Paper Chase

Isabell Buenz turns old paper into haute couture

I can find inspiration in many things, it could be as simple as the color or the feel of a piece of paper. More often than not encounters and observations with nature and my close-up plant photography are the starting point for new work. My interest in people and passion for people watching also greatly influence my work and as result, viewers easily relate to it by recognizing their own feelings and experiences.

Since my childhood I have had a particular interest in the re-use of paper and other material in my craft, art and sewing projects. I started to establish myself as paper and book artist in 2000 while still working with the NHS in Edinburgh. My main focus has been on exploring paper for my unique artists' books, altered books and paper sculptures. Since leaving my job in the end of 2011, I have worked as a full-time artist and rediscovered my love of designing and creating clothes. My work now includes fashion items and accessories made from paper, ranging from tiny dresses, shoes and accessories to life-size wearable outfits and giant stilettos.

I like working with all types of paper but prefer to use recycled and sustainably produced material. I use discarded library and other second hand books for my altered book sculptures while my shoes, dresses and other fashion items are mostly made from tea bag paper that I receive directly from the producer in the Scottish Borders. 

I enjoy working with material that is by many people considered to be worthless, ready to be discarded without thought and too delicate to last. My pieces transform old, sometimes tattered books and faulty tea bag paper into unexpected treasures, giving all a new lease of life. While most of my work appears to be delicate, the pieces are surprisingly sturdy and long lasting. 

For my book sculptures I hunt for old books that closely relate to the subject I'm exploring in order to create a story that responses to and represents the venue or event they are made for. 

The paper I use dictates to a certain extent the result of my work. Using the organza like tea bag paper for most of my creations allows me to produce work that is soft, flowing and rounded, allowing for whimsical pieces to develop. The use of all white material adds to the dream like quality, evoking thoughts of fairy tales and happy endings. 

My most recent pieces, created for the Artists' Book Market at the Fruit Market Gallery in Edinburgh, are fashion accessories made from second hand book pages. This collection bridges the gap between my altered book sculptures and the tea bag paper fashion items. 'Book Fashion' was displayed by 5 models attending the event who mingled with visitors and stall holders creating a more unusual way for me to display my work. 

I usually exhibit my work as installations with a theatrical feel that tell a story and appeal to a wide audience. My shows intend to make paper art more popular and art in general more accessible to all ages. At present I am planning to transform my entire studio into a fantasy paper garden as a backdrop for the work produced for this year's Spring Fling Open Studio Event (May 2015, 

Most of my artistic skills are self-taught, often acquired over years through trial and error, some going back to my childhood when I first developed an interest in creative work. I now feel anything is possible in paper. I engage in traditional paper art methods, such as origami and papier-mache and combine them with machine stitching as well as printing and dying. 

I now mostly create work for exhibitions, fashion shows, commissions and as samples used in lessons, workshops and presentations to demonstrate the limitless possibilities paper can offer. 

Further samples of my work can be viewed on or on my blog on



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