Huong Nguyen Wolf at NY NOW
Huong Nguyen Wolf, co-founder with husband Raphael Wolf of three-dimensional greeting cards supplier Quilling Card, is demonstrating the five-year-old Framingham, Mass. company’s “Don’t just send a card, send art!” motto in the Handmade Global Design section of the winter NY NOW home/lifestyle/gift market trade show at New York’s Javits Center.
Wolf is quilling, or rolling, coiling and shaping thin strips of colored paper in creating patterns and designs for cards—a practice, she explains while working on a 2 ½ x 3 ½ sunflower card, that dates back to ancient Egypt.
She starts with a long 1/16-inch brown strip, which she coils tightly via a needle-like “quilling pen,“ then “relaxes” it in forming the flower’s comparatively large center. She does the same--but with shorter yellow strips--for the small surrounding petals, which she shapes with tweezers by squeezing them into the desired shape; the slightly larger green stem leaves are likewise fashioned using her fingers, with all the coiled parts glued flat to a backing card.
As the sign beneath her work station says, “Quilling brings me a sense of mindfulness and state of tranquility.”
Quilling—which takes its name from the bird feathers that were used for coiling the paper--came to Europe when monks and nuns rolled gold-gilded paper remnants trimmed during bookmaking to decorate religious objects instead of using expensive gold filigree. More recently it became popular among European ladies, who employed it in decorating household items.
The Pilgrims brought quilling to America, and it’s still practiced worldwide.
“The French brought it to Vietnam,” says Wolf, who is a native of Ho Chi Minh City and previously worked in marketing throughout Southeast Asia and the U.S. for large corporations including Unilever and L’Oreal. While Quilling Card’s business operations and design development are in Framingham, the cards themselves are manufactured in three workshops in Ho Chi Minh City that employ over 400 local artisans—only four of whom are men.
“We’ve trained a lot of them, but they couldn’t stay with the job,” says Wolf, adding, though, that the four who persevered are as good as they get. She also notes that she’s not the best quiller herself, that hearing-impaired women in Vietnam are tops.
Wolf also says that it takes her 15-20 minutes to create a small card, an hour or so for a larger one. And while quilling is traditionally a manual art, Quilling Cards has invented a battery-operated tool for increased speed and efficiency.
The company, which has won four prestigious Louie Awards from the Greeting Card Association, also has eight Create-a-Quill DIY Kits available, each containing cards and envelopes, templates, tools, and enough paper strips to allow for learning—as well as access to online tutorial videos.