Using Kids Artwork for Handmade Books

I think I have mentioned before how I have huge problems throwing any of my boys artwork away.  I know (and have acted on) all the advice to keep the best and sling the rest (well maybe not this one), to photograph or scan into the computer, and have photobooks made. But having done all that I still can’t bring myself to throw away the originals.  It is of course very useful having a never-ending supply of personalised wrapping paper to hand, or material for collages etc., but the pile still grows ever larger.



However this project is perfect for recycling some of that artwork in large quantities, and creating something worthwhile at the same time, by using it to create handmade books or notebooks. I have used some of their artwork in the past for the covers of small books, but this time I wanted to use it for the actual pages themselves. Used this way, every paint splodge and smear, even from the reverse of some of the artwork, becomes decorative.



You need to be careful to select artwork where the paint isn’t too thick, because it would fall off, and of course collages or artwork with anything stuck on, are a complete no-no, but apart from that, anything goes.



The notebooks especially were very easy to make, and because they were so small, I was able to staple them in the middle. You could alternatively just stitch them in the middle instead. I used 8 sheets of paper, folded together, to give a mini notebook with 16 pages. Because of the richness of the interior, I wanted to have very plain contrasting covers, so chose some fine corrugated card for the purpose.


sunprint notebooks


If you find you don’t have enough artwork you want to use, or want to make more books, you can ‘extend’ the supply of pages by adding plain coloured paper, ordinary white paper, or other kind of decorative paper. This actually provides quite a nice contrast too, so you might choose to do it anyway as I did. I also made a few notebooks from some cyanotpye or sunpaper experiments from a few years ago, and because I only had a few of these, interspersed the sheets with plain white and pale blue paper. I then used a couple of the sunpaper sheets as the covers, by laminating them in the thinnest laminator pouches.

The mini notebooks look really good ‘packaged’ together with some decorative cord or ribbon, and make an easy gift idea.


mini handmade notebooks


Suitably encouraged by my success with these, I got ambitious and decided to try some real bookbinding. Coptic bookbinding looked decorative and not too difficult, and I found a really good tutorial that explained it very well.

This book contains 8 ‘signatures’ (technical term there) of 4 sheets each, creating a book with 64 pages. Again, I used a mixture of artwork, decorative papers that we had created together, and plain coloured sheets, and for the covers used the plain stiff card from the back of a drawing paper pad. I used embroidery floss to stitch it together, and protected the corners of the covers with bookbinding tape. Finally I added some decorative satin ribbon ties to fasten it closed.




Although far from perfect, I am very pleased with the result for a first attempt, and think I may well tackle a few more at some point. This technique really does produce a beautiful book with a rich and colourful interior, which could be used as ready made backgrounds for art journalling, for special notes (using metallic pens for example), or anything you like. Either way it makes a very special keepsake or gift with added personal meaning. I haven’t yet decided how to use mine. I tend to have something of a problem with beautiful notebooks and sketchbooks, in that I feel they should be used for something special, and never feel what I want to write or draw is good enough for them, but we shall see!