Justine Kuran is a self-taught quilling artist based in Melbourne, this is an ancient art form also known as paper filigree. This art form of quilling uses strips of paper that are rolled, shaped and then glued together to create decorative art.
Justine has spent the past 12 months putting together a collection of pieces for her first solo exhibition now on at Glen Eira City Council Gallery.
I recently had the pleasure of attending Justine’s opening night thanks to Helen Reizer from HRPR with a star studded Melbourne Audience who were absolutely amazed at the work and time that had gone into creating these truly breathtaking three dimensional designs made only from paper. There are only a handful of commercial quilling artists in Australia and our Melbourne girl Justine Kuran is one of them.
As soon as you meet Justine you can see her passion for what she does, her face lights up when discussing her art work, she has an effervescence and energy about her that left me wanting to know more about this incredibly talented artist who told me it all began with a self – learning quilling kit from the $2 shop!
Tell us a little about you background? Where you grew up and where your love of paper quilling came from?
“I was born in Sydney, grew up in Brisbane and the Gold Coast and made a life for myself in Melbourne with my husband (Bernie) and three teenage daughters (Marley, 16 and identical twins, Shaini and Peri, 15). My very colourful 20s were spent back in Sydney living in Kellett St, Kings Cross and working for myself as a nail artist, then in HR and marketing. Aside from being an artist, wife and mum, I’m also the co-Founder of Breaking Challah, a movement that encourages Jewish families to host Shabbat dinners with non-Jewish guests in an effort to promote tolerance and understanding through real-world experience”
When did you begin Paper Quilling and for those of us that haven’t seen this kind of art form before could you please detail this art work and skill?
“I had tried so many different crafts over the years from ceramics to tapestry, mosaics, knitting, scrapbooking, collages and everything in between, but after picking up a quilling kit in a $2 shop and teaching myself the craft, my passion for working with paper has never waned. I absolutely LOVE what I do, the possibilities are endless and discovering new techniques still thrill me every day”
“Unlike Origami, Quilling originated in Europe and is an ancient paper art that involves taking strips of paper and curling, folding, shaping and gluing them to create shapes and designs. My style of quilling incorporates both traditional and contemporary styles, but presented in completely original designs”
“Quilling is a very tactile craft and paper feels different depending on the gsm or the colour dye. For example, the white paper I use is really smooth to the touch and easy to manipulate, whereas the dark purple paper is coarse and harder on the fingertips. Quilling requires exceptionally fine motor skills as the work is very intricate, but I have also discovered that my sense of colour and balance has been invaluable”
When did Paper Quilling become more than just a hobby?
“A few weeks after taking up quilling I approached a local café about hanging my works and from day one I was selling and taking orders. That led to a stint in the Block Shop and securing stockists such as the Jewish Museums in both Sydney and Melbourne and the Collaborate Store at SO:ME at the South Melbourne Markets”
When and how did you decide to put the ‘Paper Round’ Exhibition together? Who was involved in the set up?
“I am incredibly lucky to have a mentor who gave me just the kick up the butt I needed. I became frustrated with doing small commissions and having no time to do the creative work I really wanted to be doing. He told me that if I wanted to be a serious artist I had to have an exhibition, even if it meant turning away other work to focus 100% on making it a reality. Fortunately my awesome husband backed me and within weeks I was represented by the Nissarana Gallery in Noosa as one of their many exhibiting artists”
“Still wanting to have a solo exhibition, I applied for space at our local Glen Eira City Council Art Gallery and was thrilled to be accepted to exhibit in what is a magnificent space. Diane Soumilas is the gallery coordinator and curator and she has been instrumental in leading me through the maze of my first show. Diane brought my vision to life”
“Having my friend and publicist, Helen Reizer on board to manage the opening night, guest lists and press coverage took a lot of the pressure off and calmed me down enormously”
“Just like raising children, it takes a village to have an exhibition; the key is to surround yourself with the best villagers”
Photography by Fiona Hamilton
How many pieces are in this collection?
“Originally there were 31 pieces for sale, and two from my own private collection but a coffee spill ruined one piece so we are down to 32 in total. Liquids are now banned in my studio”
“In preparation, I had a vision board of ideas that I would replace with photos of the finished artworks. It was wonderful seeing the balance tip in favour of the photos”
Where does your inspiration come from? What is your design style and process?
“Inspiration comes from everywhere, symbols such as mandalas, hamsas and hearts, colour combinations, other artists and my own messing around with shapes and design”
“Within the 32 pieces in Paper Round, there are 5 collections; Australiana; which is inspired by the colours of our Outback and indigenous dot paintings, Pastels, which is designed with children and emotional wellbeing in mind, Monochrome; a series of black, white, silver and gold artworks using a variety of techniques and stunning gilded paper, Spring; which is inspired by joy, its just the brightest eye-popping colours, flowers and butterflies and finally, my Iconics collection is 10 reinterpretations of iconic images and artworks, including Ai Weiwei’s ‘Porcelain Flowers’, a Jeff Koons balloon dog, two Banksys, a Lego man, and Keith Haring’s ‘Fingers Crossed’, all recreated using only strips of paper”
On average how many hours does it take to complete a piece?
“It’s hard to say exactly how long each piece takes because I work 7 days a week for as long as up to 18 hours a day. I spend week’s just rolling coils of paper or making flowers and days making only butterflies, only to move onto a completely new piece I had in a flash of a vision. The large floral pieces are definitely the most labour intensive and can take up to a month to create. While it might take me weeks to make the components, putting the final piece together usually only takes a day or two”
What’s your favourite piece in this exhibition and why?
“The Jeff Koons ‘Balloon Dog’ is the one piece that will be the hardest to let go. I spent a week in New York a few years back, all alone and with no plans other than to visit the Whitney Museum to see the Koons exhibition. The memory of the joy of that trip is in every single one of the over 3500 coils of black paper in my homage to Koons. I absolutely love his work, his irreverence and the madness of his genius. I’m also completely in love with the framing”
What drives you as an artist to continue doing what you do?
“I absolutely love what I do and in many respects it’s very meditative, but as an artist I’m always driven to create original content that pushes new boundaries using paper as a medium, combined with techniques and designs that have not been seen before”
“As a mother, I want my daughters to be proud of me and recognise that hard work is what it takes to make dreams come true. Getting them to see this while their heads are buried in their phones is a pretty powerful motivator”
I heard some rather famous people have purchased your works? Who were they and how did this come about?
“While it would be nice to think that as artists we can be successful just due to talent alone, we are now in an era where an artist needs to be a business and like every business it needs to create a brand and a brand needs networking, social media and to make connections. It’s through this networking that I have met some incredibly special women who have given me the honour of creating gifts for many visiting international guests and local dignitaries including Hollywood legends, Goldie Hawn and Jane Seymour, former Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty and inspiring leaders such as Dr Susan Alberti and the Honourable Linda Dessau. I’ve also had the pleasure of being commissioned to create a piece for Shaynna Blaze, and I sold a piece to Scott Cam the day I went to present my work to the Block Shop”
Goldie Hawn and Justine Kuran Photography by Jim Lee
Kate Cebrano Photography by Fiona Hamilton
Why is this exhibition so different from anything we have seen in Melbourne before?
“Everything is original. Every element in every single artwork has been rolled by my hand, every millimetre of approximately 40 kilometres of paper that it has taken to produce this exhibition. Even in each homage to my favourite artists, the concept and design is all my own. I can only judge by searching hashtags and google, but I have found nobody creating anything like the artworks in this exhibition, in fact I’m unaware of any other solo exhibitions by a quilling artist in Australia. Hopefully these artworks will have you pressing your nose up against the glass, trying to get a closer look at the extraordinary amount of detail in the design, but most importantly, love it or hate it, I can’t wait to share a new take on an old art”
Opening Night Photography by Fiona Hamilton
31 May – 17 June
Glen Eira City Council Art Gallery
Cnr Glen Eira and Hawthorn Roads
Tuesday – Friday 10am – 5pm
Saturday – Sunday 1pm – 5pm