From a hobby to a new chapter, Nikki Cutler meets the woman unfolding a new story for herself.
Spending hours folding pages in a book, might not sound like a particularly inspiring or productive passion, but one woman has turned it into a way to create unique mementos.
Michelle Woodhouse, 52, is hoping she can turn her new-found creative craze into a full-time business after discovering an addiction for making customised and quirky gifts out of old books.
She explained how her obsession had evolved since last summer.
“I wanted a unique gift for my niece’s 30th birthday,” said Michelle, from Felpham.
“I saw a photo on Facebook which my friend, who had made one of these books, posted and even though I’m not creative at all, I thought ‘I might give that a go’.”
After seeing how grateful her niece was, she tried creating a few more for other occasions and realised that she had discovered a hugely popular gift.
“The reaction I get from people is wonderful,” she said.
“I get such pleasure making them although it’s time consuming but I just love it when I give them as gifts and people say ‘oh, my mum was thrilled to bits’.
“It takes hours and hours but the end result is stunning.
“It’s more than a hobby now, it’s a passion.”
The intricate sculptures are created by meticulously following a detailed plan and folding each individual page, ensuring each is accurate to within a millimetre.
Michelle said she liked that her patience and her ability to follow guides had allowed her to develop a new creative hobby which meant she could give people hand-made gifts, despite never having an artistic flair in the past.
She’s made about 150 different designs since then, with each taking around 15 hours to complete.
As a part-time administrator, Michelle works on her creations whenever she has a spare moment.
“I get home from work about 4pm and that’s it for the night, from 4pm to 10pm every evening,” she said.
“I do it all weekend and on my days off I walk the dog the do my books all day and I love it.”
From her Facebook page, Michelle now takes many requests from people with individual ideas and she has built an impressive portfolio of work, with gifts appropriate for birthdays, weddings, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s, graduation, and other more individual celebrations.
“The best one I did which was bizarre, was a warship for a mature gentleman.”
“One lady was having an IVF babe and she asked me to do a gift for the birth and I was quite privileged to do that.”
Michelle also makes decorative additions such as paper flowers and bows.
The gifts can be personalised further with the ability to chose the book that Michelle uses.
She gets all her books from charity shops and libraries and has searched out specially- requested books with a sentimental value to the customer.
“I go a lot to the Bognor library and while most people read from the front, I always read from the back to see how many pages there are and if it will fit my pattern.
“They’re quite used to me coming in and doing that now.”
When requested books are not the right length for her to sculpt, Michelle will buy the requested book and use its cover on another book.
Michelle sent one of her creations to novelist and non-fiction writer Marian Keyes.
“I was so surprised. She put a photo of it on her Twitter page and loads of people ‘favourited’ her post,” she said
To find out more visit Michelle’s web page by searching for ‘Michelle’s Gorgeous Gifts’ on Facebook.