Remarkably Versatile Paper Artist Zahra Ammar

If you haven't had the pleasure of discovering the work of Zahra Ammar, here's your chance to see examples and hear in her own words what makes Zahra tick as a self-taught paper artist. Originally from Pakistan, she has been based in Sacramento the past several years after living for a few years in the Middle East and the Bay Area.

pink and purple on-edge floral paper art

With a head for business - she has studied finance and economics - and a love of language - as evidenced by the engaging Instagram descriptions she writes - Zahra is her own best advocate for finding opportunities to promote paper art. I frequently marvel at how much she accomplishes. Not only a fine quiller who sometimes creates large-scale pieces that are several feet wide, she also does origami, kirigami, and layered paper cut art, yet still finds time to share tips via the Contemporary Quilling Facebook group and on Instagram.

papercut dragonfly and on-edge paper leaves

Tell us about your love of art and creating.

In my memory, there has never been a time when I have not had some creative adventure or another. I think art does what words can not fully express and we, as humans, crave for dialogue. No matter how old a language or how many adjectives and adverbs there are, we always run out of words to express a feeling or moment and add expletives. Art fills those phrases of thought and completes sentences. Any form of art can bring about conversations or open an avenue for such feelings to flow. It brings about hope and progress.

multicolor dimensional geo paper art

What appeals to you about working with paper? 

Paper is so versatile. It is also very forgiving. You can bend, cut, poke, fold, paint on it, shred it and put it back to together, just so many things one can do! We think of it as a medium to be worked upon and never as a color palette itself. It has the potential to give depth and structure, create moods and shadows, and weave a story just as well as oils or watercolors or a concrete sculpture.

crimped floral paper art in pink shades

Do you have a favorite type of paper art?

I primarily use a technique called quilling, a balance of traditional forms as well as more contemporary forms. For instance, it looks like an illustration, but in the next blink of an eye it looks like a sculpture. I also fold and cut paper into 3D structures.

geometric dimensional folded paper art

Do you prefer certain subject matter?

My work is a continuous essay on geometrical and botanical themes. I look for balance and symmetry between the two. When we go down to the structure of things, at the micro level, everything becomes symmetrical, even the abstract. Going deeper into that level, the symmetry may even disintegrate into the abstract again, and we can only wonder and marvel. My goal with my art is not to construct a soliloquy. I want to draw the onlooker into their own dialogue. I want to inspire wonder.

on-edge orange quilled flowers made of paper

In recent years, I have studied Islamic geometric art because I am curious and have been experimenting in bringing it into my 3D works. I love watercoloring; it is unpredictable and fun! I am an avid hiker and on my long road trips, I either have a sketch pad or watercolors or embroidery in hand. I share my inspirations, experiments, successes and failures in my work, but mostly try to leave behind a trail of beauty.

microbiology-themed papercut art representing nerve synapses

I've noticed many of the new works you post on Instagram never make it to your Etsy shop. Is it safe to say IG is a great platform for selling your work?

Instagram has been amazing. I have connected with so many people and been exposed to a lot of opportunities. I think the platform allows artists to give an insight, and for collectors or viewers a chance to look with no strings attached. If the content is meaningful, there is an instant connection.

crimped floral paper design with crimped strips and tools

My florals and the work I have done in the past year have been commissioned projects, for a gallery or been picked up before I could post on Etsy. My shop still has a few things, but I have been working with so much business that now comes directly, it will take time for me to restock, which is my plan for the coming months.

bright yellow paper cut sunflower with brown fringed center

Tell us about your newest project.

Recently I collaborated with The Crafter’s Box to create a modern floral quilling project. Anyone who wants to pick up and explore what quilling is, from materials to a video walk-through, both are encompassed in this. I am hoping it will help more people to be involved and understand that quilling is hands-on.

delicate pink quilled paper blossoms and branches

And how about upcoming exhibits?

I was recently awarded the juror’s prize by Blue Lines Gallery in Northern California. I have works in public places like Sutter Health, Kaiser Permanente and Dignity Health hospitals. I’ve also created murals and large scale work as private and commercial projects. In the future (virus situation permitting) I have a few group exhibitions at the end of the year, one of them at UC Berkeley. I have a solo show coming up in Spring of 2021 that I am already planning for.

rust color on-edge modern quilled flower arrangement

Zahra welcomes requests for custom art and also does illustrating and licensing. Contact her via Etsy, Instagram, and Facebook.

All Things Paper is an AWIN (Etsy) affiliate.

Ann Martin
Ann Martin

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  1. Love, love, love her stuff! I prioritize pictures of her work on my Facebook feed just so I can feel happy. :)

    1. That's so nice to hear! Thanks for your comment, Stephanie.


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