Tree of Life Folded Book

Julianne Mahler

About Julianne Mahler

I have only started to consider myself an “Artist” in the last year, though I have always done handwork and what I would have called crafts. I am a geologist by profession, recently retired from the oil and gas industry. In 2019, as a practice in gratitude and meditation, I decided to fold 1000 origami cranes — from 2 inch squares cut from the paper backing of feminine sanitary pads. I called the resulting piece “A Mother’s Prayers.” During that year of folding cranes, I also experimented with folding old books, starting with very simple abstract patterns. I was, and am, fascinated by the shapes that can be created with bound stacks of paper. I very quickly wanted to make shapes whose patterns were not already available and started creating my own patterns. Like folding origami cranes, folding books is a detailed and repetitive process that I find soothing and meditative. Using found objects or recycling — whether it’s paper or books — is an integral part of the meaning of the piece for me.

About Tree of Life Folded Book

This Tree of Life folded book is crafted from an 823 page book. The image is a common one, but the pattern is my own — what is called a “combination measure, mark and fold” pattern that involves marking each of the 823 pages with up to 30 measurements, and then folding and cutting each measured mark. This piece takes 30 to 40 hours to create. Shmita, like the Sabbath, is a regular and ritual opportunity for renewal. It creates resilience through sustainability — psychological, emotional, and physical sustainability. The connection to Shmita of the image of the Tree of Life is perhaps almost too obvious. The Tree of Life represents strength and longevity and is a classic image in Jewish Art. The Tree reminds us of our connection to nature and references the Garden of Eden. The Tree represents family in both the nuclear sense and the larger sense of community. The creation of this piece from a used book is an act of recycling, or upcycling, creating beauty out of trash. The process of creating the piece is an act of meditation and discipline for me. The first edition of this piece was for a gift exchange with a childhood friend. I received a piece of jewelry with the Tree of Life in return. Physical sustainability, emotional sustainability, and mental sustainability. Family. Resilience. Renewal. Shmita.