When you first look at Laura Toma’s book art designs, you might assume that she’s slicing away at the pages of a used hardcover to reveal the silhouette of a heart or a word. Look closer, though, and you’ll realize that the book wasn’t as much as nicked during her artistic process. “The pages aren’t cut; they’re only folded,” says Toma, the Wilton-based creative force behind Novel Ideas by Laura. “You can still unfold the pages and read the book if you really wanted to. But I think you’d be crazier than I am for folding them.”
Toma’s process isn’t so much crazy as it is extremely meticulous. First, the artist has to create the design—the word or image that will be displayed within the pages of the book. Then she has to measure every single page, mark it and fold it (she’s worked with some books that were thousands of pages long). In the end, the average piece takes her upwards of eight hours to finish.
How exactly did the idea for Novel Ideas come about? “By accident,” Toma says. In 2016, she asked a friend who volunteered at the library to save her some books that were being thrown away. When she got them, she realized why the books were being discarded: They were falling apart. “Some of the pages were dog eared, and I just started playing around with them,” Toma says. “I realized that I could make designs if I folded the pages in a certain pattern and any kind of silhouette I could think of.”
To date, Toma’s folded designs into hundreds of books, including a medical school graduate’s name into Grey’s Anatomy, a soon-to-be bar mitzvahed boy’s name into the Torah and, one of her favorites, a couple’s last name in the Harry Potter font in a Harry Potter book. The folded book was used as the centerpiece at the couple’s wedding, which was held—wait for it—in a library.