Friday 17 April 2020

Lockdown Bookish Sculpture by Tracy Darnton

We’re still here in Lockdown, many of us struggling to concentrate or to find the bandwidth to write or read, despite our good intentions. So how about doing something hands on with any tatty, unwanted books you’ve got in the house? 

I’ll do a couple of blogs on easy book sculpture. Normally I’d say ask at your local library or charity shop for the books they’re going to throw away but you’re going to have to find one at home. Maybe one with a few missing pages or one you dropped in the bath. Or maybe there’s a book you just don’t want on the shelf anymore.

First up, making an animal.

This is Scabbers the Rat which my son made when he was ten from an old Harry Potter book.  It’s not difficult, no cutting, only folding. You can do this!

Just by folding the pages of a paperback book you can quickly create a basic animal shape like a hedgehog or mouse.

Use a book of minimum 150 pages to give yourself enough paper to work with.

Open the book to the first page.

Fold the page in half towards the spine, smoothing down the crease neatly.

Now make the pointy nose shape for your animal by folding over the top left corner to make a triangle. Smooth the fold well. 

If you want your animal to have a shaped rear end you can fold in a triangle from the bottom left corner too. 

Repeat with the next page and the next until you have finished folding the whole book, creating a semi-circular shape with a pointy nose. 

Keeping the cover gives a more stable base but you can cut it to match the shape of the animal once you’ve finished folding. If you’ve made a creature who is a character in the book you’ve used, like Scabbers, leave the whole cover on.

Add a nose, ears and whiskers to your animal using paper offcuts, buttons, pompoms, pipe cleaners or googly eyes, whatever old rubbish you’ve got in Lockdown.

Et voila – a whole new Lockdown friend to talk to. The folds can be used to hold photos or cards as a desk tidy, or, if you don’t want to give it houseroom, a perfect gift for your agent/editor/writer buddy.

Next month we’ll progress to trees and I may let you have a go with scissors and a craft knife.

In the meantime, take inspiration from the amazing work of paper artists like Malena ValcarcelSusan Hoerth or Jodi Harvey-Brown who create stunning sculptures from books. Their work is full of exquisite scenes or ‘sets’, sometimes beautifully illuminated. A mad hatters tea party rises from Alice in Wonderland, or a forest scene leaps from Little Red Riding Hood. The bookish possibilities are endless!

Tracy Darnton is the author of The Truth About Lies. Her next novel, The Rules, is out in July. The Rules is about a girl who’s spent her whole life preparing for disasters like pandemic. Tracy is not enjoying this unexpected immersive research period. 


Sue Bursztynski said...

I’m sorry, Tracy, but I’m afraid this makes me shudder. It reminds me too much of a library technician I was working with at one time, who didn’t bother looking for old, damaged books but made these book sculptures with brand new, expensive books we had bought from a tiny budget, for the kids to read, not to be turned into sculpture.

Why not just do some origami? Just saying...

Emma Perry said...

I love these! Such a good use for book arcs / book proofs that I've read & reviewed but, not am allowed to put into circulation. I turned a couple into Christmas trees one year, to save them from the recycling bin!
Will get scissors ready for next week!

Penny Dolan said...

Lovely idea, Tracy! I am now going to go back and look at those sculptures again.

Sue, after that awful experience, I can understand your utter horror at the idea. However, Tracy DID suggest using a tatty unwanted book and Emma said she'd use her not-for-circulation proof copies so I think all will be well.

I am left wondering how on earth you responded to that book-ignorant "artist", and if he/she survived. Those poor lost books!

Katherine Roberts said...

Looks like the perfect solution for the sort of paperback you end up hurling at the wall and putting in the next charity bag... Or maybe one of my own yellowing remainders, which have been stored in my (damp) loft all winter.... is it possible to sculpt a unicorn???

Anne Booth said...

This is great. I could never do it with one of my well-loved books, but I have a few from my writing shed which got rained on, and I love the idea of doing something positive with them

Tracy Darnton said...

Thanks for the comments - I know it's tough for people who love books to get folding and cutting - I never even turn down a page corner normally - but I think it's a good creative way to reuse withdrawn, tatty stock destined for pulping. And Scabbers agrees with me. He's had a fruitful life in the school library where I used to volunteer and where we frequently repurposed books to decorate the library (Asterix bunting anyone?) - and since retirement he sits on my bookshelves.