Huffpost Books

Artist's 'Library Laboratory' Gives Old Books New Life As Planters

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What happens to old, discarded books, rotting away at thrift shops and recycling centers? The lucky ones end up in the hands of Sherri Green, who gives them new life.

book art

The Ypsilanti, Mich. artist has been making collages out of the old books she scavenged for several years, but started her new project, the Library Laboratory, when she was moving to a smaller apartment.

An avid gardener, she was trying to find ways to keep plants without an entire yard, when she read that everyday objects can be turned into planters, including books.

"When I found out I could plant in anything, that I could dig a hole in books, I thought it was perfect," Green told The Huffington Post. "The juxtaposition of alive and dilapidated is something undeniably beautiful to me."

library laboratory

Green plants succulents in waterproofed "holes" in books, and uses them to bring a little bit of clandestine gardening indoors, she said. She has also begun selling them, along with other kinds of reinterpreted books.

The artist, who is also a waitress and sign painter at Trader Joe's, brings her makeshift potting shed to craft fairs, where she adds finishes touches to new planters -- and watches startled shoppers stop in their tracks when they notice what's different about the books on her shelves. She'll be at DIYpsi this weekend, an annual indie art fair in her town that she organizes.

Green looks for interesting cover designs and remnants of the past in the pages. She speaks lovingly about the books she finds:

"You can see the evidence of someone from 1953's math notes or French translations -- I don't know the right words to say what that does to me, seeing that evidence of real life in the past, the marks of an older time on something that was not meant to be saved," she said.

"The thought of them going into the trash is heartbreaking to me," she continued. "There's so much history passed [through them]. It's a way to showcase it and bring these back into the world in a functional way."

library laboratory

library laboratory

sherri green

library laboatory

library laboratory

Green's books are easy to care for -- the ones she sent to important women in her life for Mother's Day have survived, and if a plant were ever to die, another can easily be replanted. She plans to have a store on her website in the near future, but is currently taking special orders.

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