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About

My name is Bel Mills, and I'm a book artist, book-arts teacher, collage artist, upcycler, and owner of Scrap Paper Circus, upcycled book arts studio. Since 2016 I've been making one-of-a-kind books and journals out of second-hand materials and teaching my students to do the same.

So what on earth is "upcycling?" It's transforming an ordinary or "disposable" item into an object of permanence and beauty. In my case, I'm transforming ordinary paper into extraordinary books.

My favorite supplies include cardboard boxes, paper sacks, envelopes and file folders. I love finding paper products at home, or in second-hand stores, and figuring out how to incorporate them into a book. It's environmental and economical, yes, but it's also fun! Once you understand the nature of paper and the structure of books, you begin seeing the paper products around you with new eyes, and the bookbinding adventure begins.

The books arts classes I teach follow this same philosophy. My students soon realize they are surrounded by bookmaking supplies if they know where to look, and that upcycled paper can produce a wide variety of charming and functional books if handled with the proper techniques. This approach frees them from worry about mistakes and allows them to experiment without the worry of "ruining" precious materials. It also infuses bookmaking with a feeling of possibility, whimsy and delight. Students leave my classes with clever, personalized journals that are fun to make and a joy to use.

The seed for Scrap Paper Circus was planted in 2015 when I started taking book arts classes for fun after 10 years spent at home parenting our sons. In my coursework, was especially inspired by the Fluxus artists of the 1960s and 70s who made books out of inexpensive, found materials like envelopes, magazine clippings, and photocopies. I began experimenting with found paper and was encouraged to continue when one of my professors bought a mail art wallet I'd made as a gift for a family member. A bit later, another of my book arts teachers asked if I would take over her teaching post at an art center the next town over. That's when my book arts teaching career began. My Etsy shop opened in 2017.

Scrap Paper Circus is my home studio outside Washington DC where I live with my husband, twin boys, two dogs, and my mom.

Thanks for visiting!  

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