I met Zainab baji when she was friends with my big sister in middle school (I was in elementary school). I remember her being this super quiet, but super witty, and a sweet friend. My earliest memories of her include having water fights with her after school under the hot, hot Islamabad sun and playing with her childhood dollhouse in her room. A couple of decades later we reconnected via Facebook (love Facebook!) and got caught up with each other’s lives. I learned that she had two kids and is currently living in Bahrain and she learned that I grew up to be a not-so-annoying-anymore woman (lol just kidding). I also discovered her love and talent in quilling. She made absolutely stunning quilled projects while her youngest was in infancy. So I proposed something. I “timidly” suggested she make me some earrings or jewelry and I will buy it. A few months after that conversation, she ended up with her home business and I ended up with 3 quilled earrings and a pendant set from Zainab’s Quilled Creations.
Being a great little friend-sister I am, I thought I dedicate today’s post on quilling and to her business. So here goes:
What is it?
Quilling or paper filigree is an art form that involves the use of strips of paper rolled, shaped, and glued together to create decorative designs. The paper is rolled, looped, curled, twisted and manipulated to decorate greetings cards, pictures, boxes, eggs, and to make models, jewelry, mobiles etc. There are advanced techniques and different sized paper that are used to create 3D shapes, miniatures, abstract art, and quilled flowers among many things.
What is its history?
During the Renaissance, French and Italians nuns and monks used quilling to decorate book covers and religious items. The paper most commonly used was strips of paper trimmed from the gilded edges of books. These gilded paper strips were then rolled to create the quilled shapes.
In the 18th century, quilling became popular in Europe where gentle ladies of quality (“ladies of leisure”) practiced the art. It was one of the few things ladies could do that was thought not too taxing for their minds or gentle dispositions. Lol. Quilling also spread to the Americas during the colonial times.
Many quilled art works can be found on cabinets and stands, cribbage boards, ladies’ purses, a wide range of both pictures and frames, work baskets, tea caddies, coats of arms and wine coasters. Storage boxes, larger than most jewelry boxes with drawers and/or tops that opened, quilled lock boxes, and much more. Some items were specially designed for quilling with recessed surfaces. Quilling was also combined or married with other techniques such as embroidery and painting.
Where is it today?
Today, quilling is seeing a resurgence among crafters on every continent and in every walk of life. No longer confined to the “upper classes”, this is a peoples art form and the beauty of the art is always expanding thanks to innovators and rapidly growing number of quillers. It is used to decorate wedding invitations, Christmas cards, birth announcements, greeting cards, scrapbook pages, and boxes. One of the most well-known quilling artists in modern times is the Russian artist, Yulia Brodskaya.
So where does Zainab Baji come in?
Although you can find quilled products on websites like Etsy, I like Zainab’s Quilled Creations because of its products originality and fusion quality. She makes earrings shaped like English roses and she makes Mughal-influenced jhumkas as well. What I particularly like about her work is her use of different art materials such as stones, beads, pearls, and sequins. These materials give the otherwise western art a cute desi touch.
Lastly, she stays abreast with the trends by incorporating tassels in her quilled earrings and necklaces.
Truly, I don’t know how quilling got into Bahrain, but I am very excited to see a woman open a home business in the Middle East (or anywhere for that matter). I love getting packages from Zainab Baji with Bahrain’s stamps (I have started a stamp collection). You can expect beautifully packaged and secure shipping from her business for a few dollars.
To view some of her pieces, visit: