Talk: Isabell Buenz – “Paper and Book Art”

Hosted by Dumfries & District Embroiderers’ Guild, 3 November 2016

Isabell Buenz is an artist working in recycled materials, such as paper (waste tea bag paper off-cuts, re-purposed books and newsprint). She makes artists’ books, altered books, paper sculpture, paper shoes, paper fashion (including dresses, fascinators and jewellery) and also has an interest in writing and photography. She has studios in the Scottish Borders and in Dumfries & Galloway. Her work has been exhibited in the UK and Germany.

Isabell began the talk by discussing her childhood interest in sewing, and in making things from paper (her father worked for a local newspaper, and often bought home rolls of waste newsprint paper). These early interests coalesced into her current practice. She is self-taught, apart from some short courses for specific skills, and says that she is always looking to try new techniques and does not like to make repeats. She freely admits that her work does not convey ‘messages’, but is meant to entertain and make the viewer happy. Her sense of humour shines through her work and she had the audience at this talk laughing on numerous occasions.

This altered book sculpture, ‘Kerching’,  was created for an exhibition celebrating the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta. It is made from a book on taxation (therefore relevant to its new life as a cash register). Isabell worked as an accountant for a number of years, which also fed into her choice of subject matter.


Isabell Buenz, Kerching, 2015, altered book, card, acetate, wire, buttons


This fantasy wedding dress for a mermaid, (modelled here by Nicki McBirney), has a fish tail train, net shawl complete with fish, and fish bouquet. Isabell made it for the Dundee Wearable Art Show in 2014, where it was a finalist.


Isabell Buenz, Mermaid’s Wedding, 2014, tea bag paper, fabric, thread


These fragile shoes were one of a set of shoes incorporating parts of a felled wych elm from The Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. Parts of the tree were distributed to a number of artists and crafts people to make new objects from. Isabell had long had an interest in fashion, and shoes in particular, so she had previously seized the chance to make some imaginative examples for an art exhibition in Fife. The shoes were displayed perched in a chicken coop with button ‘food’, and she has since gone on to make many variations, from tiny to giant in size. The smaller shoes are formed over a clay mould, and kept quite translucent in some cases, so that they look delicate and fairy-tale-like.


Isabell Buenz, Fairy Stiletto, 2009


Isabell has had an installation exhibition, ‘Little White Dress‘, of themed fantasy dresses, displayed on eight paper manikins (moulded on two shop manikins that she bought second hand: each paper one had a different theme: crosswords, places, faces etc), surrounded by circles of strip banners hanging from the ceiling of the gallery, explaining her inspiration for each dress (diving for the dress called ‘Bubbles’, and her photographs of nature for other pieces). Her planning folder with drawings of the exhibition space was available for us to examine at the end of the talk, along with numerous pieces of her work. The artist describes her sketchbooks as “…more like mood boards holding my ideas and interesting images” and she starts a new notebook for each new project.


What came across with this artist was her sense of fun and enthusiasm for her art work; her talent in imagining something and making it a reality using simple tools and recycled raw materials; her engagement with the art community and willingness to enter her work for competitions, exhibitions, projects and other events. I got the feeling that she was willing to take risks, seize opportunities, and ‘make things happen’ rather than waiting for the world to discover her. An inspiring talk and an interesting insight into the life and work of an artist.


Websites:- Accessed 03/11/16 Accessed 03/11/16 Accessed 03/11/16


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s