily available in different width (2.5 mm is what I’ve been using), you need a slotted quilling tool, tweezers and scissors. There are the additional tools to make quilling easier and more fun, such as different templates, designing boards, and paper crimpers.

201611-svva-silver-quilling-tools The basic tools for quilling: a pair of scissors, slotted quilling tool and tweezers. A circle template is handy for making consistent size of quilling elements.

At first sight, a quilling work could look so complicated, and it’s difficult to figure out how to start. However, as I mentioned earlier, a quilling work consists of quilling elements. Some of the basic shapes are Tight Circle, Loose circle, Teardrop, Marquise, Open heart and V-scroll.


Some of the basic shapes of quilling elements.

It’s quite simple to quill. Here I show you how to create an open heart. First, fold a paper strip into two. Then, insert one end of the strip to the slotted tool, quill, take it off and do the same to the other end. Voila! A quilled open heart is ready. You can create exciting compositions by combining just one shape or several shapes.


Simple steps to create an open-heart paper quilling element.

Now let’s move on to Silver Quilling.

Art Clay Silver released the new Long version of paper clay. With this 20x4cm rectangular shape, paper clay can be cut into long thin strips which are perfect for quilling.

The beginning steps of Silver Quilling are similar to regular paper quilling. The silver clay paper can be cut into strips of 2-3mm width using a craft knife and a ruler. Silver clay paper, however, has a very different nature than regular paper. The Art Clay Silver Quilling Certification program focuses on the specific techniques to quill silver clay paper, as well as combining it with regular silver clay type.


Create silver clay strips by cutting the paper clay with a craft knife. Each strip could be quilled using a slotted quilling tool.

The firing of Art Clay Silver Paper quilled elements takes place in a kiln. One firing schedule that can be used is from room temperature to 800°C (1472°F), then hold for 30 minutes. Fired and cooled off pieces can be adjusted by gently reshaping them using a pair of tweezers. The pieces can then be joined with Art Clay Silver Paste New Type. Using the new paste type is required, as it’s specially formulated to join fired pieces. After firing accordingly, the pieces can be polished. The fastest and perhaps best way to polish such intricate and delicate pieces is using a magnetic tumbler.


Each of these sweet butterfly earrings is made by combining two open-heart elements.

I love the look of silver quilling jewelry. They are pretty, delicate, and unique. While filigree jewelry and paper quilling jewelry are quite common, silver quilling jewelry is a rare beauty.


‘Leaves’ Earrings. I’ve created these several times; they make such special gifts!

I have been teaching Art Clay Silver Quilling at my studio and as a guest teacher. Each time, I hear how the participants were pleasantly surprised with this technique. Almost everyone hasn’t done any quilling, yet they created beautiful silver quilling pieces and enjoyed doing it! Silver Quilling is a wonderful metal clay technique, and I recommend any metal clay artists to get to know it.


Fantastic results by my students.