A new use for an old book? Fold it into art

  • This undated photo provided by Candice Caldwell shows book folding projects hanging on the wall of her Chicago home. Turning a book into three-dimensional sculpture can create a beautiful conversational piece.(Candice Caldwell via AP)Candice Caldwell

  • Book folding projects can be used as home decoration. AP

  • Candice Caldwell shows book folding projects hanging on the wall of her Chicago home. Turning a book into a three-dimensional sculpture can create a beautiful conversational piece. AP

Associated Press
Friday, September 15, 2017

Books have more uses than might be obvious. Sure, you can press flowers in a heavy one and set out the pretty ones as decoration. You can read the darn things. But have you tried turning a book into three-dimensional sculpture?

The process can be quite simple; the result a beautiful conversational piece.

There are many permutations of book folding, an art form that involves folding pages of a hardcover book – sometimes combined with cutting the paper – within the book’s own binding. The finished work pops off the page three-dimensionally, and may be hung on a wall or placed atop a table. Groupings of three or more are the most dynamic.

“They look impressive on the wall,” says Candice Caldwell of Chicago. “A group of six of these on the wall together can look really beautiful, and they’re just really simple folds.”

Caldwell, who blogs about repurposing everyday items such as books at “the ReFab Diaries,” was turning old books into clocks when, in 2003, she saw a simple book-folding project in a do-it-yourself magazine and gave it a try.

She has since taught several friends and her mom how to fold books into wall art.

“It’s very, very forgiving,” said Caldwell.

Clare Youngs, author of Folded Book Art, also says book folding is easy. Her book includes instructions for folding a butterfly and other patterns.

“It looks as if it is complicated and unachievable, but it is really easy to do,” Youngs said in an email from her home in Kent, England. “You just don’t tell anyone how easy it is and they will be amazed at your creations.”

Find book-folding tutorials on YouTube (“Introductory Book Sculpture Lesson” by Johwey Redington is a good one) and at crafting blogs – Caldwell shares links to many helpful sites. Instructables, the website that lists “how-to” instructions about homes, crafting and technology, shares a “three-step” tutorial. Or buy a $3 to $5 kit from an online Etsy seller, said Ann Martin, author of All Things Paper.

“For several dollars you’ll receive a pattern geared toward what you’re wanting to fold,” said Martin, of Wilmington, Del. “You can even fold letters in different fonts. It’s mind-boggling how many patterns are out there.” 

Patterns include animals, geometric designs, numerals and inspirational words, and both patterns and finished pieces are sold at Etsy.com. Care to see or purchase a sophisticated upcycling of this craft? Visit Crizu, an Italian company that transforms books into elegant 3-D sculpture.

“My mouth is always hanging open when I find these people (such as the Crizu artists),” said Martin. “I can’t get over the creativity that people come up with for a plain ol’ book. They turn it into something completely different.”

Youngs began folding pages into art several years ago when she saw images of the craft online at Pinterest. She watched a few YouTube tutorials before folding her daughter’s age into a book.

“It is quite a therapeutic activity,” said Youngs. “You get into a rhythm of scoring and folding that is relaxing, and it’s very satisfying to see the shape develop.”

Martin has a quick comeback for those who think book folding is an act of destruction.

“Let’s be realistic here. Sometimes old books are better suited for a new purpose,” Martin said. “I feel it’s okay to go ahead and take that old, unused book that’s going to be tossed anyway and turn it into a work of art.”

For projects that require hardcover books, some of the best include Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, with their pretty inside covers, said Martin. Caldwell recommends old recipe and photography books, and any hardcover that has gold-tipped edges or marbled interior covers. Find them at thrift stores and library sales.

“If it’s really visual and really colorful when you start to fold it, you get a whole new look on the wall,” said Caldwell.

Other book-folding projects require paperback books; the finished pieces generally are standing 3D shapes.

Hang a finished hardcover work of art with a ceramic plate hanger; place a dowel or pencil horizontally behind the book cover for support.