Quilling: Folding papers for a new life

photos by yağmur dİnç photos by yağmur dİnç

After being stuck in an office for years, Sena Runa found the nerve to quit her job and devote herself to something that would make her happy, and today, she is one of the most prominent quilling artists in Turkey

Thirty-three-year-old Sena Runa has devoted herself to the world of paper in an effort to relieve business professionals of their stressful work environment, which quickly led to her quitting her job. What started as a simple artistic hobby for Runa to add some spice to her life, quickly took over her entire life. "Quilling," also known as paper filigree, is an art form done by only a handful of people in Turkey and Runa is one of them.

"Going to the office everyday was like going to prison every day. I was doing something that I did not like. I was very bored and I felt like I was a robot," said Runa, who admitted that she had carried the burden of being in a vocation that did not make her happy for seven years. For the first time in years, Runa embarked on a quest to discover a new hobby that would bring her happiness, first taking up origami before searching high and low for a hobby that would be a vessel of personal expression and allow her to explore her creative side, and finally turning to the internet. There, she discovered the art of "quilling," or folding colorful papers. Long before she quit her job, Runa had already discovered the colorful world of paper, spending hours after work cutting colorful paper into small pieces and folding them to create incredible designs. She was always able to come up with new design ideas. Even though her first designs did not take shape, Runa did not give up, and continued to make shaped hearts, ballerinas and balloons out of the colorful paper, eventually becoming very good at quilling.

"I was very interested in painting and other visual arts," said Runa. "I have been very skillful [in art] since my childhood but instead of enrolling in a Faculty of Fine Arts program, I enrolled in a Department of Business Management to ensure that I would be able to find a job. Now, I have returned to my roots, in a sense, finally doing something that I regretted not doing for all this time." Initially, Runa presented her first designs to her friends and family members as gifts. When she realized that her designs were well received by the majority of her friends and family, she decided to launch a web site. After just three months, an art lover from India contacted Runa to buy one of her designs. "My owl-shaped, balloon-shaped and ballerina-shaped designs were purchased by the designer and I was very happy," Runa said. At this point the aspiring quillist's artistic adventure took off and Runa began to devote herself more and more to quilling.

As she devoted more and more of herself to this art form, Runa felt relieved from the stress of business life and ultimately came up with the idea to quit her job. "I felt like I was suffocating because of my job. However, I kept wondering what I would do if I were to quit my job. After I realized that I could earn a living with quilling, I built up the courage to quit my job. I focused solely on quilling and this art became my escape route," said Runa. Neither her family nor those in her closest circle reacted negatively to her decision to leave her job. They even patted her on the back and said, "well done." Currently, Runa uses her apartment as a workshop, working on her papers and turning them into great designs.

In the last four years, Runa has managed to create 50 different quilling designs. Among these designs, the "Little Prince," "violin," "guitar," "ballerina," "dragon" and the "world map" are just a few of her designs. There is also a high demand for Runa's designs around the world. "It makes me happy that people give away my designs as presents, making others happy as well," she said. Empowered by this motivation, Runa added new drawings to her designs. As she began to share her works on Instagram, she became a source of inspiration for others. She said: "It was my idea to attach drawings to quilling. I blend the art of drawing and the art of paper folding. Those who take me as an example have also begun to add drawing to their quilling."

There are many people who want to learn the art of quilling. Hence, Runa plans to establish a workshop. Holding an exhibition, on the other hand, is her biggest dream. The artist collects different colorful papers from all over the world. "With every design I make, I always think that this design might be hung on the wall of a home anywhere across the globe, making someone in the world very happy. It is a very special feeling to be able to touch other people's lives with quilling. I feel like I am a citizen of the world," Runa concluded.


Quilling, which has become known in Turkey over the last couple of years, is also known as the art of paper folding. This art is practiced by giving colorful papers, which are cut in strips, a shape using certain tools.

Quilling gained popularity first in the U.K. and Europe followed by the U.S., becoming a very fashionable art among aristocratic young girls in the 18th century. However, it lost its popularity in the 19th century until it was revived in the 20th century with the mass production of different paper types and colorful papers. The quilling tools, including colorful paper, rulers, cutters and glue, can be purchased easily.

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