Copyright ©2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

Imagine a beautiful hardcover book, something like "Moby Dick," a thick book and now imagine gutting it. Just cut the pages out and turn that classic into a purse. The spine is the bottom, the covers are the front and the back and there's also a beautiful cloth lining and elegant handles. Caitlin Phillips makes this kind of book bag in a studio near Washington D.C. NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce watched as she transforms literary classics into fashion accessories using glue, a sewing machine and a knife.

(SOUNDBITE OF SEWING MACHINE)

M: I use just a very sharp - this is an X-Acto knife and just take the pages right out. It's a little weird at first because it's very sort of sacrilegious, it's very subversive. Sometimes people are, like, I can't believe you did that to a book. But I explain to them the books that I'm taking I get from libraries, yard sales and thrift stores where they're going to be thrown out.

(SOUNDBITE OF SEWING)

M: My goal is to find a fabric that looks like it grew out of the book. I wouldn't use a really loud funky polka dot on "Pride and Prejudice." If I do "Gone with the Wind" I will use Civil War reproduction fabric.

What bag you're carrying in some circles is a very big deal. Do you have the latest Fendi bag? But people use books as accessories all the time in their homes, and they don't necessarily realize that's what they were doing. But when you walk into someone's home and you see this gigantic library, that's an accessory. Look how smart I am. Look how well-read I am. It's very much of a status symbol.

(SOUNDBITE OF SEWING MACHINE)

M: Each purse has a button as the closure. And I use mostly vintage buttons. There's some books that I've gotten that I would find really inappropriate to make a purse out of. I found this incredibly beautiful old book on eugenics, and I wouldn't cut it up, not just because of the value of the book, but also because the person who would carry that as a purse, I don't know what that would be like. That would be a little creepy. It's a little disturbing. I don't mind cutting up the Bible, especially if someone brings me an old Bible that's theirs, that's falling apart from so many years of use.

For the longest time I wouldn't do "Fahrenheit 451" because I just - the irony was just overwhelming to cut up a book about destroying books. But I since found a huge stack of them in paperbacks, and they make fantastic wallets.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

M: So I will cut up "Fahrenheit 451" now.

SIEGEL: And you can see those wallets and purses at npr.org.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.