Cartonnage Day 1

I was fortunate this past weekend to be able to spend two days learning Cartonnage with visiting artist Sue Bjerke from Minneapolis. Sue is an instructor at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and teaches a number of book structures as well as cartonnage. In addition, she operates a small edition printing bindery and has many years experience teaching woodcarving, a skill she uses in her historic bindings.

Here is Sue's class description:

Modern cartonnage grows out of the long standing French tradition of making and covering small utility containers with various decorative materials. In these classes, we’ll review the essential elements of making unique containers from book board or mat board, then covering these structures with decorative papers. Students will learn the basics of design and construction using various boards, as well as the ins and outs of measuring, cutting, and applying decorative papers. Each project makes a unique container and is great to use or for gifts.

On the first day, we made two unique containers or open dishes using matt board. Sue wanted us to know that lovely and sturdy containers can be made from readily accessible matt board. The above one is my irregular rectangular container, and below are the finished works of all the class (and a couple of Sue's samples):


We had this wonderful selection of marbled papers to choose from for our pieces:

One thing that is different about cartonnage and other box making, is that you use paper tape to reinforce your corners and seams. Under the decorative paper, it is not visible in the finished work.

The second project we worked on was this hexagonal container:

It looks more complicated than it is! With a little geometry, we learned how to draft a template any size for this. Here are a few of the other students' pieces (mine is above):

Following the same principles, we can now move on to try squares or triangles like these (but we didn't have time in class for this):

At the same time, there was a marbling workshop going on
with visiting instructor, Minnesotan Steve Pittelkow. It was a hard decision to choose which workshop to attend, and I would have loved to do both! I have dabbled in marbling before, and never had a class in cartonnage, so in the end that won out. Here are some of the students marbled papers from the marbling class:

Stay tuned for Day2!


  1. wow! looks like you had lots of fun on day 1, can't wait to see what you did for day 2

  2. Whoa! Those look so professional. I totally didn't know what cartonnage was before now. I'm glad you found a hobby, I was getting worried Laura!

  3. Yes, Ruth, I love learning something new! It was a great day.

    Erin, I had never heard the word before this workshop either. And, you know, I just don't like to get bored for having nothing to do! ;-)


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