Do you remember that special day during fifth grade art class, when the teacher came bustling in through the front door, armed with legions of rolls of colored paper and announced that today crayons and markers were banned? It was quilling day. And so the curling of paper began. You curled roll after roll diligently, making an intricately detailed illustration of a heart with pink and red colors, perfect for Valentine’s Day, only to discard it a few days later. Many of us haven’t coiled a single piece of paper since that day. But one person in the United Kingdom has made this intricately detailed art her profession.

Meet Yulia Brodskaya, 28, the Russian immigrant, who while sitting crouched down at her antiquated kitchen table that now resides in her studio, creates perfectly handcrafted illustrations for commercial projects. From Vanity Fair and O, The Oprah Magazine to Starbucks and Cadbury, she has designed hundreds upon hundreds of pieces that have luminesced storefronts and pages, including a vibrantly decorated heart with the word committed encircled in the middle; a rendition of the cover of Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest novel. Recently her artwork could be seen strewn across two Parisian airports as part of persuading the general public to travel to France. The letter F, representative of France, was left fluorescent white in the paper module as blue, brown, and yellow trinkets of flowers and French scenery gushed around it like a kite blowing in the wind.

Schooled in graphic design at the University of Hertfordshire in England, Brodskaya describes her art as “amazing paper artworks.” And she couldn’t be more right.

In an exclusive interview for GALO, Brodskaya reveals her passion for the craft, her fascination with artist Gustav Klimt and the color black, and divulges why handcrafted art is here to stay in the digital era.

GALO: Many have referred to your artwork technique as quilling. You yourself have dubbed your art as “papergraphic illustration.” Which term do you feel presently best encapsulates what you do and could you explain what quilling really is?

Yulia Brodskaya: I must admit I use many different terms to describe my work, e.g. ‘paper artworks’ among the ones you’ve listed. Quilling is the name of the paper manipulation technique that involves the use of strips of paper that can be rolled, shaped, and glued to the background. Quilling is believed to have been practiced since ancient times.

GALO: Were you familiar with this art form before attending school for it?

YB: I never attended any school for it and never learned how to do it [in a] traditional way. My background is in graphic design. Even though I tried many different things during my years in education, graphic design was always my main focus until I decided to switch to hand-drawn illustrations first, and then, to paper ones – that happened after I completed my Masters degree.

GALO: You have a master’s degree in graphic communication from the University of Hertfordshire in England. You also studied art in Russia. Did your passion for the arts develop before you attended college?

YB: My parents sent me to a kid’s art school when I was five-years-old, basically I haven’t stopped practicing art (in different forms) since.

GALO: You were born in Moscow and moved to the United Kingdom in 2004 to pursue further studies. In a past interview for Yatzer, you mentioned that you do not think your Russian background influenced your work. Furthermore, you stated that you would have not been able to achieve what you have today as far as creativity and awareness are concerned. Why do you feel this way? Do you ever consider moving back?

YB: I’m not going to move back for various reasons, not only career related; I might move somewhere else at some point, but I haven’t made any definite plans yet.

GALO: On your site you mention that the reason why you enjoy this particular craft is because of your fascination with the material – paper.

YB: I’ve always had a special fascination for paper. It is always difficult to explain why you love something you love… Maybe because it is so significant and versatile – there are so many things that you can do with it; it is unbelievable, absolutely essential and truly amazing

GALO: You’ve said that you like to experiment. Tell us more.

YB: I have many ideas of how to use quilling in a different ways, e.g. combine it with other paper manipulating techniques, play with colors, objects and themes, etc.

GALO: You’ve done work for clients such as Target, Starbucks, The New York Times Magazine, Ferrero, and even a main visual for Coin, the leading department store in Italy, for their 2010 Christmas campaign. What are you working on presently?

YB: Usually I’m not allowed to reveal the project details until the work goes live. I can say that I’m doing a couple of Christmas campaigns, an illustration for [an] article opener (editorial commission), and I’m starting a project for one of the US brands – that’s the rough schedule for the next month.

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