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Books Creative Reuse

If you have books that no one wants anymore – such as out-of-date reference or text books – what can you make with them? Come get inspired by these artists who transform books into arts and crafts. Many of these ideas are collected on the Trashmagination Pinterest board for books.

You can listen to my podcast episode on creative reuse of books in this YouTube video. It originally aired in August 2019.

Get ideas on how to downsize your book collection from the podcast Spark Joy, episode 57.

Learn about the Little Free Library movement.

You can upcycle hard-cover books into journals or sketchbooks, or purchase them from artisans such as:

Book Sculpture Art

Brian Dettmer

Brian Dettmer makes book sculptures by arranging them together, gluing them into shapes and then cutting out images, words and shapes from the pages with an X-Acto knife.

Pittsburgh Paper Girl (Erin Gardner)

Most of Erin’s book sculptures look like a book filled with folded origami flowers. Unlike Brian Dettmer who sculpts with an X-acto knife, Erin achieves most of her sculptural designs just by folding the pages in the book. She also adds folded flowers made with other paper.

Tutorial about Book Sculpting

Jeremy May

He makes jewelry from laminated paper from books. He’ll take someone’s favorite book and then sculpt it into a ring for example. He started by making a ring for his wife for their first wedding anniversary, which is traditionally known as the paper anniversary.

Tutorial for how to make a ring from paper (or books!)

Lisa Nilsson

Lisa Nilsson made sculptures of human anatomical cross-sections using Japanese mulberry paper and the gilded edges of old books. It’s called the “Tissue Series.”

Lucy Dorothy Nichols

Lucy Dorothy Nicholstakes a book like a guide to birds and then puts them in a frame with  many birds sculpted from paper. Or she’ll take a book about weather and put many objects in the frame that relate to weather. I could see you taking any book that you love and putting it in a shadow box, then making art around it.

Ekaterina Panikanova

Ekaterina Panikanova is a painter who uses books as her canvases. She lays out a series of books side-by-side, and then paints scenes that spread across the books. These are often with only black and gray paint. For example, she laid open a series of hand-written recipe books and then painted many cakes on them.

Silvie Facon

Silvie Facon makes dresses from the spines of old books. The dresses are no 100 percent made from book spines. They incorporate lace for example. Another one of her designs was made from sheet music with a violin as part of the bodice.

Chiharu Shiota

Chiharu Shiota’s piece called “The Crossing” looks like a tornado of string and flying through it are many pages from books. Chiharu wrote about this sculpture that “Every single thread carries a vast amount of meaningful information, accumulating in a mass of awareness.”

Su Blackwell

Su Blackwell makes book sculptures by cutting images from old books and creating 3-D dioramas. They often have themes of fairy tales with haunting settings. There are books open on the table with trees growing out of their spines or butterflies flying up. Su says her sculptures express “the vulnerability of childhood, while also conveying a sense of childhood anxiety and wonder.”

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