Books as Art? Yes!

artsy crafty header books



Handbound journal. Photo courtesy of Jill Zinn.

Have you ever thought about making books? Not writing books, but actually constructing them? There are a variety techniques, and it’s not that difficult to do.  And why, you might ask, would someone want to make handbound books? Lots of reasons!  To create meaningful gifts, develop your fine craft skills and to express yourself artistically are just a few.

For years, I have enjoyed creating handbound journals – which make lovely gifts. The covers can be made from beautiful purchased papers and fabrics, but I really love to create the surface design for the covers myself. And the library has some great surface design books! Here is a list of favorites.

Guest Book/Photo courtesy of Jill Zinn.

Guest Book/Photo courtesy of Jill Zinn.

You can also create original guest books and scrapbooks, making something very unique and meaningful. For example, I recently made a guest book for a wedding that included pictures of the wedding couple when they were children on the cover. They had used map motifs in some of their wedding decorations, so I used a map as part of the binding. This guest book was enjoyed by everyone at the wedding, and the wedding couple was delighted!

An original scrapbook makes a terrific gift – especially for a wedding or new baby. There are so many ways to personalize them. You could use bits of lace, buttons or beads from a wedding dress for a wedding scrapbook.  Or you could incorporate part of a baby blanket or pieces of baby clothes from the new baby’s parents.  There are also techniques for creating pages that have built-in pockets for tucking treasures into.

The library’s Arts & Crafts Neighborhood has an excellent collection of books to help you pursue your ideas and to create original books of all kinds. Here are more favorites!

"Evidence of Compression" an artists' book by Julie Chen.

“Evidence of Compression” an artists’ book by Julie Chen.

If you enjoy further artistic challenge, you could experiment with creating artists’ books. artists’ books are extremely difficult to define, and there are countless points of view in the art world about what constitutes an artist’s book. (There is even controversy about where to place the apostrophe!) While they differ a great deal in both form and concept, it is fairly safe to say that an artists’ book is art in a book form. On the other hand, that can be misleading since a “page” can be just about anything!

According to Brea Black, Art Librarian, artists’ books “invite us to explore beyond the traditional book form and to re-examine our ideas of what a book is supposed to be.” Seeing goes a long way toward understanding, and the library has an impressive Book Arts collection.  Brea enjoys sharing the collection with library patrons. You can contact her at to learn more or to see books from the collection. You might also be interested in our Altered Book Workshops coming up in August. To learn more about artists’ books watch this short video.


Jill Mickel

Jill Mickel is a Public Services Specialist and a member of the Arts and Crafts team. Her passions are art and community, and she believes that art is for everyone! When she is not at the library or working in her studio, she can be found gardening, cooking, reading, or bird-watching.