Friday, January 20, 2012

Domythic DIY: Paper Butterflies

As a bibliophile, I have an automatic love affair with books. Yes, I'm that girl who inhales pleasurably when I go into a library or bookstore (and I work at a library). I'm the girl who has to take a book with her wherever she goes.

Working at a library, the first time I had to work on withdrawing and discarding a selection of books, my heart nearly broke. They were just Harlequin paperback romances, but I winced with every cover I tore. Since then, I'm half-sad to say that I've become more accustomed to the number of books the library discards and sells as we have to make room for new items in the collection. And I've also adjusted my feelings about the use of said books in new and unusual ways.

In other words, I've become quite enamoured with the idea of using books as fodder for new craft and artistic projects. It's absolutely amazing how taking a page of a book, even if it's a 25-cent former dimestore novel, can instantly turn a cut-paper object into something with deeper meaning. Just the sight of a page with typed words on it can foster feelings of mystery and nostalgia when used in a craft or assembled project.

So here's what I did.

I took a book from the library that was being this case, a book on the Tudors called The Rose and the Thorn, full of lovely words having to do with royalty and chivalry, and tore out numerous pages. I folded them in half, and freehand cut a symmetrical butterfly design. I got two or three butterflies from each page of the book.

The butterflies I then colored in with designs of butterfly wings, both fantastical and from reference books. It was quite relaxing, actually, to color in dozens of butterflies while watching TV or relaxing. I also invited friends and family who visited to color in a butterfly. Using colored pencils for this part ensured that while the colors were vivid, you could still see the type from the book pages through the design.

I found two branches whose form I liked, and I used glue dots to adhere the colored butterflies to them. Two pieces of string and a couple of cuphooks later, and I had a fun mobile for above the bed in our Dreaming Room (the name for my art room, and our guest bedroom)

(blast those white walls...they should be green soon)

The pages themselves were so neat looking with the cut-out butterfly shapes, I couldn't let them go to waste.. I took the page with cut out butterflies, 3 a piece, used for the branch project. I then took a book I have on hand, Alphabets and Ornaments, a book full of medieval and period templates. (A similar book can be found at any library I'm sure) I photocopied three pages that had ornate designs I thought would work well for the project.

This is something to note...if you absolutely can't bring yourself to tear up a book, or you want to keep it for reference or reading, you can always photocopy the page in color at your local library :) and get a similar feel for your projects.

I then took watered down acrylic paint, and began painting the photocopied page with colors to mimic butterfly wings...just broad strokes of blended color across the page. I would continuously lay the template book page lightly on top of the photocopy (so as not to get it wet) to make sure the design was working for my "butterfly." When all three butterfly shapes were painted/filled and the bottom sheet was dry, I glued the two sheets together, and trimmed off any excess from the photocopy that showed around the book page.

The use of the medieval design adds patterns as well as color, and helps add to the butterfly "look" while also continuing the theme of words and history.

I then bought three cheapie ($3) frames at Walmart that just happened to have mats included in a shade similar to the antiqued page. I laid the page down on top of the matting, but my original plan was to find scrapbook paper that would look good to fill the rest of the frame, and I'm sure that would work too.

For the two smaller frames, I took a book page from the same book and cut out images I liked from a spare copy of Brian Froud and Alan Lee's Faeries I picked up at a yard sale years ago (paperback copy with a binding falling apart, otherwise I wouldn't dare cut it apart). I placed the cut faerie images in front of the book pages, and sandwiched both behind the matting of, again, a $3 Walmart frame. I made sure some of the cut image was layered in front of the matting for a quirky 3-d effect.

And there you have it! It was a fun little project that could be easily done using similar materials. The book was a quarter at the library, the photocopies were $.10 a piece at the library, and the frames were $3 a piece. So...yeah...not exactly a bank breaker.

Here are the other three frames:

Oh, and for the record, I used the newspaper template method to hang these 5 frames on the wall. I had heard of this method from Young House Love, but never tried it, and let me tell you, when you're trying to arrange things symmetrically or place a grouping in an aesthetically pleasing way on the wall, it is a total sanity saver. Highly recommended.

(To summarize, it basically means that you trace templates of your frames onto sheets of newspaper, cut them out, and add tape to the backs, so you can move them around the wall until you're pleased with their location. You can then X on the newspaper where you need to hammer your nail, and just tear the paper away when you're ready to hang the pictures)


  1. This is soooo cool! I really like both effects and am going to try these out the very first chance. I did want to request that you post a larger/hi-res copy of image #8? I'm hard of sight, so to speak, and I'd like to see that, so I understand what you did better. That's not very well put, but hopefully you understand what I'm trying-badly-to say.

  2. Hi Leigh! You should be able to view it zoomed in here:

    Let me know if that works!

  3. Sorry, no it doesn't. I tried that before I posted and its really not any bigger. Oh well...

    I wanted to ask, did you have to use anything to stiffen the paper butterflies AFTER you colored/painted them? So many book papers aren't very stiff, especially after being handled, that's why I'm asking. And did you add wire for the antenna? Nope, I can't spell. I really love this... I even have a book to use pages from.

  4. Hi Leigh!

    The paper from the book I used was quite stiff. Might I recommend you try for an older book...1960s or older...for higher quality paper for the project. I haven't had to stiffen the pages or add wire for any of its uses...and I've used the cut butterflies all over the house now...putting them under glass domes, attaching them to the wall, etc. :)

  5. How beautiful! I am inspired to try something like this too!

  6. Sasha, if you do I would love to see your result! :)

  7. Oh My Gosh, This is going to be perfect for my girls' room. They both love fairies and butterflies and my brain just flooded with ideas! THANK YOU!

  8. I'm so glad you can use the idea, Ashley