Bold and inspiring, artist Yulia Brodskaya has made a name for herself with her creative and colorful paper quilling. Yulia, who originally began as a graphic artist, works with paper as her medium, bending thin strips to create elaborate and architectural designs. Her work has earned attention for major art institutions and brands alike.
We spoke with Yulia to learn more about her creative process and how she’s made a traditional technique fresh and modern.
What initially about paper compelled you to work with it as your primary material?
I’ve always had a special fascination for paper, but it used to be more of a side hobby that I enjoyed in-between graphic design studies and digital projects.
I started to use this edge-glued paper technique about 7 years ago. I don’t always call it quilling because I have actually discovered a new way of using the basic technique – as if I’m drawing with paper instead of on it, as opposed to traditional quilling which is confined by basic shapes.
To quote a few others, I’ve made quilling “more cool and modern” to give an old craft technique new life. It’s been interesting to see it become much more popular after my experiments.
What was your first piece?
The first such paper artwork that I made was my name ‘Yulia’ – I wanted to make a little promotional brochure with my hand-drawn and digital illustrations and was looking for an eye-catching way to illustrate my name for the cover. Somehow I remembered this method of edge-gluing strips of paper and just used it to make the letters. Switching to hand-made paper art was like going home for me, it just instantly felt right, and I knew I was on to something that I will enjoy for years to come.
You’ve worked with a variety of corporate clients (Hermes, Starbucks, NYT Magazine, etc.) What are some of the greatest challenges and rewards when working on brand collaborations?
The common challenge with commissioned pieces is meeting deadlines. It is quite different from any personal project when you can take your time with a piece. Certain briefs might require multiple rounds of approval, and it can be hard when an initial idea or concept you strongly believe in gets rejected by a client for one reason or another. However, any of these minor challenges do not compare with the rewarding experience of seeing your work out there, and getting positive feedback from clients and public alike.
How has your past experience and training as a graphic artist/illustrator shaped your current work?
I think my interest in typography comes from my graphic design background; I always wanted to ‘illustrate letters’ – that’s what I started to do with paper and the vast majority of my commercial and commissioned works incorporate lettering.
Where do you search for inspiration when creating new works?
I constantly look through various photographs, artworks, designs and keep an archive of all the images that catch my eye for one reason or another. When stuck and looking for inspiration, I go back to my visual library (or search online if the piece is something completely new that I’m researching). It works every single time. The motifs that inspire me most are flowers, tropical fish, animals, typography, and faces of older people.
What is something you’re working on now that you’re particularly excited about?
At the moment I’m working on one of the pieces from a self-initiated series of elderly portraits. My personal interest is in the aspect of approaching death. I’m fascinated by it. It worries me, and I have really strong mixed feelings that make me look through photographs of old people in a search for inspiration for this project – I’m looking for unusual ways of depicting an aged person e.g. showcasing a person through his/her interests, or an item dear to the person or a situation. The edge-glued paper strips technique is really good for depicting the wrinkles, so it is a bonus.
So how long does each piece take?
I’m often asked how long it takes. These paper artworks can take from a couple of days to a couple of weeks – it all depends on the level of detail and design complexity; there are really no short-cuts – if you want to create something beautiful and intricate you have to spend long hours working on an art piece.