Authors from....Book ReviewsNon fiction

Paper Transformation

Waste paperPart of my weekend ritual involves removing the myriad of leaflets, flyers and other promotional stuff that keep getting stuffed into our newspaper. By the time I’m finished I’ll have half filled the litter bin. Fortunately our local council has a weekly collection so the rubbish gets recycled rather than being dumped in a landfill site. Now if I was Barbara Baumann I wouldn’t discard all this paper but would turn it into something more decorative – like bracelets and necklaces.

In the forward to Paper Jewellery: 55 Projects for Reusing Paper  Baumann makes the valid point that every day we discard scores of pieces of paper of all kinds which with a little bit of creativity and effort could be given a new life. She sets out to demonstrate this with instructions for a range of projects using everything from beer mats and kitchen paper to candy wrappings and maps.

On a normal day you might see more than 50 different types of paper and cardboard. All of these have the potential to be turned into something more beautiful than manufactured objects, particularly for people who value individuality.

I was hoping this book would show me how to make necklaces like one I bought from a craft market in South Africa a few years ago which was constructed from large safety pins and beads made from paper. Or would be as imaginative a use of waste paper as the women of the T Bag company, a collective just outside Cape Town which removes the leaves from T Bags and then decorates the paper envelopes, using them to adorn greetings cards, coasters and bags.  If you don’t believe how beautiful thee can be, just take a look at their website:

There were a few designs that looked attractive providing I had the patience and time to spend making tiny beads and then stringing them. I liked the idea also of revitalising pages from old books into swirls which could then form a bracelet or making drop earrings from which mini books dangle.  But I drew the line at many of the projects – a bangle made by creating a hole in the middle of a beer mat just looked ludicrous – and some didn’t seem very durable. They would also require meticulous attention to detail in many cases – some people might have the ability to cut up old maps into small squares and then fold them several times so they end up all the same size, but I certainly don’t.

The photography was extremely well done but the instructions were fairly skimpy often. I can imagine embarking on a project only to find myself scratching my head in bewilderment half way through because there are no sketches to show how to fold or roll the paper.  In short, the idea is good but the practicality of this book is questionable except for people with oodles of time on their hands.
End notes

Paper Jewellery: 55 Projects for Reusing Paper is published by Schiffer Publishing, PA. Translated from German and originally published by Hauptmann Berne in 2013. My copy was provided via NetGalley in return for an honest review.


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

12 thoughts on “Paper Transformation

  • Very cool. A good friend made me a trivet of small paper beads a number of years ago. She had planned for it to be bigger but said it was so time consuming to make the beads she could not manage larger and would never do it again. A shame too because it really is neat.

    • I can relate to that – I did try making some beads but oh gosh just the careful measurements and cutting out were painstakingly slow.

  • I do like undertaking the odd craft project but like you I need to have good instructions. I’m very impressed by the T-Bag lady though.

    • the T bag ladies have an inspirational story to tell Cleopatra and they are such lovely people too

  • I’m not the crafty sort either, but I can appreciate the effort that goes into creating something lovely out of something most of us throw away. I have a necklace that was my grandmother’s, probably made in the 1920s from some sort of paper rolled into long beads.

    • It’s probably not the object itself but the provenance of the necklace that makes it special.

  • I have a teapot stand which is apparently made out of teabags. I know that I certainly couldn’t make anything of the sort. I don’t have a creative bone in my body! I have found that I can get round the leaflets left in magazines problem by picking them up very carefully so that they open out and leave all the extraneous bits and pieces on the shelf.

    • I do like creative work so have many craft projects lying around the house. Problem is that I don’t always have the patience to finish them especially when they are going wrong.

  • Oh I do love it when someone presents me with a ‘now this might be an interesting creative idea’ – and then spares me from having to think I should do it! Thanks, Bookertalk, I’ll think very happily about a beermat bangle everytime I go to the recycle and guiltily wonder whether there isn’t something even better I should be doing with all that paper.!

    • There were quite a number of things in the book that I thought might work but then couldn’t follow the instructions or they just seemed too fiddly.

  • Wow, thanks for that link to the T Bag company. I already see a perfect gift for my mother and I haven’t even left home. Not only that but they have a shop on the waterfront and I will be nearby. In a week!

    • They have a little stall in The Watershed which is a place for many crafty type businesses. You’ll love meeting the T Bag ladies and hearing their story.


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