Combat Paper: Art Therapy for Veterans

I’m a big fan of Kickstarter, and it’s a favorite thing of mine to browse (and back) the projects on their site. It’s such a great and supportive community and it’s amazing to see what big things people are dreaming up to share with the world.

One such project that I found and was blown away by: the Combat Paper Program (and not just because it centers on hobbies close to my heart — paper making, bookbinding and printing). Hosted by the Printmaking Center of New Jersey (in Branchburg, NJ), it’s a veterans-only program, through which vets can meet to make paper and art. The program focuses on ripping up old combat fatigues (their own or donated uniforms), turning them into pulp and making paper from them.

Through the Combat Paper program, veterans get the opportunity to meet and talk with other vets — those who have been where they have, who understand, who will listen without judgement. It’s group and art therapy, rolled into one.

A piece of art created by a Combat Paper participant. Image by Printmaking Center of New Jersey.

“Deconstructing a uniform while talking with other veterans breaks the cycle of isolation.  We deconstruct our past by cutting up our military uniforms, reclaim our experiences by making paper from these uniforms, and communicate our experiences by printing images and writing our words onto Combat Paper. The telling of our stories transforms us and gives us confidence to bridge the gap that keeps us separate and apart from the rest of American society.”
– Combat Paper’s site

This project is a powerful reminder of the healing power that art can have. To literally pull apart the fabric of their experiences being at war, to pull apart the sweat and tears and remake them into something of their own — it’s an act that is a hauntingly perfect analogy for this thing we call Art.

You can read more about Combat Paper in this news article from Though the Kickstarter fundraiser has ended, you still donate to Combat Paper by visiting that link, and scrolling to the bottom, then clicking on the donate button in the bottom right corner on the sidebar.

Do you use art as therapy? Writing as therapy? How much is your art a reflection of your own experiences?

3 Great Ideas From Pinterest!

My newest obsession/addiction.

Hey all! I’m sorry about the break in posts. My husband and I recently had to move close to 3000 miles, from Salt Lake City to North Carolina! I’ve had a million things to worry about, between packin and unpacking, cleaning, and find a job. Finally, though, the dust has settled some and I’m ready to get back into the saddle-stitching! (Did you see what I did there? Eh? Eeeeeh?)

I haven’t had time to bang out any new projects since I’ve moved in. In fact, my bookmaking stuff is still strewn all over or stuffed into corners, all in a most unorganized manner. BUT I do have something that I’m pretty excited about and wanted to discuss!

I have found a new love in the form of the website Pinterest, to which I was introduced by my great friend Tess. Essentially, it’s a form of bookmarking, but it is more visual and social. As you’re browsing your fave blogs (like THIS ONE wink) or looking for ideas, you simply “pin” the page, using an image from it. You can use “boards” to categorize different pins, and your pins will be shared with those who follow you.

You need an invite, which I’d be happy to send, so leave me a comment requesting one, or you can request one at their home page. It’s a great website and SO FUN. Warning, though: it is slightly addictive. Also,  it can be a lot like looking at a bunch of beautiful stuff that I will never own/wear/make/see/taste. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

One of the first things I did when I opened my account was to make a board for things related to book arts. I’ve been able to get a ton of inspiration and ideas, and even better—they are all neatly saved where I can find them! Here are some of my favorite ideas.

1. Greeting Card Catalog

how to store old
A great and clever way to save cards and sentimental notes, without sticking them in a box somewhere they’ll never get read or looked at again. Simply punch holes in the long edge of the cards (you can even leave them in the envelopes), and run a book ring through them (or yarn, ribbon, whatever works).

2. 52 Things I love About You

This is simple enough to make. Punch holes through the corner of a set of playing cards. Prepare slips of paper, complete with visuals, of what you love about that person. Modge podge them to each card and bind them together with yarn, twin, ribbon, book ring, or so on.

I know this is pretty popular idea, but I like that this version keeps the look of the cards. This set make a great anniversary, Birthday, Christmas or Valentine’s Day gift. And you can make it for anyone in your life: spouse, bf/gf, daughter/son, friend, sister/brother, etc. The possibilities are endless.

3. 365 Day Calendar Journal

I’m big believer in recording your life, and this is an easy way to do it. You make cards (or I suppose you could number the pages in a book) and assign each a date, and store them in a box. Each day, write down something you did. Then, in a year, do the same all over. Insert photos and other momentos in between cards. After the first year, it would be so fun and rewarding to look back on the last year and be reminded of a simple, good memory from that day!


So that’s it. I’d love to hear what you’re using Pinterest for, or what great things you’ve found in your pinning. Also, reply with your Pinterest username and I’ll, like, totally follow you ! ! ! Love you all, thanks for everything (patience, support, etc.) and, of course: Happy Bookmaking!

Brackets & Robotics: 2 Small Books

I’ve been making some smaller books lately. They’re the perfect size to get the grain right when starting from 8.5 X 11 paper — and I had a lovely ream of natural colored cotton Strathmore to put to good use.

I love making smaller books because they are the perfect way to experiment and try new things. They don’t take as much materials, so if you mess up, you aren’t wasting too much. They also tend to come together faster for me.

So, here are a few I made. All pictures taken with my iPod and edited with

This journal was really fun to make, though a little challenging. I wanted to cover the spine in leather, but alas, the square I wanted to use was just a little too small. (click for full view)

handmade book sewn onto cords

But, never fear! With a little improvisation, I decided to turn the leather so that the diagonal ran along the spine. This way, the corners flapped onto the covers. Then, I cut it into this cute bracket shape and glued it down. The scrolling cover material is just some scrap fabric I had around. I think it turned out really well!

On this second one, I tried to keep the fun feeling of the more stylized spine shape, rather than just the usual straight line. (Again, click for full view.)

book cloth handmade book with robots

I used the robot print to cover the book boards, being careful to glue it correctly so that the robot was in the center of the cover. I then glued mull and whatnot to get it sturdy-like. Finally, I cut the book cloth into the desired shaped and glued it onto the spine. I’m please with

I love making smaller books so much, but have a harder time finding a use for them… blergh! But then, I guess that finding a happy home for their creations is a challenge any bookmaker faces.

Hope this gave you some inspiration. Happy bookmaking!

Repurposed Book Artist

I recently came across this piece in the NY Times about artist Lisa Occhipinti. I had unwittingly seen her work (or copycats of it), mainly the mobile that is on the cover of her book (below), The Repurposed Library. It was fun to read through this and get a better feel for her, her style, and what she is about.

This grabbed my attention for two reasons: one, the name of her book is strikingly similar to the title of this blog; two, she is so creative and fun! I really enjoyed looking through her website and seeing the beautiful things she has done with books. I definitely scooped up some inspiration.

A sweet piece of art from a repurposed book.

This is a lovely piece called “Flora Frieze.” There is an amazing amount of detail, and it looks so organic.

art piece from a repurposed book

Mostly I got excited because I’ve had some books sitting around that I picked up at thrift stores, intending to repurpose them. And while I probably won’t be doing anything as extensive as Occhipinti’s work (yet), it has put a fire under me! I spend so much time focused on book arts as bookbinding and making, that I forget it can also go the other way—taking an existing book and turning it into something new, useful, and intriguing.

How about you? Working on anything new and interesting lately?

Paper Grain: What is it?

What is paper grain?

Image courtesy of Collin Erickson

Once you start doing paper crafts, whether it’s scrapbooking, cardmaking or bookmaking, you’ll hear about grain. But what is it?

The What:

Paper is made of organic fibers, such as cotton, hemp, and even silk. When paper is machine-made (as most paper you work with will be), the fibers are laid down running all in the same direction, usually parallel to the length of the sheet. This creates the grain of the paper. Book boards also have a grain.

Handmade paper, on the other hand, will have not grain because the fibers lay in an organic pattern, not in any one direction. So don’t sweat it with those bad boys.

The Why:

But why is grain important?

Paper’s grain comes into play when folding. It helps to think of grains as the corrugation in cardboard; whatever direction the corrugation runs, it will be easiest to fold with it. When you fold against (perpendicular to) the grain, the paper will be more resistant to the fold. When you fold with (parallel to) the grain, the paper will fold more neatly and flatly.

Not only should the paper grain run parallel to the spine, but also any cover papers, book cloth or boards that you use to make the casing. This will improve the strength and integrity of your product.

So what if you don’t have the right kind of paper? You can still make a book with your papers or whatever materials, BUT the following undesirable results may occur:

-Folded-over text pages may not lay flat, but might “pop open instead
-Folds may have a split or “torn” appearance
-When gluing two things together, the grains may fight against each other and cause the page or board to warp
-There may be a “wave” in the final product
-Your book may not stand the test of time!

I hope I’ve adequately described what paper grain is. I’m going to spend the weekend making a video that explains paper grain and how you can determine it. When it’s done, I’ll post it here!

Happy bookmaking!