An Author's Nightmare?

Book sculpture, altered book making, and book surgery, are just some of the names given to art that is made by using books as the primary material for the artwork. Books may be carved up, sliced, glued, pages cut, folded, burnt, or any other number of techniques may be applied to create book art. While this style of art has many admirers, it’s not a form of art that is respected by all, with some people finding the ‘destruction’ of books to be quite confronting. I LOVE the written word. I love books and they are certainly things to be treasured. For this reason I do understand why people have issues with book art. I’m a little torn on the subject as I can also appreciate some of the beautiful works of art that have been transformed from books. If artists can revive and give new life to old neglected books that have been discarded and not likely to be read again and enjoyed then I believe this is a good thing. It’s not as though individual titles published are generally one-offs anyways. Right? Most have large print runs. Right? Right. Yes, I’m ok with this. Just so long as none of my beloved books are used I’m even more ok with it.

This piece I absolutely adore! It’s called Byrd House and is by Sarah Rebekah Byrd Mizer. To view more amazing book art by Sarah click here.

This is Melbourne artist Nicholas Jones in his studio with some samples of his book sculptures. I’m somebody who will rant furiously about dog-eared page corners in books, yet surprisingly enough I do love these intricately folded book pages. To read a wonderful interview with Nicholas Jones on The Design Files blog, click here.

"The only important thing in a book is the meaning it has for you"
- W. Somerset Maugham


Unknown said…
Hello, nice post. If they are using old and unwanted books, it's ok to turn them into harm done. Those arts by Nicholas Jones are beautiful. There are some books I treasure and some other..I'd gladly donate it to Nicholas :) Anyway, the quote is appropriate..btw all my books are dog-eared ;D
Unknown said…
..oh yes, you've got an award..again (not from me), enjoy :D
Hey Harriet said…
Hey M.Kate

You dog-ear your books? Aaaarrgh! Well don't be asking to ever borrow any of my books missy!
Anonymous said…
mmm well that is definately food for thought, I hadn't really given it much thought before!! I too am a lover of books and worked at a book binders for 12 months (loved, loved, loved it!!) And while i wouldn't rip into precious old favourites, i have altered a couple. But they were kids old board books that are a dime a dozen at lifeline. (a cheap way to make a little scrap album) The quote says it all I think!! And the book art by Nicholas Jones and Sarah is definately very cool. :0)
Anonymous said…
I had no idea book art was so controversal! I love book art, especially Su Blackwell, but also so many amazing artists I find online who use pages in their art.
My books are so special to me..I have my father's Tom Swift novels, plus many others..They are my treasures.
Of course, if a book is all ripped and would be thrown, what a wonderful use for it..Love the house..and Nicholas Jones work..Beautiful..
I use to fold magazines to make a choir for Christmas..Used Styrofoam heads..Got the idea from Better Homes mag.
Gina said…
I love them both.. Sarah's looks to me like some National Geo issues..and NJ's work is incredible.. you have to admire it.. my crafty auntie makes Christmas angels from old phone books and a smaller version with readers digests.. using a folding technique like this.. I can't stand dog eared pages either..and with the kids most special books I would buy a copy in hard cover to keep, then paperback for reading..same with the Harry Potters! Gx
I'm a fan of long as precious or rare books aren't used...why the heck not? It gets people looking. Which may lead to (gasp) people reading.

Cool featured artists and fantastic quote!
LazyTcrochet said…
Oh yes. Great post on a touchy subject. I blogged recently about a book purse that I made and received a comment from the author's fan club. It sold and I haven't made any since then, but I do have some great books calling my name.
Here's the link to my post...
I think this is a very interesting (and fun;)topic for discussion! I adore books and have a very romantic attachment to them. Whether the book is "important" or not...the romance for me is that someone sat down and tried to tell "their story" and I have a great respect for that effort!! So the idea of disrespecting that is difficult for me.

The related issues of painting antique furniture and cutting vintage textiles come up in my line of work I've thought about it a lot.

With much as I love them...I can't keep them all. (And yes most of mine are dog-eared. But I'm doing better since M.Kate sent me the new bookmark I love so much.)So, if a book is falling apart or headed for a is better to do something with it. Of course I would like everyone on the planet have as many books as they can manage, before any are altered. But, after that what else can you do with them?

The great thing about all art, including altered book art, is that it stimulates these types of discussions! And that's a good thing!!

Thanks for the great post!!
Victoria said…
Great post!
I love book arts, I think it is a beautiful way to reuse and repurpose the written word, the illustration, and/or the object itself. I too, at first, struggled with the concept of taking apart something that I had always been taught, and taught my children, to respect. But soon I saw the beauty and the wisdom in this art form, and now have deep appreciation for it.
Angie said…
I enjoy altered book art...and as those above me have said - if the book was old, and had a wonderful life being read; and possibly it could have been too damaged to have been read - why not give it a second life as a piece of art? I think it's equally enjoyable :)
please sir said…
I agree - old, unused books can be re-used as art or decoration. I don't have a problem with book art. One time in a design class a girl used some random book, but said it was suppossed to represent the Bible. Classmates asked why she didn't actually use a Bible? She exclaimed saying she didn't want to destroy it (I think she tore and burned some pieces of the other book). Her project didn't work, but I wouldn't want to destroy a Bible either...that might cross the line for me a bit.
T.Allen said…
Such a grey issue because I truly admire the sculptures and other book art projects but at the same time (looking over at my collection) it kind of gives me stomach knots.

Great features and I enjoyed teh quote.
K.C. said…
I think that art is art... from wherever you can find it or create it.. I love it...

I see so many books not being read and if art can be created.. CREATE!

Thanks for the inspiration! Kayce
SandraRee said…
I keep all my books for the simple reason that I reread all of them. I'm always delighted and surprised when I reread and find that I didn't pick up on something in my reading from the time before.

Now I do have some pretty old, thin, beat up looking, out of date, encyclopedias that I have boxed up that would be great for projects like the Byrd House. And even the book sculptures. Don't ask me why I've kept them, maybe for a great post like this to come along? :)
Laura said…
I like your blog, very inspiring... I study art and sometimes reading about it on the net is depressing (I guess that's the atmosphere at school), but blogs like these always lift my spirit!
A Wild Thing said…
I love his work full of white light. I too love old books and new books, but no time to read, unless it's an interesting page that is finding a new home in my altered art...I waste alot of time reading after glueing or wrapping...the quote says it all.

Anonymous said…
You have a good point. I never heard of book art till now. Yeah, I know. I live under a rock. ;-)

littlebird said…
like you i'm torn (no pun intended), between the destruction of books and the breathing of new and wonderous life into long neglected books. i think your final quote at the bottom of the post sums it up though.
Sarah McBride said…
I think book art is really fun and interesting. But I too wold have a hard time enjoying it if the books were rare editions or something like that.

great post!
Anonymous said…
Why not have controversy over book art?? For some reason, human's seem to need controversy for survival.
I personally think there's much more to concern myself with than what to do with a book that may or may never be read again.
I love book art. I don't see it as destruction of the lituary world.
I'm sure it is keeping many a book out of the landfills.
Ali said…
Ah! Great post :)
'Book Art' is a wonderful thing - I think it is rarely about destroying precious books, but more about celebrating and exploring beautiful forms and patterns that can be found and created in discarded old books. The brittle yellow paper, gorgeous cover patterns, funny old stories... love it!
And thanks for the link to Nicholas Jones, I love some of the forms created in his cut books, as well as the quote at the top of his home page.
Thanks for another great post :)