Unbound Upcycle Book Art Creation

Sometime in March, while browsing my local library’s website, I saw that they were hosting an “Un-bound Upcycle Book Art Contest” that month.

You go to your local branch, ask for an old book, and then use it as your canvas. You can turn it into… anything!

I saw this as a very low-pressure, fun Yes, yet still very much a challenge.

What can I do with a book, using what I have in my home?

What ideas do I want to share?

My very first thought was a memory of middle and high school, when students would fold the page of their planner once a week was over, taking one corner across diagonally. The following week, they’d take the opposite corner and fold it across diagonally. Over time, it gave the planner a cool look, with a V-shape missing from the middle.

I took the hardcover home and set it on my bedroom floor.

And there it sat.

One night I browsed book transformation ideas on my phone, and took lots of screen shots of different elements.

The book continued to sit and sit.

I didn’t have a Plan, a vision of what this thing would look like, nor did I know what central idea I wanted it to embody.


Then one Tuesday, when we were sent home from work and the outside panic and worry of the world had finally pierced a small hole in my calm bubble, I couldn’t sit still.

I needed something to calm my mind, to pull me back into my body.

I brought the untouched book outside to my picnic table and began folding pages, just as my peers had done in school all those years ago.

Fold and crease.

Fold and crease.

Fold and crease.

I got lost in the rhythm.

After some time, I saw that the 3-D points being created looked like a mountain.

The book I’d selected actually had “mountain” in the title, and a few pages inside had black and white drawn maps of mountains.

I cut one out and adhered it to the front, mountain featured.

Mountains are grounded and provide strength, yet behind their stability, mountains too are always changing. They’re fluid, kind of like glass. It looks solid, but when you zoom in really close, you see it’s moving. That’s what the mountain’s folds made me think of, which swayed as I picked up the book or as the wind blew. Fluidity, constant change, is our natural state and connects us all.


The cutting and gluing of paper also made me think of an art project from a VHS we would often get from the library as a kids, called “Razzle Dazzle’s Rainy Day.” From newspapers, they roll, tape, cut, and twist, to make big paper trees. I wanted to use the book pages for tinier versions of this.

It proved difficult; I learned that particular tree-creation works best with the thin paper of newspapers, but I did get some to semi-turn out.

book art mid-way

Originally I was going to attach these in front, standing vertically, as trees.

But in the end, they were inserted sideways, as added motion and dimension.

I’d been holding on to two beautiful magazine images—with trees and oh that gorgeous blue water!—from a Creative Paradise event in early February. I’d ripped them out for collage, and never used them for anything. They sat on my desk, week after week, feeling too pretty to use in my mail art projects.

In the spirit of using as opposed to stashing, I cut one into slips and used it for the floor of this book creation.

Then I cut strips from a toilet paper roll and folded them into sturdy triangles for dimension: two plants sprouting vertically out of the page.

Lastly, I searched for a quote. A message I would feel good about sharing.

In the fall, I got Terry Tempest Williams’s latest book, “Erosion: Essays of Undoing” (highly recommend!), from the library. While checking out, I was surprised to learn the librarian hadn’t heard of Terry Tempest Williams. But she’s from Utah!, I thought. But she’s a champion of the environment—an activist! And we’re yards from Zion National Park!

But I, myself, had only just read my first Terry Tempest Williams book that summer: “Refuge.” (Thank you Emily!)

And if one well-read Utah librarian didn’t know her, perhaps other residents didn’t as well.

So I shared one of her quotes:

terry tempest williams quote

I turned in my creation a few days before the actual first date of the collection period. And then a couple days later, the library closed until further notice.

Will the book ever get to be displayed in person?

Will I ever get to see the other creations made as part of this project?

Time will tell. But for now, here’s a 2-D virtual display of front, side, and back views:

book art project front

book art project side

book art project back