Paperphilia’s founder Rachel Hazell has been creating works out of paper ever since she was a child, when she tried to sell her crooked, handmade notebooks from a stall outside her Somerset home. Today, with an MA in bookbinding under her belt, she makes albums, guest books and pieces of literary art, which range from a miniature printed poem concealed in a matchbox, to wearable paper skirts and a 2m-high book sculpture. “I am fascinated at how versatile paper is,” she says.
Ever open to the possibilities of the material, Hazell didn’t hesitate when a couple asked her to turn their three favourite books (one of which was a wine guide) into a wedding bouquet and a buttonhole. “This was something different,” says Hazell, “so I began to experiment by cutting, pleating, shaping, rolling, tweaking and teasing each flower into shape, then attaching it to a wire ‘stem’ that was fixed to a framework of stronger, criss-crossed filaments.” The end result was so pleasing that Hazell has now added bespoke Bookquets (50 flowers start at £750) to the list of services she offers her romantic and literary-minded clients.
Each Bookquet begins with the book. Every petal is intricately cut and folded by hand using a technique inspired by traditional European bookbinding and Japanese origami and, as each flower takes shape, particular words come into focus, so the choice of text is important. The type of paper is less so, since Hazell can work with almost anything (other than super-acidic materials made from the lowest-quality wood pulp), but the choice does affect the type of flowers the Bookquet is composed of. Tissue-thin paper, for example, lends itself to tiny, detailed blooms, whereas paperback bodice-rippers are ideal for blousy roses, dripping with innuendo.
“The joy of Bookquets is that each flower tells a wider story,” says Hazell, “and gives a clue about the person who commissioned it.”