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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bagging Books

A book purse made from Journeys Through Bookland.

Looking for a novel fashion accessory - literally?  How about a book made into a bag or wallet?  Caitlin Phillips of Rebound Designs makes them, to the tune of about 600-700 a year.  This year she’s made 265 so far, but the holiday season is approaching.

Louisa May Alcott's An Old-Fashioned Girl.

Ms. Phillips removes pages from books while leaving the covers intact.  The spines become the bottoms of her purses.  She takes care to only use books that are damaged, falling apart, unwanted or being thrown out.  Out-of-date textbooks work well. When she does use new books she uses ones that are mass-produced classics.
Janson's History of Art.

Her pieces are handcrafted and take ten to twelve hours to make, not including the time spent on gathering books and searching for the right fabric.  Fabrics are specially selected for their respective pieces, so the fabric is only used once.  

Oliver Twist.

The handles are mostly beaded and match the books.  Each piece is fully lined with 100% cotton fabric, and has a pocket to hold a small cell phone or wallet.  There are extra reinforcements to the spines.  While these pieces are not designed for everyday use, they are much more durable than they were as books.

The Scarlet Letter.

While she doesn't remove water spots, torn or bent cover edges, or stray markings, which she feels adds to the character of the piece, she does give advice on their proper care.  Rain or shine can be a problem - no leaving them in the sun for very long, or getting them wet.  The handles fold inside, so the pieces can be stored on a shelf, just like the books they once were.
James Joyce's Ulysses.

Ms. Phillips does custom orders and gets requests for them every week.  Although she often is asked for books that she’s done before, each one is unique.  She offers a variety of choices in fabrics and handles to customers to ensure the items are not only made to order but are one of a kind.  She will also find a specific title for customers.  Her stock of books is in the thousands, but if she doesn’t already have it she will hunt library sales and online for it.  Many people give her their own books, ranging from new ones to an old, treasured but damaged book.  Some authors bring her their own books.

A custom-made purse of Jane Eyre.  From a choice of five fabrics and two
handle options.  Click here to read more about this purse and options.
Custom orders can take two-three weeks to complete.

Jane Austen is one of the most sought-after authors.  Although the most popular book once was Pride and Prejudice, people are also responding more to Emma and Sense and Sensibility.  As Phillips states, “Austen seems to appeal to a very broad spectrum of women of all ages and backgrounds; her appeal is really timeless.  She’s not a passing fad, and the women who buy my purses aren’t necessarily interested in fads, but rather in things that they can connect to.  Her work is so funny, much sharper than a casual reader might think, and unlike some books women read in their youth that later in life seem a bit dated, her books stand up to multiple readings.  Of course, I’m a fan as well, so my personal bias shows.”

Above and below, two different treatments for Pride and Prejudice.

Ms. Phillips comes by her knowledge of books with the expertise of someone who graduated Magna Cum Laude from Tufts University with degrees in English and Drama.  She started out as a drama major, but since she tested out of all the freshman requirements, she was able to take whatever she wanted to earn credits.  She would go to the campus bookstore, checkout the reading lists, and sign up for classes based on them.

The Adventures of Robin Hood.

She intended to pursue graduate work in Theater Studies, which is more academic than performance based, but the universe had different plans.  She doesn’t perform professionally any more, but is part of an amateur troupe, and occasionally steps in last-minute on a production.
A Singer Sewing Book.

This is what happens when a creative person is raised to recycle and craft.  Her idea arose from working in a used bookstore and seeing what was unwanted and discarded.  Since she grew up frequenting bookstores and fabric stores, she combines two loves into one endeavor.

Nancy Drew, front and back.

At times repetition rules the day, but mostly her work is stimulating.  Each book is different and the purses often turn out “spectacularly different” than she expected.  She listens to books on tape while she works - an interesting concept as she sees, touches, hears, and thinks about books simultaneously.  She has a part-time assistant, Devon, who helps deal with the volume and photographing the finished items.

For men too self-conscious to carry a "purse", a wallet might do.  Her wallets are slim and folded so they aren't bulky.  They are protected by a double layer of water-resistant vinyl, and include pockets for credit cards, business cards, and ID.  These are a fairly new item for her.  She’s getting a lot of requests for iPad, Kindle, and other ebook covers, which she may offer in the future.  Right now she’s trying to streamline her process to have more time for reading, friends, and yes, she has cats.  (Books and cats seem a universal combination.)

These ingenious creations give new meaning to the word "pocketbook".  If you get one large enough (or if you are reading a small book), you can stash your book in your book.  An Alice in Wonderland purse just made my wish list...

All images courtesy of  Rebound Designs.
Caveat:  if you are interested in purchasing 
or commissioning an item now is the time 
as the holiday season is quickly approaching!

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