Some people seem to be born with a calling in life, while others stumble upon it by chance. Or in Miranda Skibbe’s case, scroll upon it.
As a theater major specializing in light design, Miranda has always had an eye for color and a passion for the arts. She initially established herself in the Michiana art scene a decade earlier after opening M’s Jemz, a specialty bead shop in the Benton Harbor Arts District. After parting ways with the business a few years later due to family obligations, Miranda soon found herself in search of her next creative outlet.
“I had recently given birth to my daughter and needed to find something to fill my quiet, creative time while she napped,” Miranda says. “I began folding paper cranes — thousands of them — but wasn’t really sure what I was going to use them for. One day I had an idea to add my leftover beads and turn them into mobiles. My passion for paper crafts sort of snowballed from there.”
While on Facebook one afternoon, an advertisement for a quilling kit caught Miranda’s eye. Although she was not entirely sure what the craft entailed, her birthday was right around the corner, and she shared the gift idea with her husband. A few days later, even though she may not have realized it at the time, her destiny was delivered to her doorstep.
The art of quilling — or using strips of paper that are rolled, shaped and glued together to create decorative designs — has been around for hundreds of years. While the process itself remains unchanged, the designs have come a long way from the rolled paper used to decorate religious objects during the Renaissance.
With the necessary tools in hand, Miranda began rolling the strips of colored paper one by one. Taking inspiration from her grandmother’s garden, the tiny paper spirals soon began to take the shape of daffodils, irises and bleeding hearts. A couple hours and a few paper cuts later, Miranda’s first quilling design was planted on a 2-by-2-inch canvas and appropriately named “Betty’s Garden.”
Realizing she was on to something, M’s Jemz bloomed once again, this time in the form of a quilling business.
“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset, so when I starting quilling it was with the intent to sell my pieces,” Miranda says. “It’s an extremely unique art form and the type of craft that engages everyone.”
In the months that followed, as her colored paper collection grew, so did the variety of her designs. In addition to flowers, Miranda began quilling hummingbirds, butterflies, landscapes and even the state of Michigan. Nearly two years later, Miranda seems to view the world around her as one large quilling canvas.
“I look at the world in a different way now — it’s all about shapes,” she says. “I’ll come upon a leaf or a sailboat floating in the water and think to myself, ‘I can quill that.’”
Sitting on the couch with her cat on one side and her daughter on the other, Miranda works in an assembly line dedicating one day to each step in the quilling process — rolling the paper, gluing pieces together and assembling them with all the finishing touches. In any given week, she is able to craft around 15 different works of art.
While “Betty’s Garden” will always hold a special place in her heart, Miranda’s favorite piece she has quilled to date is “Earthrise,” which depicts the Earth and some of the moon’s surface as captured from lunar orbit during the Apollo 8 mission.
In addition to quilling custom orders, Miranda’s artwork can also be found at the Krasl Art Center and various local craft fairs and artisan markets.
“I love being part of the arts district here in southwest Michigan. It’s a very open and loving community that has really expanded over the past few years,” Miranda says.
To see more of Miranda’s work, visit facebook.com/MsJemz.
Photography by Wes Jerdon