Each year, Longwood Gardens transforms into a winter wonderland for A Longwood Christmas, an annual tradition that sees the 1,000-plus acre property bedecked with 500,000 lights and dozens of adorned trees.
The thematic display carries into the four-acre conservatory, where trees are plentiful. Associate director of display design, Jim Sutton, landed on a “Trees Reimagined” theme this year. Throughout, trees are made from an array of materials, including cut glass, tumbleweeds and even orchids.
The Music Room is no exception. It’s anchored by an 18-foot Fraser fir, which stands atop a base made of books. Books, including a tree made of children’s literature, are heavily featured throughout this particular display. Longwood took the library theme up a notch, featuring the works of Downingtown artist, Dannielle Vincent.
Vincent, the owner of PreMade ReMade, crafts art out of books, creating sayings and graphics like hearts, paw prints and even intricate butterflies from paperbacks and hardbacks. Over the summer, those designs caught the attention of the Longwood Gardens team. When Sutton reached out to Vincent, a self-taught graphic designer, she was at the hospital with her husband, who had recently undergone a below-the-knee amputation. “My jaw hit the floor,” Vincent says of her reaction.
For three months, she crafted paper sculptures and art from books specifically for the display, taking no other custom orders. Being a graphic designer, Vincent makes her own patterns and that was the case for this project. “Everything [the Longwood team] picked out was [original],” she says. “Then they wanted me to replicate some of their designs.” Those took the form of “Longwood” spelled out, alongside the garden’s symbol, among others.
In total, Vincent made three book sculptures, 27 books and 60 ornaments for Longwood Gardens, including snowflakes and flowers, and an intricate six-foot piece displayed above the fireplace.
To make each design, Vincent uses folding and cutting techniques, often cutting no more than one centimeter into a book’s margins, so that it can still be read in the future—though it’s doubtful anyone would want to undo her work. “The ones I did with the ‘Longwood’ letters I cut in a little further so the black and white offset the green edged pages,” she explains.
This project represented Vincent’s largest custom order to date and much-needed good news after a trying year. Seeing it all come together proved a magical experience for her. “It was very overwhelming. I never in a million years thought that my folding books would bring me to that level,” she says.