Her creative talents are good on paper

Using everything from old books to teabag paper, Isabell Buenz is taking origami to a whole new level.

Creating art and fashion from paper was almost a fait accompli for the German artist. Isabell swapped her homeland for Edinburgh in 1999.

‘My dad worked for a local newspaper, so we always had lots of leftover paper from the big roll,’ tells Isabell. ‘I started making things with it and it all developed from there. I studied traditional bookbinding as I was always interested in that and it gave me the confidence to work with old books.’

Isabell makes sculptures in a small studio near the capital and in a larger workshop in Gatehouse of Fleet from old books, which are transformed into anything from models of cash registers to hats and jewellery.

‘Most recently I’ve made four pieces for the literature-themed suites in The Place Hotel in Edinburgh,’ explains Isabell. ‘I made a little chest from a copy of Treasure Island for their Robert Louis Stevenson suite.’ She also sources teabag paper from the Borders, which she can stitch on a sewing machine to create wearable items.

‘In 2014 I created a mermaid’s wedding dress and then in 2015 I made a butterfly top,’ says Isabell.

Training as an accountant and in expressive art and movement, a form of self-development, became Isabell’s chosen career paths in Germany before she took up art full-time, but it was a hankering for high heels that kickstarted her journey into the art of paper.

‘I was invited to an exhibition that had no specific subject so I decided that I wanted to make some paper stilettos,’ says Isabell. ‘I’m very tall, 6ft, and so is my partner, so I never really wear high heels, but ideally I would. Very high heels with thick platform soles.

‘I do love shoes but as I don’t think I’d get away with it, this is how I indulge my passion.’ Isabell has created quite a collection of paper shoes in all shapes and sizes, from tiny to bigger than herself and has sold out a show in the German Shoe Museum.

As a medium, Isabell enjoys making art from something that is normally disposable. ‘Paper is not usually seen as something of value,’ she says.

‘But I can create something really precious from it. I love the fact that it is very flimsy, but I can make it into something sturdy and lasting, something that can be touched and held.’


(This feature was originally published in 2016)