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I was born in Moscow, an only child to very educated, intellectual, and refined parents.
When I was 16 years old, some six months shy of graduating from high school, my mother and I won a green card in a lottery and moved to the United States.
Logically, moving to the United States was the smartest and luckiest thing for us. Leaving the highly volatile political and economical situation of Russia in the mid-90s for a comfortable and stable “reach for your dreams” the United States was a wonderful opportunity for my family.
Emotionally, the trauma of entering a new culture as a teenager without being able to speak English fluently is still with me.
I was very popular in Moscow. I had lots of friends, I sang and played guitar. In other words, I was “in.” When we moved, I was “out” in every sense of the word.
I became invisible; people assumed that I had nothing to say when I was quiet, while in reality, I was trying really hard to string the words in my head to make an intelligent comment.
I vividly remember crying in the library because there were so many books I wanted to read, but I only had the skills to read “Berenstein Bears.” Back in Moscow, I was able to eloquently argue about music and philosophy but now nobody had the patience to listen through my accent.
I suppose I had very little patience for myself.
I was so frustrated by the process, that it felt to me as if I could be all or nothing.
It felt like I chose nothing.
From a butterfly, I moved backwards into a cocoon — for a long time.
I still thought of myself as intelligent, funny, and artistic, but to the outside world, I was none of those things. I accepted the way people saw me; I was too quiet, too shy.
I gained proficiency in the English language at some point, but the internal stigma remained. When I got married, my husband easily took over the burdensome tasks of talking to people. I chose the easy way out, delegating communication with the world to my other half. The downside was that the trauma had changed me to an introverted over-thinker and I chose to keep it that way.
So fast forward many years, we are a growing family with nine kids.
I discovered my art form and new method of self-expression- almost by accident.
I saw a quilling project featured in a magazine and my daughter asked me if we could do the craft together. We bought a basic quilling set and in the process, I realized that the work resonated with me, so much so that quilling became a way to express myself without needing words.
Quilling is a type of paper art where thin strips of paper are rolled into different shapes and glued on its side creating a 3D design.
Quilling for me is a song, a flow of creative energy, an exhilarating ride, but also a struggle. It is a give and take, a humbling experience. When I’m quilling I have to take a step back and let paper decide what it wants to do. Oftentimes I have an idea of how my art piece should look and it takes conscious effort to let go of and allow the art piece to become and do what it needs to do. Letting go is not something that comes easy to me.
Many times when I’m asked to do a quilling art piece that is based on real people, I’m able to really catch that essence that makes the art piece in the likeness of a real person. My “Chosson and Kallah” art is based on a specific couple and does look like them. I think this goes farther than their hair color and skin tone. It is about capturing the turn of their heads, fold of their hands, and how they hold their shoulders. It is something that is almost imperceptible but makes them recognizable. It just happens when I let myself be a channel for what is there already.
There are many ways to communicate. Some require the knowledge of a certain language and others don’t. Art in general is one of the forms of communication where the words are not necessary. Quilling for me is exactly that, it allows me to tell a story, to share a part of myself without saying even one word.
Our choices in life shape who we are. As a teenager, I chose to retreat into myself, as a young mother I chose to delegate communication with the world to my husband, and now I choose to speak with my art.
I was born in Moscow and moved to the USA when I was almost 17. After I got married we lived in many places including Moscow and Tallinn until we settled in Pittsburgh 5 years ago. We have 9 children K”A.
Over the years I tried many artistic outlets including writing, cake art, and poetry until I accidentally discovered quilling about 7 years ago. Quilling is a type of paper art that uses strips of paper that are glued on its side creating a 3d design. While it is challenging to find time to do my art, I feel most alive when I’m quilling and quilling is definitely a language of my soul.
You can see my art here
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