Chelsea Porter has always loved books.
The 31-year-old Stockton Springs woman was an avid reader growing up and now collects books. But in the past few years she’s found a new way to incorporate books into her life wherever she goes: by transforming them into art.
Using a pen, a ruler and sometimes a pair of scissors, Porter creates sculptures from books in an entirely portable studio she’s developed.
“I bring it everywhere with me. On my lunch breaks I’m working on them in my car, family dinners I’m working on them in the corner. I can bring it anywhere,” she said.
All she really needs are her tools, a flat surface and a bit of PVC piping attached to a small wooden board to hold the book in place. She said can even find a moment every now and then to work while parked in her car, with its aptly titled vanity plate “BOOKART.”
Porter has never considered herself an artistic person, but after learning the basics from her family, she posted a picture of her first folding project on Facebook and was flooded with replies from family and friends asking where they could get one, too. Since then, Porter has mastered more complex designs and turned her folded book art hobby into Binders Keepers Art, an online side business nearing 900 sales since 2017, growing the most over the past two years.
“I didn’t think that it would ever grow into this,” Porter said. “I just always enjoyed making them for friends and family.”
At any given time, Porter is creating two or three pieces. Using patterns purchased online from a designer in the U.K. with measurements for each cut and fold, Porter intricately sculpts hardcover books one page at a time for projects that typically range from two hours to 20 hours to complete.
At first, she sold her work mostly through My Darling Maine Island Boutique in Bar Harbor and the now-closed Sunshine & Dixie in Ellsworth, but in 2019, as more and more people found the Etsy shop, she transitioned entirely online.
Porter said she loves playing a small role in important moments in the lives of her regular buyers.
“I like connecting with customers all over the country, making special orders for their special milestones like graduations, weddings, anniversaries, memorial pieces, animals, I can really do any type of design, so it works for anything,” Porter said.
And by any design, she means it. Her Binders Keepers Art Instagram account features many of her past works, including animals, trees, flowers and nature scenes, as well as popular characters from movies, like a close-up of Stitch from “Lilo & Stitch” and a folded lightsaber duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.
Custom orders are her favorite pieces to work on, where she’s able to create something entirely new and unique, like a slot machine with a couple’s anniversary date as the winning number or an intricately folded solar system.
To keep up with her orders, Porter needs to keep up a steady supply of hardcover books, which she mostly sources from the Goodwill in Belfast.
“I try to grab as many as they have, ” Porter said.
As a book-lover, Porter understands why some people would be upset by the idea of cutting up a book. But she says using old or abandoned hardcovers means she gets to keep the books from a worse fate.
“They’re just going to end up discarded or in a landfill,” Porter said. “I feel like I’m saving most of them.”