Hello! I’m Kristen Whitley of Eleven Trees Artistry. I’m an artist from St. Cloud, Minnesota, working toward (and almost finished with!) my Master’s Degree in Creative Arts Therapy. Eleven Trees is the quirky love child of my scattered creative energy and my appreciation for old and aged things.
The shop currently specializes in what I’ve coined “Anthology Photo Frames,” which are gorgeous vintage hardcover books transformed into (totally readable!) picture frames. Each book is carefully chosen, freshened up, and transformed with the intent of beautifully and uniquely displaying life’s most precious memories. I use quality plexiglass and brass hardware to protect photos and keep them in place, and the book frames can be hung on a wall or set on a surface.
With an appreciation for the past, I have always been a collector of lovely old things that catch my eye- vintage typewriters, a pocket watch, old cameras, tintypes, a photo album...
I began collecting a few vintage art books in high school, but it all started with 10 Reader’s Digests I found at a local thrift store. It was my intention to find a way to use them as wedding décor, simply because the patterns were such perfect rich colors. I ended up using them to stack candle favors at the wedding, and they found their way in various places around our house after that, because they were just so beautiful. I began brainstorming a new way to display them for their intrinsic beauty, and had a light bulb moment. After some experimentation, I started collecting vintage books and making book frames like mad.
Where are your favorite places to search for books? Any specific qualities you look for in a book that makes it a good candidate to be a picture frame?
I think my favorite places to shop are thrift stores, because there’s so much life connected to the books there. Often times, the books have come straight from many years on the previous owner’s bookshelf, and sometimes they have notes, personal inscriptions, dried leaves, post cards, bookmarks, and other beautiful bits of life inside. One of my favorite parts of the process is coming home with a new stack of old books and going through them all.
The best books for frames are those that have been well taken care of, and it is particularly important to have a strong binding. I generally look for books with the fabric covers, because they’re easiest to cut into and have the aesthetic texture I’m looking for. It’s always an exciting find if the book is a fantastic color, has a great title, or has a charming graphic or font on the cover.
There are so many favorites! I’ve loved, oh, about 500 books in the past year, but 3 of them stick out in my mind. “How to Sail,” “Time of Our Lives,” and “Bird,” which all sold soon after I opened my Etsy shop. They’re each so beautiful in their own ways, but as an artist and wanna-be designer, the colors, text, and graphics just stop my heart! All 3 were also great pieces of literature.
It’s truly a pleasure to rescue and give a new life to these oft-abandoned and forgotten pieces of the past. I adore each piece in my book collection: the wear, the smell, the texture, the materials, the fonts, the illustrations, the craftsmanship, the history, the timelessness…it's all beautiful. I’m hooked!
Right now, Eleven Trees operates entirely out of my living room. Thankfully, it’s spacious enough; and for now it works much better than my home art studio, which is a poorly lit and crowded upstairs dungeon. My books are stored in a few different bookshelves, and I work off of a nifty craft cart that holds my tools and supplies and also functions as a workspace. I have big dreams for a fantastic home studio space when we move someday!
Thanks for this opportunity to share my passion with you, and I hope to see you around the shop soon. The new year marks growth and transformation at Eleven Trees, and there are literally hundreds of beauties ready to go out the door, so keep your eyes open!
Please be sure to read more about Eleven Trees and pick up a book of your own: