As per the usual, it was a Friday night and I was watching Parks and Rec on Netflix with my fiance. It was the episode where Leslie Knope gets married (a few weeks earlier than originally planned) and Ann Perkins finishes the wedding dress using old newspapers featuring Leslie’s proudest accomplishments. The combination of the dress’s style, the typography on the newspapers, the lace, and the red lip and heels makes for a romantic, vintage aesthetic.
For me, evokes images of detectives smoking cigars, classic red roses, a string of pearls, and bookshelves of old books. Can’t you literally smell those old books just by thinking of it? And suddenly I remembered that I had an old book collecting dust on my shelf. It’s an old, beat up, green and black physics book that I will never read. I actually got it during a white elephant gift exchange. In fact, I stole it during the stealing round of white elephant because I just loved the way it looked and the contents it contains. I was inspired to use its pages and cover to achieve the same aesthetic that Leslie did on her wedding day: a vintage, romantic, elegant, timeless, and classy aesthetic.
I began by considering what in the world I could do with this old book. Immediately, I wanted to hollow it out and use it as a purse, wallet, jewelry box, or secret compartment. However, I didn’t feel that simply hollowing it out and using it as any of those things would really do the aesthetic justice, nor the idea of upcycling. So I decided to use the pages that I cut out as a decoration or functional part or something. Maybe I could weave them into a strap and attach it to the cover like a purse? Maybe I could use them for paper mache? And then it hit me: roses! So I got started.
Ideally, I would have been able to cut perfect squares out of the middle of every page so that when the book is closed, you would never know it is hollowed out. However, that became tedious and incredibly difficult with my resources. So I ended up redesigning it to have the cutouts connect to one edge of the page. I also originally planned on using an epoxy or rubber cement to keep all of the pages together, forming a solid, inside wall of the compartment. However, before doing that, I considered that it wouldn’t work the way I wanted it to since the pages need to be able to flex as the book is open and closed. So instead, I used excess paper to bind the pages together, like a patch.
I gathered some scissors, my book, and my trusty hot glue gun and got to work.
Then, about 5 pages at a time, I cut rectangles out of the center of every page from the long edge of the page. I left about 1 inch of paper on each of the three remaining sides of the page. After doing this for 300 pages, my hands were hurting pretty bad.
I left some of the edges uneven and rough. This was partly because of how time consuming and difficult the process already was, but also because I didn’t mind the rough edges and their rustic charm. I then used some of the paper I had painstakingly cut out of the book and patched together the first and last pages with hot glue.
Then I glued the covers to the pages and tested it out. The book opens nicely, right in the middle, and reveals a compartment for storing money, jewelry, treasures, or perhaps another, smaller book. Then I got to work on the paper flower. I cut each petal out individually ranging from small sizes to large sizes. Each flower has about 15 hand-made petals.
To achieve a realistic rose, I curled the edges of each petal down and wrapped the petals in a spiraling fashion around one another, from small petals to large petals. I also created paper leaves and began gluing my paper flowers and leaves to the front cover of the book.
My functional goals for this project was essentially to create something that can store other items. I believe this artifact accomplishes that goal. However, in the future, I might add a clasp, shoulder strap, or even a zipper over the opening. I think these additions might help make this artifact much more ergonomic and I would be very likely to use it as a wallet, clutch, or jewelry box.
I am very proud with how this turned out. I think the level of detail I put into the roses really helps this artifact achieve that vintage, romantic aesthetic I was aiming for. I wanted this artifact to look classic and elegant, but also old, and I believe it does.
Link to Video:
Below is a link to the video of the in-class presentation I gave on this Vintage Book Compartment: