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  • Writer's pictureBel Mills

My Favorite Books on Upcycled Bookmaking

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

When I started making books from upcycled paper in 2016, I felt a bit lonely in my pursuits. I didn't have a book arts teacher who specialized in upcycling, so I had to rely on books to provide maps to this interesting territory. The books in this post are my absolute favorites! They served as both inspiration and trusted guides as I navigated the world of paper-no-one-else-seemed-to-care- about. I dedicate this post to students and newcomers who are looking for more guidance in this area, but cannot afford the expense of bookbinding classes. May this list inspire, direct and delight you!

Re-bound: Creating handmade books from recycled and repurposed materials

By Jeannine Stein

Jeannine Stein is an artistic force of nature. Not only is she the author of two books on bookbinding, but she also used to be the editor of the mixed media art magazine, Cloth Paper Scissors, and is currently the acquisitions editor at a major publisher of illustrated books. But I digress. Her fantastic book, Rebound, from 2009, will always be at the top of my upcycled book arts list. Her style and creativity were a huge inspiration for me when I was getting started. I focused mainly on her books featuring upcycled paper products, but Stein is far-ranging in her upcycling tastes, incoporating items as diverse as hot water bottles, felted sweaters and potato chip bags. Her game board travel journal, pictured below, is one of my all-time favorites of her designs, and was tremendous inspiration in my own travel journal making. I was also wowed by many of the guest artists pictured in the gallery at the back of the book. Though there are no directions for making the books in the gallery, I loved some of those photos so much, I applied myself to figuring out how to make them without instructions, which contributed immensely to my development as a book artist.

From Bound by Jeannine Stein

At Home With Handmade Books: 28 extraordinary bookbinding projects made from ordinary and repurposed materials

By Erin Zamrzla

Erin Zamrzla is a California-based bookbinding goddess with an MFA in graphic design. At Home with Handmade Books, published in 2011, is packed with gorgeous photos of her upcycled book designs. She adores Japanese stab binding techniques, so if that piques your interest, this is your book. She also features other binding methods such as the hinge binding, which I have taught in a variety of my workshops.

As you might expect, I loved the structures made from shipping tags and a variety of envelopes, as pictured below, but skipped the non-paper based projects; including books made from kitchen sponges, tube socks, and Ziploc bags. Strangely, the project instructions are grouped at the back of the book, separate from the initial photos, which seemed awkward and reminded me of recipes at the back of a magazine. Also, there are some puzzling images, such as a shot of Zamrzla binding a book while sitting on a floor pillow--in a short dress--with her legs folded primly to the side. I'm assuming this was an editorial decision.

All these quibbles aside, I can say without hesitation that Zamrzla a bookbinding genius. In fact, this book in some ways doesn't do her justice. Visit her Flikr feed here to see her in her full glory (of course, sans instructions). Her Instagram account is, unfortunately, private (WHY, Erin?), and she has not accepted my follower request. I comfort myself by assuming her feed is populated exclusively by her cats and children.

From At Home With Handmade Books by Erin Zamrzla

Make Your Own Idea Book with Arne & Carlos

By Arne Nerjordet and Carlos Zachrison

Leave it to a couple of Scandinavian knitters to create an amazing instructional manual on upcycled bookbinding. Arne Nerjordet and Carlos Zachrison are also the owners of a clothing design company and authors of several internationally bestselling books on knitting. Of course, I had never heard of them when I discovered their 2015 bookmaking guide in a used bookstore.

Arne and Carlos created their first "idea book" as a place to house the collages they would make as part of the design process for their clothing collections. In this book, they take you through the process of creating an Arne-&-Carlos-style idea book, which uses load of upcycled, mixed paper for the pages, and a sewing machine to stitch the signatures. In the back of the book they show different variations of idea books, including gardening idea book, bridal idea book, and hobby idea book.

If you like collage, glue books, or art journaling you'll find this book to be a fantastic visual snack. Arne & Carlos also helped me take a more relaxed, try-it-and-see-what-happens approach to bookbinding and blew my mind with their fun collages of magazine images. I loved the way their idea books seemed to become more beautiful as they became more tattered and worn, as you can see in the photo below. They also introduced me to the idea of using corrugated cardstock as the spine for a book.

From Make Your Own Idea Book by Arne Nerjordet and Carlos Zachrison

Eco Books: inventive projects from the recycling bin

By Terry Taylor

Terry Taylor, senior editor at Lark Books, curated this wonderful collection of upcycled book projects from nearly two dozen artists in 2009. I love this book not only for the fantastic photographs, clear concise instructions, and helpful instructional drawings, but also because this collection of projects utilizes upcycled paper more than any other material. Manila folders, cereal boxes, corrugated cardboard and shipping tags are incorporated in these creative structures. Projects for repurposing vintage books as journals (below) are also among the offerings, as well as gorgeous structures from Erin Zamrzla, including some made from casette tapes and produce trays.

From Eco Books edited by Terry Taylor

Bound: over 20 artful handmade books

By Erica Ekrem

Though this 2015 book from Erica Ekrem isn't explicitly a book on upcycling, I'm including it here because Ekrem's skills in turning vintage books into new journals are unparalleled, in my opinion. She demonstrates a variety methods for doing this that honor and enhance the beauty of the original book. I also appreciate her instructions for making a book from an upcycled cigar box. Many of her other designs, including books made from leaves, seashells, and wood, reflect her connection to the Pacific Northwest where she lives with her partner and two children.

From Bound by Erica Ekrem

That wraps up this round-up of favorite books. Thanks for reading and remember to sign up for my newsletter to be the first to know about new blog posts, tutorials, classes and bookbinding ideas and inspiration. Happy bookmaking!

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5 kommentarer

23 aug. 2023

Thank you Bel. I get so much from craft books.


22 juni 2023

Perhaps it’s also that we should have been “multi-sorted” so we’d have the freedom to explore ALL the facets of our capabilities. I always knew, in the back of my mind, that there was some artistic creativity lurking; it wasn’t until after retirement that I was able to explore that side of me. I should have known better, right, as a psychologist? Thx for book recommendations - I’m going straight to to look for them!


26 aug. 2022

Oh my gosh I love Arne and Carlos! I too flipped when I saw a video of their idea book collages. Thanks for this list and your commentary on each. I'll get started at my library soon!


Jana Clinard Harris
Jana Clinard Harris
23 aug. 2022

What a great list, thanks so much for sharing!!! I added all of these to my wish list!

Bel Mills
Bel Mills
24 aug. 2022

Thank you so much, Jana! I’m thrilled that you found it inspiring

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