Griffin Carrick makes wall hangings, collages, vessels, paper tapestries, and giant “doilies,” among other things.
What do you do when you work from home, have three small children to care for, and your husband is deployed overseas? For Griffin Carrick, the answer was “take up quilling,” but with a denim twist.
What is Quilling?
Quilling is the art of coiling and shaping strips of paper, then gluing them in place to create intricate designs. Paper quilling has been around for centuries, possibly since the invention of paper. Originally, strips of paper were rolled around goose quills, giving the craft its name. Along with painting and needlework, it was considered an appropriate craft for ladies.
Today quilling is for everyone and you can purchase pre-cut strips of paper in many colors, special quilling rulers to help with shaping, slotted quilling tools, and templates to guide your designs.
Modern quilling designs are most often attached to a paper backing to offer a degree of stability. You’ll see quilling made into cards or picture frames, or as framed artwork. The craft is accessible to all ages, but the possibilities for creativity are vast. Quilled projects can be small and simple, or large and complex.
A New Type of Quilling
Griffin remembered quilling in third grade, and thought it sounded like a creative hobby she could fit into her life. With degrees in architectural studies and interior design, and having worked as an interior designer, she already had the skills for seeing things artistically. Once she learned the basics, it wasn’t long before she started experimenting with materials and designs beyond the typical shapes and floral greeting cards.
The Illinois native loves weaving and macrame and takes her inspiration from “fabric people.” She sees her work as more like tapestry than as paper art. She makes wall hangings, collages, vessels, paper tapestries, and giant “doilies,” among other things.
She will often sketch out ideas in a notebook, with general elements drawn in. On a particularly detailed piece she may draw a template and put it under wax paper to use as a guide. Often she simply works freehand, with a general idea of where each element will go.
Her work is beautiful and unique, which helped her become a finalist in the Etsy Design Awards 2019 in the home décor category.
Fighting the Elements
Despite the apparent transitory nature of paper, the artist’s intent is that her work “will be around for a while.” Much of Griffin’s art is three-dimensional, having its own structure and not relying on a paper backing. Because the quilling has to provide the framework, she uses cardstock rather than the typical lighter-weight quilling paper. She uses a paper shredder to cut paper into ¼” widths, but hand-cuts other dimensions as needed. Acid-free paper helps with colorfastness.
When creating a piece that will be affected by gravity, like a mobile or tapestry, she may hang it for a few days to see if it requires extra strengthening. She points out something that fiber artists already know: pieces behave differently on the vertical compared to the horizontal.
Left/top: Doily. Right/bottom: Wall Hanging. On detailed pieces Griffin sometimes draws a template and puts it under wax paper to use as a guide.
When Carrick found that paper was not durable enough for some of the wall hangings she wanted to create, she started adding fabric, specifically denim. She stiffens denim and uses it like paper strips, often combining the fabric with paper. Her series of items combining recycled and deconstructed jeans together with the pages of vintage yearbooks is a perfect example of upcycled art.
Family Life with Paper Quilling
You might wonder how something as seeming delicate as paper sculpture fits into a lifestyle with children underfoot. Griffin stresses that kids should be given more credit. They can understand that some things are delicate or off-limits. Yes, sometimes things break, but that’s just life.
Griffin’s quilling studio is on the first floor near the family’s kitchen and living space, making it easy for her to step away to take care of family needs. She uses a quick-drying glue so that she can work quickly and efficiently when she has snippet of time. Fortunately, quilling allows for lots of starts and stops without detriment. And when the children are in school or preschool, she works “heads down” for a few hours.
“Sunset on the Lake”. Much of Griffin’s art is three-dimensional so she’ll use cardstock to provide more structure.
When questioned about whether her designs are more “art” or business product, Griffin’s answer is measured. “People don’t know how this fits into their home,” she says. She is trying to figure out how to present her work and how best to sell it. Having recently moved from North Carolina to Illinois, she is looking for new opportunities to exhibit and sell in her new community.
How much time does she spend on a design? Time spent sketching ideas and thinking about designs, along with the necessity to interrupt work to take care of family makes it hard to track actual production hours.
The uniqueness of her technique—so many larger-scale abstract, three-dimensional items—means that there are not a lot of peers to offer insight, support and camaraderie. She does belong to an artist critique group, but admits that she mostly does her own thing, without a lot of external influence.
Currently Griffin only sells through her Etsy store. Although she has ready-made pieces available for sale, she also takes commissions. She will work with clients by providing sketches and mock-ups, agreeing on a design, before beginning the hands-on work. She would like to see her paper art in large commercial spaces like hotel lobbies, pulling on her interior design background.
And how does one ship fragile artwork made of thin paper and fabric strips? With more paper! Griffin says she uses “lots of cardboard” to hold the art snugly in place. Each piece has its own custom-made box for shipping.
For the ten years that Griffin’s husband was deployed in the US military, quilling has served as her creative relaxation when the kids were in bed. Now that the family has moved to a new community and her husband has retired from the military, it looks like the future is bright for Griffin Carrick Designs.
Want to Learn More?
If quilling intrigues you, visit Griffin’s website, as well as the work of other quilling artists like Cecelia Louis of Paper Zen and Ann Martin of All Things Paper.
Edie Eckman is a knit and crochet freelance everything: author, designer, teacher, blogger and technical editor. With over 25 years in the yarn industry, she has done everything from owning a yarn shop, to teaching how to teach, to technical drawing for designers. Find her at edieeckman.com and on social media as @edieeckman.