Bookbinding with… Ellsworth Kelly

A tribute

When I heard the news that Ellsworth Kelly has died on December 27, 2015, I instantly recalled his brightly coloured paintings I saw in museums when I was a design student in America.

They were big, bold and striking.

Very graphic. Very simple. Very disorienting.

At that time, I did not feel for them. I struggled with the ideas of modern art.


Ellsworth Kelly at the Tate Modern, London. Photo: The Guardian/Christian Sinibaldi


However, in the last few years, I am beginning to appreciate this school of abstraction.

Kelly started to produce these stark, minimalist works back in the 1950s and to this day, they still look new and feel modern.

It must have been quite shocking then.

Maybe even now, for some.

What are they about, really?


Ellsworth Kelly Google search results.



Wearable art: An original design by Kelly in 1952 (left) and a collaboration with Calvin Klein (2013). Photo: Vogue

Shapes and colours are ideas

My bookbinding tribute was a chance to get reacquainted with the artist’s work.

To interpret his art, I considered his simple outline drawings of plants and his colourful “shaped” canvases.

I eventually settled on his trademark colour blocks.

Even if you knew nothing about the artist, many of Kelly’s works would still be interesting to look at.

Beyond the obvious

If you can see beyond what’s obvious, they are really vessels for many things.

It’s like what they say about the Japanese zen temple Ryoanji with its raked sand and sparse landscape of stones: There is really very little to see, yet it has the power to inspire a universe of thoughts and emotions.

This “art of void” turns you inward, and you see yourself, your life, your everything.

It is in this spirit that I now regard Kelly’s work.

I made three books.

Enjoy the play of happy colours and simple shapes.



Now, let me see…


How to choose? What to choose?


I get to use some brightly coloured headbands.


For the red book, some stitching.


More shape and colours!


Cut coloured papers, glued.


Done! Joyful colours forever.


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