Green Books: Book-Art

What do you do with your books when they're obsolete? I don't mean just that you've read them and no longer want them – in that case you give them to a friend or a charity shop, a hospital or a B&B. No I mean the books that you know no-one will want – out of date textbooks for example.

One answer is to make them into art!

Altered Books are quite popular and there's a good introduction to them on the Karen's Whimsy website. The idea is to use old books and to paint over them, make collages, cut pages and hide items in them. There are all kinds of creative things you can do and blogs devoted to how to do it!

The French Canadian artist Guy Laramee goes a stage further and makes amazingly complex 3D sculptures out of old vintage books. I first came across his work via this article on Treehugger.
Book art recently hit the headlines in Edinburgh, where I live, when an unknown artist left a series of intricate book carvings at literary venues across the city. You can read more about the mystery sculptures in this article in the Guardian newspaper.

I've even had a go myself! As an experiment I used an out of date Italian comprehension book as the basis for a journal for an Italian holiday. You can see a sample page here, on my Crafty Green Poet blog.

I don't know though. I have to admire the crafting and artistry of the best altered books and book art, but I'm not always convinced the books are actually obsolete. Wouldn't someone out there have wanted to actually read those articles from 1970s Italian newspapers?

Then I see a truck outside a local charity shop being filled up with books to be taken to the landfill and I know that making art is certainly better than throwing away.

So make art with your unwanted books, but do first check whether there's anywhere you can donate them!


  1. Having recently moved house and turned out a lot of stuff (though not enough!) including books that we are unlikely to want to read again, I have subsequently across one or two art books that I bought secondhand (probably at Hay), that provided me with pictures for art history projects. It seems a slight shame now to find them on my shelves with a page missing here and there ... BUT, these projects were taken pretty much pre-Google, so I guess it was the cheapest way of getting illustrations at the time ... and perhaps better than using fresh paper for printing out. Scrappy old books are great for scrapbooking, too ...

  2. I'd not hear of book sculptures ( where have I been?) I love the idea. It'd be great to see the recycled books exhibited in bookshops :)


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