AUBURN — You’d imagine that Jude Bellas has pretty excellent eyesight since she works with tiny bits of paper to create works of art.

“I don’t,” she said. “I just have very thick glasses.”

She also has patience in abundance and a willingness to sit for hours, shaping thin strips of paper into whorls, coils and mathematical designs. They combine to create paper reliefs of trees, birds, flowers or miniature sculptures. She sold a miniature paper poodle at the Lewiston-Auburn Mini Makers fare a couple of weeks ago, as well as a thumb-sized gift box that held roses.

“I made a little house with all the little pots and cups are paper,” she said. “They’re all paper. That’s what I do.”

Bellas is an apprentice paper quiller, which is the art of creating paper filigree. Strips of paper an eighth of an inch wide are wound around a forked needle to create a tight coil. It’s allowed to unwind slightly, then shaped by hand and glued into place to hold the desired shape. It dates back to the Renaissance monasteries that used the designs to decorate book covers.

“At one time, it was done with a feather or a quill,” she said. A forked metal needle is used today.

She can make leaves and feathers with ease, dragonflies and ferns that would fool wildlife, and butterflies with a bit more effort.

“Butterflies are hard because they have to be symmetrical,” she said. “I try to do it as perfect as I can because that’s what Mother Nature does. You can’t play with it. That’s what they are, and you have to match”

She picked up the hobby four years ago. Her sister showed her the practice and invited her to try.

“I told her I didn’t have the patience to do it,” she said. “But she gave it up and I here I am, still doing it.”

Bellas spends up to five hours a day at her work table, twirling designs.

“That’s about as much as I can do, before my eyes get tired,” she said. “Some times I just start making designs to see where they lead.”

The pieces she likes end up as art and part of her traveling display. She took close to 30 pieces to the Maker Faire, and sold more than half. Museum L-A is also taking a couple of her pieces to sell in its gift shop.

The pieces that don’t turn out quite right end up in a little bottle on her table. It’s full of miniature flowers, wings, a sprig of holly that went awry and a clam. They might end up as an inspiration for something else.

She also builds pieces on contract. The woman who bought the poodle last month is paying her to make a quilled doghouse.

She’s holding back some pieces to send to the North American Quilling Guild to win her accreditation.

“That lets me create juried pieces, earn higher prices,” she said. “Everything has to be absolutely perfect. Perfect symmetry, no glue showing.”


Do you know a creative person with a technological bent? We’d love to talk to them. Contact Staff Writer Scott Taylor at [email protected], on Twitter as Orange_me or call 207-689-2846.


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