Undercover Artist: Jodie Rogers, Sewn By The Sea

Most arts and crafts are a mystery to me, but there are plenty of folk out there who are putting their talents to good use. And when their work includes old books, then I’m definitely hooked!

Upcycler Jodie Rogers, also known as Sewn By The Sea, lives at the seaside in Leigh on Sea in Essex in England.

Mum-of-four Jodie comes from a very artistic family, and arts and crafts was something they did together as she was growing up. After leaving school, she studied for a national diploma in fashion and design and A-level art. Then came motherhood, but she kept up with crafts as a hobby. Now that her two older children are at school and the younger two at play group, she has the time to turn her work into a business.

Jodie describes herself as an upcycled artist/designer, taking unloved, unneeded and unwanted everyday objects and giving them a new lease on life—and her early inspiration for working with books came from a charity appeal.

She explained: “A good friend of mine works for Read for RNIB, a charity that raises money to have books printed for blind readers. She asked me to do something for an event and it went from there. I have continued to use books in my work as I had such a great response from people from my original pieces.”

It was to prove a turning point for Sewn By The Sea, and Jodie is now a regular customer at nearby charity shops, where she trawls the shelves looking for books to inspire her.

She told me: “I buy the majority of my books from local charity shops—I have built up a good relationship with them and they save books for me they can’t sell, so I pay them for something that would have gone in the bin. Books are great as they are cheap and so easily available. I found everybody has a favourite book and they love to tell you about it.”

Her latest brainwave is the book handbag—yes, you read me right!—and they are proving a big hit with style-conscious readers.

“The book handbags are my favourite items to make,” said Jodie. “I try to make each one unique and I love trying to find interesting covers and vintage fabrics to line them.

“I’m in the middle of making to Harry Potter one for an order and I’ve also got my eye on an Ian Rankin one—I’ve fallen a bit in love with them.

“Inspiration for the bags came from a project we did at college using book cover slips to make wallets. I thought I’d try a few different wallets and saw a bag tutorial on YouTube.”

Her imagination knows no bounds though, with paper jewelry, window decorations, mirror frames, and more in her portfolio. A new addition to the range is a quirky handgun shape, cut with power tools—and made, appropriately enough, from a Ruth Rendell novel!

Jodie explained: “My husband and I were talking about things for this article and the word ‘gun’ came up. I tried an origami gun necklace but didn’t like it when it was finished, so I set about trying to think of other ways to turn a book into a gun. I don’t need an excuse to use power tools!”

So how does Jodie see her work developing? “I have just started to teach in junior schools about recycling and art. I’m loving doing this, and hoping to do lots more,” she said.

“I have just started selling my items in a local gallery, and I’m talking to a local vintage shop about selling my bags in there also. So lots to look forward to and to keep me busy.”

Jodie can be contacted by email at [email protected] or through Facebook.


Sandra Mangan has recently moved to Blackpool, a seaside resort in the north west of England, to a new home that is definitely a work in progress. She is an avid reader, with crime fiction at the top of her wish list—though an occasional Nora Roberts manages to creep onto the bookshelf. You can also follow her on Twitter as @OfTheTimesShop

Read all posts by Sandra Mangan for Criminal Element.

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