Siana Kelly has always enjoyed working with her hands.
The Sulphurous Lake fibre artist has been knitting, crocheting, sewing and weaving for most of her life. Seeing what she can make with her own two hands is amazing, Kelly said.
“It’s amazing what you can create with your hands using your imagination or just by looking at nature. I find that challenging, so I continue to do it because I have to have a challenge,” Kelly said. “When I moved up here (in 2007) that’s when I really excelled in my crafting.”
Kelly said she is always looking for new forms of artwork to challenge herself. Over the last several months her new passion has been quilling.
Quilling is an art form where the artist takes small pieces of coloured paper and twists, rolls and cuts them into the desired images. Once that is done the paper is glued to a canvas, creating a unique and colourful 3-D image.
Kelly said there is evidence that quilling is thousands of years old, with similar works found in Egypt. Modern quilling, however, likely finds its roots in Medieval techniques to create jewelry, where strands of precious metal were used rather than paper. Its name derives from early practitioners using quills to shape the metal and paper.
She was inspired to take up the craft this past winter after her husband, local graphite artist Bryan Austerberry, got her some cards with quilling on them for Christmas. The unique design hooked her immediately.
“You can be quite creative with quilling,” Kelly said. “You can make any type of design. You can make flowers, animals, people, there’s no limit. You can just form the paper into the different shapes you want to do. It’s really interesting.”
Because no one else in the community does this kind of artwork, Kelly is completely self-taught. Using YouTube videos and trial and error, she has spent the last several months learning her new craft.
Using a fine point needle to curl and roll 1/8- and 1/16-inch-wide strips of paper, Kelly spends hours carefully positioning each piece of paper in its place with tweezers and glue. Using references, she creates a picture in her head, then sets out to turn it into reality.
“It takes hours to create pictures but it’s satisfying in the end,” Kelly remarked. “I’m always trying to improve and every piece I try to improve (from the last).”
As she works, Kelly is always thinking about the next piece she can make, which further fuels her artwork. One of her favourite pieces is a picture of a white owl that took around 190 hours from start to finish. Big, complicated pieces take time to make, but always look incredible when completed.
“The smaller pieces can take me 20 to 35 hours, but the bigger pieces are more time-consuming. I usually sit and quill (starting) at 9 a.m. and I’ll take a couple of breaks throughout the day, but I quill until about 4:30 p.m.,” Kelly said. “Brian will come down because he’s upstairs doing his artwork and ask ‘What’s for dinner?’ Then I realize how much time I’ve spent quilling.”
This year Kelly is showing off her artwork at the South Cariboo Farmers’ Market every Friday. Typically she’s had a booth at the Loon Bay Craft Market, but explained her quilling pieces need to be kept inside.
She has enjoyed being in the heart of 100 Mile House this summer, noting her booth is always a conversation piece for market-goers.
“I’m always surprised when someone compliments me because artists, we never think our work is worth very much,” Kelly said. “I enjoy explaining to them what the process of quilling is because they can’t believe it’s just paper. I like that people are interested, because quilling is an art that should be carried on.
“If all I do is inspire people to take up the craft, that’s a bonus.”