living fossil book…

Update (August 2016): I am excited to say that this book is now in the permanent care of the Goucher College Special Collections. I am so happy to have placed my horseshoe crab somewhere I care about so much — and with people who will take great care of her for years to come!

Nearly a month ago, I clued you in to the beginnings of my recent obsession with horseshoe crabs. Over the last few weeks, as I’ve been learning everything I can about them, my horseshoe crab poem book has finally come to life.

(I invite you to blow your own mind about horseshoe crabs on this simple Wikipedia pageand here…they are amazing.)

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I’ve known for a while I wanted to make a book with this shape. The plates, the angles, the mechanical challenges…it’s a dream for me! When I found out that horseshoe crabs breathe through a series of five pairs of book gills, I knew this project was meant to be.


I started playing around with materials I’ve never used before. I decided I wanted this book to move in several ways, so I knew I’d be constructing some eyelet-driven hinges. But I also wanted to feel like the book was ecologically conscious somehow — so the whole thing is made of paper bags from MOM’s Organic Market. Here, I’m using Mod Podge to sculpt the outer carapace, or shell.


I wound up “double bagging” nearly the entire thing, gluing pieces of paper together and coating them with Mod Podge until they felt strong enough to hold up to the movement of the book. Here’s a pic of some of the creature’s legs in progress…

IMG_1058 IMG_1059Besides the bags, glue and eyelets, the only other material I used to build the book was this gorgeous diaphanous material someone rescued for me from a closet clean-out day at work. I have no idea what it is, but it fit the book perfectly, giving me a gill-like surface for the poem itself. (And it reminds me of a spider’s web, which is fitting since these crabs are so closely related to arachnids.) Oh, and I had to get a nice little close-up shot of my precious — er, my pretty screw punch — without which this project would not have been possible… ❤

IMG_1061Creating movement in this piece presented a lot of really fun challenges. Here you can see the hinge I made (on the right) so that the book gill section can swing from side to side. What you can’t see, beneath those gills, is a tiny little T-shaped bar at the top of the tail, which allows it to swing back and forth without disturbing the fragile poem fabric above it.

IMG_1063So, there you have it: the making of my horseshoe crab book. Here’s a link to the full text of the poem, “Our Blood Holds Secrets” (can you believe they use horseshoe crab blood enzymes in space to detect certain bacterias?!?)…I hope you enjoy it!



6 thoughts on “living fossil book…

    1. Thank you! I worked on it off and on for about three weeks. A good bit of that time was spent figuring things out in between steps. If I were to make it again, I’m guessing I could do it much faster. 🙂

  1. This is really beautiful and cool! I used to pick up horseshoe crabs at the beach all the time, they would wave their spines and try to dig down into wet sand, good choice of obsession

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