Here comes the part about fixatives/sealers etc. Just like with the glue, everyone has an opinion or favorite. Here we will be discussing my favorites and some of my “not so favorites”. I think most new quillers worry about how to “preserve” their work. Of course paper filigree is more fragile than metal filigree, but it is surprisingly strong especially when rolled and glued on edge. I don’t use a sealer or fixative on anything but pieces that are free standing or are not protected by glass. I don’t use anything on pieces I put on scrapbook pages or greeting cards, paper is much stronger than most people realize. I have one of the very first pieces I made, a Sunbonnet Sue, which I made to hang in my daughter’s bedroom. It is done on a wood plaque, it has not been sprayed or coated with anything and is not under glass. It still hangs in my studio 34 years later and still looks the same, (except for the dust).
One of the very first quilling books I bought was written in 1974. It was called “Quilling Paper Art for Everyone” by Betty Christy and Doris Tracy. It contained a wealth of knowledge, (no color pictures), and I still like to leaf through it now and then. It’s a little dog eared, especially since one of my dogs chewed the corners when he was a puppy, but it was the first quilling book I bought and it still has a special place in my quilling library. (Partially because I have met Betty Christy, and spent time with her at several quilling conferences. She is quite a character.) However, this book recommends spraying your finished pieces with a clear plastic or acrylic spray. I have tried many different sprays over the years, and found that even the ones that say non-yellowing have a tendency to yellow the papers especially on white snowflakes. Some quillers recommend coating the pieces with a thinned mixture of white glue, I find that when the glue dries it leaves a shine, making the paper look almost like plastic. If I take all the time necessary to make those little rolls and coils, I’ll be darned if I want it to look like plastic. I’ve also heard of quillers who use, lacquer, varnish, and even nail polish! YUK!! Still plastic looking not to mention the smell! But of course, that’s just my opinion.
The first product I found that I really liked was a product called Petal Porcelain put out by Plaid. I have no idea why I tried it, maybe because it said the finished look was like porcelain (which beats plastic in my book). This came in a little jar, was quite thick; it had to be applied with a brush and it was PINK! But . . . it dried to clear bisque like finish and it did not change the look of the paper at all! I used it a lot when I was making and selling quilled earrings (about a hundred years ago) and it worked really well! It protected the paper from the oils of fingers and even survived my accidentally dropping an earring in the glass of water I used to clean my brush. The downside was that it was thick and if you were coating a large piece it took a long time.
When I made the quilled tea cup and saucer I knew I needed to find something that I didn’t have to brush on or the coating would take as long as the quilling. That’s when I found Stiffen Stuff by Beacon products. It was originally intended for stiffening ribbons (you know like the kinds you put on baskets etc.) I tried it out on something other than my first tea cup and was very pleased with the results. Because it is sprayed on, it is quite wet, so several very light coats are recommended letting it dry between coats. It dries pretty quickly, but if you are in a real hurry you can use a hair dryer on low. Also, I learned that you really need to rinse off the spray top of the bottle after each use or the Stiffen Stuff will clog the spray hole. For several years, this was the only product of this type I could find although now there are several other brands available. The problem seems to be finding it. When I first purchased it, I found it a Wal-Mart and have since seen it at Michaels. But a number of Whimsiquills customers have told me that it is not available in their Michaels or Wal-Mart’s, so we have brought it in as an item on the Whimsiquills web site in case you want to try it but are unable to find it.
PS I have an interesting little anecdote which kind of relates to flowers looking like plastic, porcelain etc. I had a young woman come to the Whimsiquills studio to choose a design for a wedding gift she was giving to a very special teacher/mentor. She came with her mom, and we spent considerable time picking out colors, style of quilling, and which flowers were to go in the finished piece. When they were ready to leave and were walking down the hall, where I have many quilled pieces displayed, her mother turned around and asked me, “but where do you BUY these flowers?” Needless to say, I turned them right around and gave them a little impromptu demonstration!