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Not long ago, I received an email from a librarian in Lancashire County, United Kingdom who asked for my help with a project he had initiated to engage young people with libraries:
My name is Stewart Parsons and I lead the Cultural Youth Offer in Lancashire Libraries where my brief is to engage young people with libraries. My take on that is to showcase fashion, music, film, art in a fabulously contemporary way so young people get addicted to libraries through the things they actually love anyway. One of my showpiece projects Heroine Chic /Library Couture is designed to recycle all library paper waste into paper dresses based on or inspired by iconic characters like Holly Golightly, Cleopatra, Dorian Grey etc: so far so cool...We have a huge amount of recycled library paper to fashion the garments (800 garments in all) and the idea of young people working with designers to deliver the programme is hugely exciting but we are having our progress blocked by one simple thing: How to print on the paper. Ideally we would like the garments to look like pages from the books they represent, but local printing firms are balking at the idea. If you have any insights or experience of how to print on this amount of paper pre-design, I would love to hear from you.
My suggestion was to cut the paper to the size that it might fit into a photocopier and photocopying selected pages of the book onto that as an inexpensive printing alternative or to enlist the help of some local printmakers to have skills in using screenprinting and/or letterpress. But I also know from my own experiences in making paper garments that a large component of the printed paper might get cut away in assembling the garments or become unusable (due to rips or other problems during construction). Another solution might be to have the teens choose their favourite quote or passage from a particular book and add the quote to the dress with paint, marker or other tool after the garment was assembled.
The funny thing is that when I told my mother about the project she had the best idea of all. She said "Tell him to ask the teens how they might solve this problem with the text. They might surprise you with their solutions!" Why didn't I think of that!
This is one project that I wish I could get involved in on a hands-on basis because it combines two things that I am passionate about - books and fashion. Sadly, I'll have to admire it from afar, unless my research takes me over to the United Kingdom in the next while. Stewart has graciously promised to stay in touch and keep me posted on the progress of this fabulous project.
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