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Jemma Westing

Jemma Westing | Book Designer & Paper Engineer

We recently caught up with Jemma Westing to chat cardboard creations, lion fish, and the fun to be found in recycling. Jemma is an award-winning book designer and paper engineer, and author of Out of the Box. Her workshop BrilliantBuilds encourages families to make clever crafts out of cardboard materials that would otherwise be thrown away.

Your work in five words:

Cardboard, interactive, colourful, friendly, fun.

Your second favourite crafting material (after cardboard, of course!)


If a film was made about your life, it would be called:

Scissors and Sky.


What inspired you to create the great cardboard crafts found in Out of the Box?

I run a not-for-profit workshop called BrilliantBuilds (based in the UK), which I take around to various family events and festivals. When I get there, I collect the waste cardboard packaging at the event site and bring it back to my tent. My volunteers and I then invite everybody to come and build amazing models out of the materials – it's very simple! I usually start with a theme like “build a city” or “monsters” just to help start people off.

Sounds like fun! Is that how Out of the Box came to be?

Yes. All of the models in the book have been inspired by the makes from my workshop. The “Cardville” project in the book is a direct take on my common build-a-city workshop theme.


How important is off-screen time to young imaginations?


How can teachers integrate crafting and play into their lesson plans?

I'd recommend that they seek information about STEM education.

As a designer and illustrator, what’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

Trying to sort myself out with a full-time creative job as I was coming to the end of my final year of my BA in Illustration.

What’s the most unlikely place you’ve found craft inspiration?

I had to think about this question for a while. I learnt to scuba dive when I was at university and then went on a dive trip to Egypt. On one night dive, a lion fish followed my flashlight and swam underneath me for a while using my light to help it find prey. It's always been a great memory. When I got back to university I was asked to create a reference illustration project. I had a try at making my very first pop-up model along the lines of an invasive-species theme. I built the lion fish, and my paper modelling work developed from there.


Upcycling scrap cardboard into creative crafts is great for the environment! What’s one material you can use in craft projects that most people wouldn’t think to reuse?

To be honest, encouraging people to be creative with the bigger cardboard boxes and sheets can still be a challenge. Cardboard cups and drink containers can be repurposed into creative things and sadly so many of them still end up in the garbage.

Do you have a hands-down favourite project from Out of the Box?

I've recently returned from my U.S book tour and I made many box robot costumes when I was there! It’s a really simple project to do and you get pleasing results quite quickly, so it’s become one of my favourites. I also love the Egyptian headdress and the lazy lizards.


Do you have a crafting secret or DIY hack you’re proud of?

My "just get on with attitude" hasn't done me wrong so far!

To discover more great cardboard crafts for the home or classroom, pick up Out of the Box. Packed with clever ideas to ignite imaginations, this playful craft compendium is great for the environment, too!

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