Each of these handmade greeting cards is a work of art, with a mission to care for people.

Entrepreneur duo Huong Wolf and her husband launched Quilling Card to share the beauty of quilling with the world

Millimetre-thick strips of colored paper rolled, shaped and glued by hand into precise and beautiful patterns: this is quilling, a simple but ancient art that “anyone can learn”, according to Huong Wolf, co-founder of Quilling Card in Massachusetts.

In April 2022, Quilling Card won two Guinness World Record titles: one for the most people quilling simultaneously and one for the largest quill mosaic in the world. It is the first company to market quilling in the form of greeting cards. They are based in Massachusetts and their quilling factories are in Vietnam.

“Because our cards are made in Vietnam, many people think quilling is an Asian art,” Wolf said. But in fact, quilling dates back to the ancient Egyptians, who used quill pens to wrap impossibly thin strips of gold into intricate filigree ornaments for religious objects.

“Later, in Renaissance Europe, paper was used as a cheaper option for religious objects in monasteries and churches,” Wolf explained. Quilling came into fashion, never completely died out, and in 19th century Europe it was taken up as a pastime by ladies of the nobility as an alternative to embroidery or needlework.

Now Quilling Card sends love, art and memories through the mail in quilling greeting cards that many recipients frame and cherish for years.

“One thing our cards do for people is reconnect [them]”Love said. “A lot of people will say, ‘Oh, I sent one to my mother-in-law, and we never speak because of a family issue, but she picked up the phone and told me. called to thank me for the most beautiful card. It not only connects them, but also mends their relationship.

Huong Wolf (L) and her husband, Raphael, launched Quilling Card in 2012. (Courtesy of Quilling Card)

faith in an idea

Quilling Card was born purely by chance. Ten years ago, Wolf lived in Vietnam while her husband lived in Massachusetts. A friend asked him to go see a quilling factory in Vietnam that was for sale. Involved in textiles, her husband thought the factory was for quilting. When he went to the factory, he was intrigued by the intricate art of quilling and immediately saw its potential as a business venture.

After realizing their own passion for the art of quilling, Wolf and her husband wanted to find a way to bring more attention to it and thought that greeting cards would be the perfect container to place quilling in the homes of people. people all over the world. They came up with the idea for their business while Wolf was still living in Vietnam.

Before that, Wolf hadn’t tried quilling himself. She then taught herself through YouTube videos and trial and error. “I have to tell you, I’m not the best hand in the house!” she said laughing.

In 2012, Wolf moved from Vietnam to Massachusetts. They launched the company at the National Stationery Show in New York City to overwhelmingly positive feedback.

“As soon as I came back from the stationery fair, I sent in my resignation letter,” Wolf recalled. “I still remember the reaction of my boss. He said: ‘Look, the stationery industry is dying. No one writes letters anymore. Are you going to start a greeting card company? But my husband and I believed in it, and we thought people would see and appreciate how beautiful the art of quilling is, so we had to try it.

quilling card process
The art of quilling. (Courtesy of Quilling Card)
Post card
(Courtesy of Quilling Card)

The first three years were difficult. Wolf went to many shows and always received a positive response, but her cards were expensive and retailers weren’t sure they would sell. The cards were also unusual in that they did not contain a printed message inside, but rather an insert allowing the sender to write a personal note. “I can’t sell blank cards,” the retailers told him. She worked hard to convince them that when people received a feathered card, they would realize the labor involved in making it, the beauty of the art, and frame it for safekeeping. Having a personal hand written message would only increase the value of the card.

Wolf and her husband started out doing business with the quilling factory that sparked the idea, before opening their own in Vietnam. With their successful growth, they now have five in total.

A precise and complex art

Quilling is the art of rolling, twisting and shaping small strips of paper to create three-dimensional designs. Traditionally a feather was used to roll the paper, but now the tool is like a needle with a split end to fit into the paper. The other tools are tweezers, scissors and glue: “These are all the tools you need! said Wolf.

“Quilling is not difficult. The people we recruit come to us without knowing anything,” she said. On the first day, the trainees are invited to simply play with the paper, discover its behavior and experiment with the tools.

craftsman quilling
The cards are all handmade by artisans in the company’s own factories in Vietnam. (Courtesy of Quilling Card)

The company buys long sheets of paper, of varying weights, and cuts them very thin. “It’s the only machine work in our whole process, cutting the paper,” Wolf said.

During their first week, new bowlers learn what Wolf calls the quilling alphabet. “We have about 50 basic shapes; they have to practice these forms to perfection,” she explained. “Then they start putting them together to make a simple design.” One month of training is followed by a trial period of two months.

“If we train 100 people and retain 20 for the probationary period, that’s a huge success,” Wolf said. “Creating the shapes is fun, but when you have to put them together, perfect them, and make them into a very intricate design, it takes a lot of patience, and most people give up.”

quilling paper strips
(Courtesy of Quilling Card)
quilling wrapping paper
(Courtesy of Quilling Card)
quilling shape
(Courtesy of Quilling Card)

Quilling Card pays its recruits from day one. Usually in Vietnam, “if you want to learn a trade, you have to pay to be taught,” Wolf said. “For us, it’s the opposite: we pay to teach them.

They are also dedicated to taking care of their employees. Wolf decided to apply for fair trade certification for the factories in Vietnam, believing that “it was the best thing we could do for our company culture and values”. Most of their bowlers are women, and she feels blessed to be able to offer careers to young women in her homeland who might have very little education.

One of their biggest retailers, Hallmark, sponsored Quilling Card for HERproject, an 18-month program that teaches women about abuse, pregnancy and postpartum health care, and safer sex. “Those topics are taboo in Vietnam,” Wolf said, “but Hallmark sponsored us to do this training. It adds so much value to our staff in Vietnam.

Huong Wolf and Vietnam team quilling card
Wolf is dedicated to taking care of its employees in Vietnam. (Courtesy of Quilling Card)

A special project

“When we observe our customers,” Wolf said, “we see that they not only look at the cards, but also touch them. It’s a very tactile thing. It gave us an idea: why not make cards for the blind?” Quilling Card employs many deaf women in Vietnam, and Wolf wondered, “What if we employed deaf women who are very good with their hands to make cards for the blind that can they read with their hands?

Once committed to the idea, Wolf and his team quickly discovered that they knew very little about braille, an exact science. So they teamed up with a nearby school for the blind. “It took two years to perfect the braille maps,” she said. “Braille has a very small market, but that didn’t matter to us. We did this out of passion.

quilling braille card
A special braille design of Quilling Card. (Courtesy of Quilling Card)

One day, Wolf witnessed something remarkable: “When we showed our fourth or fifth batch of prototypes, a woman was crying. She said, ‘That’s such a beautiful blue butterfly.’ I looked at my drawing and the words came out of my mouth: “But you are blind! How do you know it’s blue? She said, “I don’t see colors, I feel colors. Colors have energy. I was amazed. God took away some senses, but people were given amazing other senses.

In all their work, they are driven by a desire to bring beauty and goodness into people’s lives.

“The appreciation of our customers is our motivation,” said Wolf. “I hope we can preserve this beautiful art for, who knows, maybe hundreds of years.”

Mika R. Pyle