Between the covers of a book; artwork for the literature lover

Special to the Herald Tina Carstensen and Judy Hamaker work on their folded book art Christmas Tree sculptures during the class at the Niobrara County Library.

LUSK – A book’s value often lies in the sentimental realm rather than the monetary. To a book lover the words themselves are a work of art. 

But book folding is a process that turns the physical book itself into a three-dimensional work of art.

The art of book folding gives books a new life and helps them tell a different story. The resulting sculpture can relate to the book contents – a butterfly from a book about insects, for instance – or simply create a pleasing display with a selected theme, such as a Christmas tree or other decorative element. 

As with many art forms, the product may be simple and beginner-friendly or highly complex and take many hours of measuring and folding to create. This art medium has its own following and “masters” within the folding world. Most book art is created using folds or origami with a few utilizing cutting techniques as well.

The origins of this specific type of origami are difficult to trace. While folding arts going far back in many cultures including Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Roman and German, the actual folding of book pages while leaving them in the book binding has moved into mainstream crafts in the last decade. Popular during the Victorian era as a way for ladies to pass the time, book folding has experienced a resurgence of interest in the last 10 to 15 years.

Book page folding involves precisely measured and placed folds and sometimes cutting to create a three-dimensional image of the artist’s choosing. Lusk-based artist Barb Orr began offering book folding classes in 2018 at the Niobrara County Library. The class is a great way for the library to give new life to books that would otherwise collect dust in someone’s basement. 

The requirements for a project are very basic: a hard-bound book that is fairly thick – preferably with a sewn binding, but glued will work if it isn’t cracked and too dry – a ruler, pencil, scissors or hobby knife and any embellishments that will be used to decorate the final sculpture.

Some more advanced projects may require a paper-back book. In that case, the project would not be supported by the book covers but incorporate the covers in the folding process. Experienced folders recommend books with gilded edges or marbled pages as well as those with colorful inside covers and unique fonts.

The process starts with selecting your first page. This is determined by how large the book is and how many pages are needed for the sculpture. The goal is the end product will be centered within the book. Next, the book is marked and scored for the folds. The third step is the actual folding itself which creates a very flat, sharp edge of the page. Several folding techniques and options are available, depending on what look the artist wants for the final product. The last step is to add any embellishments that will finish the piece.

The final product may be displayed on a tabletop or hung on the wall, either alone or in groupings. The process may be learned from a live class, online tutorial or in a crafting book or magazine. Book folding artists like Orr often create their own patterns and fold at multiple levels to create miniature scenes and cities. While the final works can appear daunting some of the singular items (trees, initials, words, shapes) are easy to create with a little concentration. 

Attendees of Orr’s classes say they find the process relaxing and the final outcome creates a beautiful, one of a kind piece for display or even gift giving. For the beginner, there are many free patterns out there available online or unique patterns that can be purchased for $2 - $5 from sites like Etsy or individual crafting blogs. 

Once crafters become familiar with the process, they may begin creating their own patterns for this fun art form that is easy on the eyes and the pocketbook.

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