I'm totally in love with Rhonna Farrer's curlicue work--perhaps I've mentioned that before. But besides sitting down and spending hours in Illustrator, you can also work with stuff that you have already, particularly the swashes that exist in certain fonts, such as Easy Street EPS. That's what I did here in my latest digital layout, "fleur."
First, I enlarged a couple of letters in Photoshop to about 240 points or so--I think I was working in particular with the A, C, and V. I used the lasso to select the portions of the curlicues that I liked, then opened a new image and cut and pasted 2 or 3 sections until I had a shape with plenty of interest. I then made a brush out of it, then used the brush for painting, dodging, and erasing both in the green frame, and in the background photo. Turns out kind of nicely, I think!