In just a short amount of time she has made strides in turning her passion for on-edge paper art into a full-time career. Wanting to learn more, I contacted Mary about her paper journey so far.
Let's start at the beginning... tell us about your art background.
In late 2013 I was living in New York doing creative work (graphic design, video production, campaign building) for a youth non-profit. I feel like that period was very meaningful in my life as an artist because while in NYC I was exposed to many art forms that influenced my style today, mainly street art and photography. When I came back to Manila inspired by my exposure to art in New York, I spent two months doing personal projects in illustration, graphic design, and photography before beginning an advertising job in March 2014. Around the same time I joined art events and exhibits, and was super into studying works from other contemporary artists.
I came across a book called Mid-Fi in which I saw stunning paper artworks by Yulia Brodskaya. I didn’t even know what that style was called until I googled it. I had nothing special to do that day so I tried making a piece... I took out construction paper, a cutting board, cutter and ruler, and made my own 1/2 inch strips. I tried to write my first name using the strips, and surprisingly, my little experiment worked! I became crazy-excited from there. I had no real quilling tools so I used materials that worked well for me. The most important was a very tiny screwdriver that I used to curl and twirl paper.
What made you decide to concentrate solely on quilling?
The idea just fell into my lap. I think it was easy for me to learn on my own since I’ve been doing art all my life. What was new to me was the technique. I kept making pieces, mostly typography, until I didn’t know what to do with them. That’s when I thought of making customized pieces commercially. I invested in real tools by placing an online order from the U.S.
I joined my first art fair as a quiller in May 2014, and that was where I got my first client. Things soon snowballed with custom orders, usually name pieces. In August, I landed my first big client, a chain of stores here in the Philippines called Watsons, who approached me to design their 2015 Journal for which I made fourteen pieces.
How would you describe your quilling style?
Although I make a lot of pretty (girly) art pieces, my style is also influenced by the ruggedness of street art. I used to dance Hip Hop for five years so the culture is definitely something that I take with me and try to show in some of my work. I like to think of it as the thing that sets me apart from traditional paper quilling artists. I enjoy making contemporary pieces that my generation likes to see. Also, I don’t want people to see paper quilling as a purely feminine art form so I try to make pieces that guys would appreciate, hence, my Nike Air piece, Shit, Spray Paint, and Rad. Basically, I want to be able to “draw” with paper, as one would on paper. That idea seems to really amaze people. So I prefer creating pieces that people won’t expect to see being made with paper.
I’ve been planning a few projects to bring my art forward: I will be releasing some of my designs on T-shirts and will begin blogging. Because I’ve received requests for online workshops, they are definitely on the list as well. All updates will be announced on my Facebook and Instagram pages. My second quilling workshop (Drawing With Paper) will take place on June 27 here in Manila.
Keep up the good work, Mary Imbong, and stay in touch!