Tuesday 22 November 2011

A time-honoured approach to modern quilling

In the late 19th century, English 'ladies of leisure' could purchase quilling supplies in the form of a commercially-produced kit called 'Mosaicon'.  The techniques they used to decorate boxes, frames and menu cards were first described in a book published by William Bemrose in 1882, which undoubtedly laid the foundations for the practice of modern quilling.

I have yet to see a copy of Bemrose's book, but I have been able to obtain a transcript of an article entitled 'Floral Mosaicon' which appeared in 'Every Woman's Encyclopaedia' sometime between 1910 and 1912. In it, many applications and methods for quilling are described - and I believe they have as much relevance today as they did for filigree artists in the early 20th century.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, Mosaicon favoured the use of ring coils in preference to closed loose coils, but these were pressed into all the familiar shapes we know today: teardrops, eye shapes, leaves, hearts etc etc. Open scrolls were widely utilised, and huskings too. In fact, practitioners of Mosaicon used a wide variety of techniques to produce absolute masterpieces of floral filigree.

I've decided to go back through time and revisit some of the quilling methods described in the 'Floral Mosaicon' article, as I'm sure that many of them are just as relevant today as they were 100 years ago.

Here's the first piece of advice that I picked up:

"When the groundwork employed is in gold, flowers, leaves and stalks should be made in colours, and vice versa; when the groundwork is plain, flowers, etc., should be made either in gold or colours."

Groundwork in gold ... well, that sounded attractive! I've got some beautiful gold gift wrap paper in my stock, so I punched a piece out in a scallop shape and glued it on to a matching cut-out base of card. (Actually, I made the base by punching out two matching scallop shapes from ordinary card stock and gluing them together. By the time the gold paper was glued on to the front, the resulting base was quite rigid - plenty strong enough to affix a pin and make this creation into a brooch.)

After coating the gold paper with a layer of PVA glue to make it shiny, I added some simple quilling with petals for the flower-head fashioned in the time-honoured manner using ring coils.

I brushed PVA around the edges of the quilling, and then sprayed the whole thing with clear lacquer to ensure that my brooch would be waterproof. Here's the end result:

While making this, I felt very 'connected' to earlier generations of quillers who expressed their creativity through the techniques of Mosaicon.

Reading through the 'Floral Mosaicon' article, I came across one particular paragraph which so closely echoes my own philosophy of quilling that I might almost have written it myself: "... anyone of an artistic temperament can think out new designs. Indeed, the work itself constantly suggests new ideas." I couldn't agree more! So let's all celebrate our amazing quilling heritage!


  1. this is a very interesting and informative post! I feel like reading 'literature review'.

  2. enjoyed the information, and again you've made a very nice piece, love it !!

  3. Very pretty brooch! Interesting to hear the history of Mosaicon and the popularity of ring coils back in the day. Another look I like is gold on gold which gives a sense of metalwork.

  4. What great advice! Love all the places you bring us with your quilling! Hugs, antonella :-)

  5. Very interesting. that last quote from the article does seem to suit you to a t. Your brooch is lovely too

  6. So very informative post and lovely quilling

  7. Thanks for a glimpse in the history of quilling! Love the brooch, is so simple and elegant!

  8. Great post, Philippa! Lovely brooch -- I really like the vase. I'm sure we would all very much like to learn more about the article. Keep the info coming.

    Take care,



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