Beauty out of pain

TO celebrate her 71st birthday last year, Madam Aleena Yeo spent four days making a pink and white birthday cake topped with coloured roses and green leaves.

This was no ordinary cake – it was made entirely out of paper.

What Madam Yeo does is an art form called paper quilling, where strips of paper are painstakingly rolled, shaped and glued together to create intricate works of art.

The former home tutor and Cantonese opera teacher first discovered her interest in paper quilling when she was in her twenties.

“I subscribed to magazines from England and they had a feature on paper quilling. I decided to give it a shot. However my interest waned after a while and I stopped doing it for many years.”

Cut to 40 years later where Madam Yeo’s former passion was rekindled when a video about paper quilling was posted on the social media site, Facebook.

“I thought, ‘Hey, this is not something new to me!’.  I started paper quilling again,” she said.

paper quiling cake
Not your usual cake… the “cake”, which Madam Yeo made for her 71st birthday, doubles up as a ring box.

Madam Yeo, who has a son in his 30s, has since gone on to create an impressive array of art pieces out of paper. These include jewellery boxes, a lantern with the popular Japanese cartoon character Cinnamoroll, an “ang pao” (red packet) and many more.

On average, each piece takes about a week to complete.

paper quiling 2
Lighting up lives… Last year, Madam Yeo made a Cinnamoroll lantern for her goddaughter’s three-year-old son to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival. Can you see it taking shape in this photo?

heart shaped quiling

Garden of love… Madam Yeo’s creations are often floral-themed with a splash of colour.

The process is tedious, made even more so by Madam Yeo’s arthritis and sciatica – an intense nerve pain in the lower back and limbs – but she keeps going. 

“Sometimes my hands hurt when I’m rolling and shaping the paper, but because I am so excited to see the final product, I push through the pain and apply medicated oil on my hands when I’m done,” she added. “Even though my fingers hurt, I will still continue to create art.”

paper quiling process

Attention to details… Madam Yeo spends an average of one week to complete each art piece.

For Madam Yeo, paper quilling gives her a sense of accomplishment and keeps her creative juices flowing.

The vivacious senior said: “It keeps my mind active because I need to think creatively."

Keen to impart her paper quilling skills to more people and reunite with her first love – teaching, Madam Yeo decided to conduct paper quilling lessons. She currently teaches at Punggol Family Service Centre and will be starting lessons at SASCO @Compassvale Senior Activity Centre later this month.

Besides paper quilling, the senior also teaches English grammar, phonics, reading and Cantonese opera to the seniors at the centre.

She said, “I hope that through me, my students learn to enjoy the process of learning, live actively and happily. That, to me, is successful ageing."

To view Madam Yeo’s works, click here. If you are interested to learn paper quilling from Madam Yeo, drop us a message here or via Facebook.

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