Turn the page: Colorful collage made from strips of book pages

Curved paper with colored plastic
Here's a  strange irony -- upcycling can create waste. Lots of it. Enough to make me wonder if I'm doing more harm than good. This is especially true with my upcycled tablet and Kindle book cases. Each one leaves behind a thick slab of pages. I make 8-9 cases at a time, so that means towers of book slabs. Literal towers! 

I'm always looking for ways to re-use these pages. My latest idea was to cut the pages into thin strips and make wrist cuffs. But things didn't turn out quite how I planned.

To slice thin strips, I knew my trusty box cutter just wouldn't cut it. So I asked my husband to show me how to use his brand new band saw (say that 3 times fast). He obliged.
I learn to use a band saw!
Since I wasn't exactly sure how I would make the cuffs, I cut slices in different widths, from 1/4" to 1 1/2".
Paper strips cut from book pages
Then I tried curving them around my wrist. No dice. The strips bent, fanned out, curled, everything but make a nice circle. Still, I liked the fuzzy black lines created by the cross-sections of text. 

I spent a few days playing with the strips. I tried painting the edges and gluing them together.
Paper strips cut from book pages
This made the strips stiff and not nearly as interesting as the curly, pliable things I started with.

I decided I wanted curls. Dr. Seussian loops, actually. So I peeled off 3-4 strips and dunked them into warm water. I drained off the excess and then bent it into a curved shape. I did this 15 or 20 times. To keep them in place until they dried, I wedged the wet paper curves between heavy wood bricks.
Curved shapes cut from book pages
(Unfortunately, I didn't take a photo of the curls as they were drying, but this gives you an idea of what I created.) After about a day, the wet paper strips hardened into firm curves.

I took all my strange shapes and glued them onto a square wooden board that I'd covered with flat paper strips. So far so good, but because the background was the same beige color as the strips, the curls got lost. How to make them stand out? 

My ever-resourceful husband offered a suggestion -- and treasures from his stash. These transparent colored plastic rolodex card holders.
Colored plastic rolodex card holders
I traced shapes from my collage onto the plastic and cut them out. Then I glued them inside the curves using clear E6000. 
Curved strips cut from book pages
I loved that I could read the words through the plastic. The result was like Mod stained glass. 

I was almost done. But how to mount the piece? This time I turned to my own stash. I discovered the base for a kids' wooden puzzle. 
Base for wooden kids' puzzle
I turned it over, pleased to discover plain wood. I glued my collage to this base, using wood glue and 4 new clamps (my husband got me my own set so I'd stop using his.)

Almost there. The border needed one more thing. Could I use the plastic to create small colored tiles?
Scrabble tiles covered with colored plastic
Yes, I could! I grabbed a bunch of cracked Scrabble tiles (victims of a dull drill bit). I followed the same procedure I use to make Scrabble bracelets. I punched out squares, used my Xyron sticker maker to adhere the plastic to the tiles, then applied dimensional glaze to create a clear bubble top.

Then I added them to the collage. I played around with different patterns. Here's what I ended up with.
Collage made from thin strips of book pages
The finished piece measures 8" (20.5 cm) x 12" (30.5 cm). I'm not sure the tiles work, but I like the Mondrian-look of the curls.

What do you think? Were the tiles a mistake?


  1. Wow. This is very, very cool. I love every detail, and will share your ideas.

  2. Thanks! Next time I'll take more photos of the actual paper "bending" process.

  3. Replies
    1. I like them too. I may try making something else with just the tiles. Maybe a bracelet.


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