My folio highlight: Yulia Brodskaya

The in-demand illustrator and quilling pioneer shares the varied inspirations that make her tick, from traditional Russian folklore to dried cow dung

With a diverse client list that includes Nokia, Starbucks, Cadbury and Penguin, Yulia Brodskaya’s distinctive style has caught the attention of millions around the world – and her sources of inspiration are as diverse as the pieces in her portfolio.

What made you pick this project as a highlight from your body of work?
Firebird is a self-initiated piece that I’ve done recently – one of very few from the past five years. I’ve been busy with various client projects (and two babies) but recently felt the need to go back to where it all started, with something personal.

Where did you draw your inspiration for this piece?
The ‘firebird’ motif is traditional in Russian culture. There are fairy tales about it; it’s one of the most common motifs found on traditional craft objects, such as wooden carvings and lacquer miniature paintings. This was the first motif that I incorporated into the first full-colour quilling work that I created. My firebird needed to be reborn.

What do you love most about it – how does it make you feel now, looking back?
I spent a long time refining the design, so right now nothing bothers my eye. It evokes some warm emotions. However, this makes it difficult for me to judge objectively whether I created a good design or am just being overly sentimental.

What’s the most unusual, unconventional thing you’ve ever been inspired by?
During my time at Moscow university we had annual summer trips where teachers encouraged us to look for inspiration in every single object around us. One year, we spent it in one of the Russian villages. I clearly remember walking in the fields and the forest around the village, looking around me all the time and sketching leaves, tree trunks, animals, old shoes, rusty tractors and so on. However, perhaps the most memorable source of ‘inspiration’ was some dried cow dung that I found interesting because of its distinctive texture. I made a couple of nice abstract sketches.

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