My 2-year old niece was in desperate need of a bookshelf. My sister sent me on the task of looking for a nice one at thrift stores and garage sales. We found a gross one in need of some TLC at Ohio Thrift Store for $10. I could’ve given it a quick coat of paint, but I thought I’d be a much cooler Aunt if I made it special for her. So began the process of making a decoupage bookshelf with vintage paperback book pages. Oh, and it wouldn’t be a project if I didn’t wrangled Jason to help out!
I found a bunch of old paperback books at a church rummage sale for 25¢ each. I used Nancy Drew and Ramona Quimby books because they had different page sizes . I thought this would make it more visually interesting. I was a HUGE Nancy Drew fan as a kid and read the books voraciously.
The decoupage process was pretty standard. I used half water and half Elmer’s white glue mixed in a bowl. I dipped the pages, then used my fingers to strain off the excess glue. It was messy and sticky, but my biggest concern was that our dog Tuna was going to lick the glue drops off the floor. I had to keep ushering him into the other room while I was working.
I had the vision of painting literary characters on top of the pages. Animals would definitely appeal to my niece Charlie. The completed bookshelf looked nice without the illustrations. I worried that drawings might clutter it up. I took a photo of the paperback pages and composited my sketch on top of it in Photoshop. Then I printed it out and tested ink drawings with quills and brushes to see how it would look and what would work best. The quill worked well with the text, but the brushes were better for the animals.
Once I settled on the best way to create the art, I had to transfer the sketches onto the actual bookshelf. I placed vellum with graphite under the sketch and traced with a bit of pressure to transfer the art. It was hard to see in places, so I had to draw portions of the art back in with a pencil so I could see them well enough to ink.
Here’s a slideshow of the initial sketches and the finished inked art on the bookshelf. Jason did the pencil sketches because he’s a natural at cartooning. I chose stories that I loved as a kid (The Raven, The Wizard of Oz). And also characters that would be fun to draw (Smaug from The Hobbit). Yes, I am well aware of the fact that Animal Farm is NOT a kid’s book. Jason kept reminding me of this because he’s actually read a bunch of Orwell’s books. He even tried to talk me out of doing Animal Farm. I insisted it would be perfect for Charlie because they have pigs and chickens. So that’s the reason why one of the stories doesn’t quite fit with the rest of them.
I hate how the lion turned out, but Jason says it’s ok. He’s lumpy & weird looking to me. The ink was actually hard to work with because the surface wasn’t completely smooth. There are ridges where all the pages overlap, so the brush would jump or get a little blobby at times. The Raven turned out the best, so I’m the most happy with it.
Jason and I had a disagreement on the Charlotte’s Web illustration. His initial sketch had “Some Pig” in the web . This made sense because that comes straight from the book/movie/cartoon. BUT, I wanted to have the book titles and authors’ names on everything. That way my niece would know what the illustration was about. And perhaps this will encourage her to pick those books up when she gets older.
I chose to design the inscriptions in Illustrator instead of painting tiny letters. Then I printed them out on paper and decoupaged them onto the bookshelf.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ~ Dr. Seuss
Tuna Fish Joe is guarding the bookshelf until it makes it safely to Charlie. What a cool doggie :)