Unsaleable books become unique pieces of art

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Unsaleable books become unique pieces of art

Many books are brought to second-hand shops in The Netherlands to find a new owner. Good for reuse, but even there they do not always find a new home. University lecturer Statistics Anne Fey-den Boer could not face this and was looking for a way to reuse even those unsaleable books. As a volunteer at Books4Life she came up with a new destination for the books that can no longer be sold: folded book art. From novel to thriller, a beautiful work of art can be made out of any book.

“I love books, always have. That’s also why universities have always appealed to me: in my opinion, these were places full of books and people working with books. Nowadays that is unfortunately less the case than before.”

“My love for books also brought me to Books4Life as a volunteer. This is a store that sells second-hand books for charity. You can find me there twice a week. It’s really a place that makes me smile and it’s where I started folding books. There are many books that we can’t sell (anymore). They end up with the old paper. I thought that was a shame and I figured there must be something better I can do with those books.”


“Because the books were unsaleable anyway, I was able to experiment with them in the world of folded book art. It turned out to be a success: exhibitions and even assignments came out of it. Some people asked me to make a personalized folded book artwork for them or as a gift for a loved one. I enjoyed that very much.”

Doing something that I have not done before. That’s what I love and it runs like a thread through my life: in teaching, in conducting research and in folding books

Anne Fey
University Lecturer in Statistics and Calculus

“Making the same thing twice, that’s nothing like me. Please give me a new assignment. I always want to do something that I have not done before. That’s what I love and it runs like a thread through my life: in teaching, in conducting research and in folding books.”

Folded book art versus origami

Folded book art is certainly not the same as origami. Origami has strict rules: you have one sheet of paper in which you do not cut. In folded book art, the whole book is used and tools such as scissors, glue or sticks are there to help you.

“Sometimes a work of art arises spontaneously, but more often through a design. I make the designs on paper, with a pencil. I am not so good at 3D thinking. I find it difficult to imagine what something will look like. I would rather not throw away unsuccessful attempts, so I try to think them out well beforehand. That requires puzzling and I like that: my love for puzzling is also the reason that I started to occupy myself with mathematics.”

Her background in mathematics is certainly reflected in her artworks. All pieces have a certain symmetry. Mathematical figures, such as the Gaussian distribution, also appear in some pieces of her art. The Gaussian distribution, also called normal distribution, describes a continuous probability distribution, important in the field of statistics.

It is not necessary to have a mathematical background in order to make folded book art. “Because of my background, my art is mathematical in nature. I like to see regularity and symmetry in my pieces of art. But there are also artists who make very liberal works of art. They are much more intuitive. I also admire those artists, like Boukje Voet. She does something that I do not succeed in: working with a book in a free and open manner”

Exposition book folding art in MetaForum

Fey’s exhibition at the library in Metaforum (floor -1) is free to visit until mid-September. On her website , or at Books4Life you can admire even more of her collection of folded book art.

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