Quilling is an ancient art form that dates back to the 15th century and may have started even earlier. For local artist Lois Brandt Weber, it’s a way to express herself and share her artistry with the world. However, that wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t decided to end tap dancing class at Hawthorne at Leesburg.
“The gals here had been tap dancing for so long that at the end of the season, they said they weren’t going to do it anymore,” Lois said. “I knew I had an hour every day and I wondered what I was going to do. I went by the quilling room and I remembered I’d done that. So when I went back up North, I went to Ben Franklin Crafts and Frame Shop and bought all the papers in all the colors. In six months I had 35 pictures done.”
The art of paper filigree, or quilling, is rolling or coiling thin strips of paper into various shapes and using the tiny pieces to create a design. Like doing tapestry, it was considered a fine art for the women of the 18th century. Because the designs are made with paper, not many of them are still around today, except in museums in New England and New York City. In an effort to have the art last longer, artists today use acid-free paper.
Lois always had an artistic nature. She took classes in elementary and high school and got back into art as the mother of five children. “The doctor said the kids are driving you crazy, get out of the house. I took a class in oil painting at the YWCA, which was two blocks away,” Lois said.
With growing children, however, that venture didn’t last as long as the doctor hoped. She was soon busy being ‘Mom’s Taxi Service.’ Lois is also an avid dancer. She did clogging and tap dancing. “I taught country couples ballroom dancing, and at one point, line dancing. I’m a dancer from way back when.”
Unfortunately, arthritis put an end to dancing for Lois, though she still serves as a mentor for the clogging group at Hawthorne. Painful wrists kept her from being able to knit or crochet, but the finger work involved in quilling is still manageable, and she generally works six to eight hours a day on her quilling. At 81, she’s not able to go to craft shows like she once did, though she still does the Leesburg Partnership’s Christmas House.
In addition to making ornaments, shadow boxes, and pictures of all sizes, Lois makes all kinds of jewelry—necklaces, earrings, designs in watch faces, bracelets, and pins. Lately, she has been duplicating designs from quilts for her ornaments and jewelry. She proudly displays her “no-man” bracelets that are easy to put on without assistance. They are wraparound and made with elastic. Her jewelry is available at Gallery East Art Center in Belleview.
Lois does her work as Ladybug Creations, and every piece she does has a little red ladybug on it somewhere. She received best in show at the national quilling conventions three times. “When I won best in show, others were doing butterflies, but they did them all in a row, like specimen. I did mine in 3-D on a field of green.”
The last piece she entered for competition was called Butterflies on Purple Thistle.
“I said if this one wins, I’m giving it to the church because God gave it to me, and I’m giving it back,” Lois said. The 3-D picture hangs in Lakes and Hills Covenant Church in Howey-in-the-Hills, where Lois attends.
She truly enjoys making unusual pieces for family members, too. For her grandson, who is a commercial pilot, Lois did a Hat in the Ring plane from World War I, and for her granddaughter, the advanced math teacher who married on Pi Day, she did the wedding announcement in a frame with roses and a pi symbol. There’s also the grandson who loves “Star Wars” and got R2D2 and C3PO in metallic paper.
Lois leads the classes in quilling at Hawthorne now. “I keep teaching and passing it on. Things just fall into place when I’m working.”
PHOTOS: Fred Lopez