Throwback Thursday: The work that started it all

A common question I get from people who view my work whether its here in the studio or at an art festival is…

“What inspired you to add strips of paper to paintings?”

I’ve head this so often that I figured for a Throwback Thursday post I’d share the work that got me started with quilling.

This piece was my first ever quilled piece of art.

I created it for a special show with the Left Hand Artist Group. Every year the group puts together a show with art created with or inspired by beer labels and/or craft brewing. This piece was created using cut up strips of Left Hand Brewing Company beer labels and bottle caps.

The founder of our group, Don Wilson, an employee with Left Hand, had found stacks of beer labels earmarked to be tossed out. He asked his employer if he could have those labels and give them to his artist friends to use to create art, and thus the Left Hand Artist Group Label Show was born! The proceeds from the art that was sold at the show went to the Left Hand Brewing Foundation, a charity created by Left Hand Brewing Company to help provide support and relief to the local community in times of natural disaster such as the 2013 floods.

When working with the beer labels, I wanted to find a different way to use them to stand out from the other artists.

Another question I get asked a lot is if I invented this technique, and to that I have to say no. I discovered quilling while searching for ideas and inspiration on Pintrest for creative things to do with beer labels.

It was a bit of a challenge to get started.

First off, the individual beer labels themselves weren’t very large. When I cut them into strip, I also had to glue several smaller strips together to make longer strips for the coils. I didn’t have any kind of quilling tools, so I had to improvise with whatever I could find around my workshop.

My first few attempts at creating the quills and putting them all together was a little rough, but I soon get the hang of the technique. For this first piece, I just had a large 16×20 canvas board that I spray painted to create a light background. The main subject was very simple, just a beer bottle sitting on a table top. I used bottle caps to simulate tile on a table top, and I used the different colors of the beer labels to give the impression of beer in a bottle. The result was a piece that was very textural both visually and tactilely.

I enjoyed creating the piece so much that I went on to create another.

Again, I went with a very simple, yet slightly more colorful, background utilizing bottle caps and beer labels to create three bottles of beer on a table top.

The next I did for the show, I decided to move on from bottles of beer and go onto working with landscapes.

For this piece, I used whole labels as part of the background and started playing around with different shapes, textures and techniques with the quills to create a mountain theme.

After the label show, I continued making art featuring quilled paper. Instead of using beer labels I started using the light weight card stock that I work with today. The pieces I create now, are a lot more intricate then my first quilled pieces. I spend a lot more time painting, using the paper to enhance and accentuate the work.


The trend with my first pieces is one that I keep to even today… I always try to expand my work. Whether it’s subject matter, technique, intricacies. I always try to do something a little different, to take the work and the medium into new and different directions.

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