Undercover Artist: Katie Stainer and her Bibliophilic Origami

Tiny paper sculpture jewelry by Katie Stainer
Tiny paper beauties
As a child, I used to make “fortune tellers” out of a square of paper – remember them? It was my only real experience of what I now know is called origami. And if that word has conjured up crude swan and rabbit shapes, then think again… because Katie Stainer takes the skill to a whole new level. And books play a huge part in her work too.

Katie is based in Nottingham – in the UK's Midlands region, an up and coming area for contemporary craft and design. Originally from the historic city of Bath, she found inspiration in her gorgeous surroundings.

She explains: “I was surrounded by breathtaking architecture and natural beauty, and always had a fascination with the asthetic. My childhood passions leaned towards music and creative writing before I finally discovered my love of art and design. I completed a BA(Hons) in Decorative Arts at Nottingham Trent University in 2011 and haven't looked back!”

A designer maker specialising in unique origami jewellery and sculpture created using recycled and reclaimed books, Katie has a long-established love of reading.

“As a child I was fascinated by books, stories and papers,” she recalls. “My mother is an avid reader (especially crime fiction) and the house I grew up in was filled floor to ceiling with books.”

Tube by Katie Stainer

So how did she move from reading books to creating artwork from them? “It was an almost unconscious transition. I have a habit of folding bits of paper, doodling and fanning pages while I read – I really can't keep my hands still!” Katie explains.

Paper tiara and paper pendant
Rocking the paper tiara and pendant.
“During my time at university I started to see paper as a material that could be used in other ways and after finding some unwanted books on one of the freecycle shelves, I started to use them in my sketchbooks. I really liked the effects I was getting and thought this material had a lot more to offer. After lots of research and experimentation, I progressed from reading books to folding them into various shapes both large and small scale. I've been developing and learning techniques ever since.”

She adds: “I usually start out with a rescued paperback book. First I tear off the cover and this is used for collages. Then I cut the pages into pieces to make the origami triangle folds for my jewellery. Afterwards, I use the spine to create my Falden jewellery. After that pretty much nothing is left over, and any scraps are recycled. When folding hardback books I literally just fold – no glueing or cutting involved.”

Necklace by Katie StainerThese days. Katie picks up her raw materials from a wide range of sources: “Most are recycled from charities and businesses before they're sent off to be pulped, but I also rescue books from friends and family, other artists, customers and even the odd car boot sale,” she explains.

Depending on the thickness of the paper, number of pages and complexity of the folding, it can take anywhere from an hour to a few days for Katie to complete a piece of work. “When I first started folding books during university it could take me over a week,” she laughs. “I'm a lot quicker now through practice and often find myself folding whatever I have in my hands, especially shop receipts.

“I love to read so often I'll get distracted by what's on the page. I use illustrations to create badges and collages, chapter titles have interesting typography that can be used for other projects, and sometimes the words themselves are key. I like to cut strips of words from a page and rearrange them either as something visual or to convey a message in a piece of work.”

So what's her favourite piece? “Probably my Square Falden Necklace. Created using the folded spine of a book, it is a durable, intricate piece that helps me to use every part of my materials.”

And what does the future hold for Katie? “I'm currently working on some new jewellery designs that will help to bring a little more colour into my work, as well as a lighting range that has been in progress for over a year. I hope my work will continue to develop as it always has – through experimentation with paper techniques, pushing the boundaries of my materials as far as they can go.”

Want to own Katie's work? You can find it on Folksy and Etsy!


Sandra Mangan 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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