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Photo provided by Laura Peeke.

Paper & Peeke to pique your interest

By Kenneth Ingram on July 10, 2018

Twisting strips of paper on a long road to perfection: an introduction to 2-D and 3-D paper quilling

Laura Peeke at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Photo by Ken Ingram.

The mere thought of paper tends to evoke stale images of work but imagine the possibilities when you apply purposeful design, colour, and some glue.

“I just wanted to try something new,” says Laura Peeke, who was recently featured on local radio when listeners called in to share their interesting hobbies. She was one of the few who go through and explained her passion on the airwaves for paper quilling, a process of coiling and shaping strips of paper with glue.

“People actually pay for [your miniature paper figures]?” teased the radio host, who quickly changed his tune after viewing her Instagram account, peekeyourinterest.

Apt613 met up with Laura at the newly renovated National Arts Centre where she brought a few examples from her intricate paper portfolio collection. Each one stands less than 4-inches tall and includes a variety of paper storks, animals, wedding cake toppers, Christmas ornaments, sports-inspired figures, 2-D cards, and a few commissioned designs such as a miniature pet memorial—ordered by a woman in Ottawa who wants a novel way to remember her beloved cat and dog.

“She sent me photos and I asked her [details, like] what the colour of the dog’s collar was, and what his favourite toy was. It was a monkey,” Laura says while holding the two delicate figures.

Commissioned piece by Laura Peeke, inspired by a beloved dog and cat. Photo by Ken Ingram.

With previous experience in stop-motion animation and claymation, Laura took graphic design in Edmonton at Grant MacEwan University and returned home to Ottawa where she works as a digital operator at a printing company.

Noting that the art of paper quilling is hundreds of years old, Laura tried it for the first time in 2015 and continues to improve her technique on a part-time basis after being inspired by designs she viewed online by Yulia Brodskaya.

“She blows me away,” says Laura, emphatically.

Laura is inspired by Yulia Brodskaya who has created paper portraits. Photos contributed.

Russian-born and now based in the UK, Yulia, 35, has yet to visit Canada (but says she hopes to soon) and was contacted by Apt613 via Facebook.

“The first quilling artwork I made was my name,” she explains, noting that commissioned work about ten years ago for The Guardian newspaper garnered her international recognition and led to roughly 300 projects to date for a variety of major clients such as Starbucks, The New York Times Magazine, Paramount Pictures, 2016 ’Love’ stamp for the United States Postal Service, and others.

Yulia recently finished a stunning paper portrait collection inspired by older people and notes that her main advice to others is to experiment with paper and techniques as much as possible.

“There is no need to limit your creativity to traditional methods, just have fun trying out new ideas,” Yulia explains.

Showing that there’s no limit to creativity, technique, or inspiration, Laura holds a framed 2-D portrait of her father that she made with strips of paper.

“I do have a big nose,” he father says, speaking up after patiently sitting from afar during our interview and injecting some more humour. While undoubtedly painstaking, the task of creating these paper figurines is time consuming but Laura is enthusiastic and repeatedly insists it’s fun.

Laura Peeke holds a portrait she created of her father. Photo by Ken Ingram.

Her personal favourite (so far) is a miniature of Vincent that took about 26 hours to complete and was inspired by Tim Burton’s 1982 short animation.

Etsy and other online resources are filled with examples for inspiration or for purchase. And while some items may seem pricey, Laura notes that one figure can take hours to create.

“I don’t think people realize how long it can take,” she says, noting that the average design can take six or seven hours to complete depending on the level of detail.

For her, it’s worth it.

“People love my work,” she says, smiling proudly. “It makes them smile and I appreciate that.”

Laura Peeke can be found infrequently at local craft fairs in Ottawa and may be teaching quilling classes in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, you can contact her via Facebook and Instagram.