Meeta Bhalotia expresses her creativity with a needle and thin strips of paper. Her ‘quilled’ artwork has many takers

All it takes is a needle, a thin paper strip, some patience and imagination. Wrap a strip around a needle tightly and then let it uncoil gently. Pinch one side into a sharp corner and you’ve shaped a teardrop, or a petal. Tweak the opposite end and you’ve got an eye, or a leaf. Put a few petals and a leaf together with glue and there’s your first quilled flower! That’s how Meeta Bhalotia took off five years ago into the world of quilling. In July 2012, she began a small enterprise that sold her handcrafted work — The Quill Mill.

With its first birthday just gone by, and over 25 different products in its kitty, Meeta says it all began with an aunt who took a few quilling classes for her. Blessed with a creative bent of mind and experienced in oil paintings and murals, Meeta picked up the skill quickly and began her own quilling experiments. Her mother Bina Nevatia and daughter Maansa picked up the art too. Together, they’d make motifs of animals or recreate scenes of people, nature and landscapes. “We decided to take the hobby to others when a few friends and relatives requested us to make rakhis for Raksha Bandhan last year,” says Meeta.

Today, their creations range from stationery and accessories to home decor. There are pencils, gift tags, paper clips and bookmarks which start at Rs. 30 to elaborate photo frames, lamp shades, candle stands, tea lights, wall hangings and clocks. Their most recent wall clock, priced at Rs. 3,000, features a jungle with quilled monkeys jumping over each other, frogs and snails by a pond and butterflies floating by. “We also create accessories such as pendants, earrings, necklaces and bracelets. People often send us pictures of their outfits and we design to match those,” says Bina. There’s even a wristwatch with its 1cm space around the dial brimming with quilled flowers and leaves.

Resurgence of quilling

World-over, there’s a resurgence in the art of quilling believes Meeta. “Just about a year ago, I couldn’t find the paper and needles that we needed in Kochi. We used to buy them online,” she says. While the materials for basic quilling — sheaves of paper strips, needles and glue — are available now in craft stores in the city, the finer quality of paper with a wider colour palette are not locally found yet, says Meeta. “There’s enough to start you off, but not for professional work.”

Quilling techniques vary from basic to advanced. For example, there are ‘fringe’ flowers with two and three layers of quilled strips giving a risen 3D effect and there are ‘husking’ flowers that resemble knotted buds. Once created, they are polished over with varnish for longer durability and better shine. Meeta also conducts workshops where five-year-old children have learnt the craft with their 60-year-old grandparents.

Says Meeta “We want every participant to take back a finished product at the workshop’s close, so we start with the most basic shapes. Once your hands get used to moulding the paper, you can graduate to more complicated, intricate methods. But at its core, quilling is about beginning with an idea and then letting your creativity express itself through yours hands. Then, anything can be made beautiful.”

Find The Quill Mill at thequillmillcrafts@gmail.com or at www.facebook.com/TheQuillMill