Since I was a small child I’ve been using little bits of text and images from newspapers, magazines and leaflets to cut up and turn into things… But the first time I used a page from an actual book was a bit of a wrench! I had a huge internal wrestle with myself about it because it felt so wrong – but I found myself with some books that were water damaged and destined for the recycling bin, so it seemed wrong not to!
Like many people I adore old books as objects in their own right – they have such stories to tell about who has owned them, where they’ve been kept and what they’ve been used for. They can be filled with wonders such as notes scribbled in the margins, names and dedications in the front covers, old bookmarks and things such as press clippings kept flat inside. Its always a piece of someone’s life – usually having touched several people – and very often there is a deep poignancy to working with old books. Some I can’t bear to cut up if the name or dedication inside hints at a strongly emotional tale. Others I feel I get to know past owners through notes scrawled inside.
I have to know at the point of acquiring a book that I’m going to cut it up – its like a pact that I make with the book the minute it passes into my hands…
It takes days and sometimes weeks to shape each of the books. I start by “getting to know” each individual book, by reading much of it, by getting to know the feel of the papers, by gently testing out the different shapes that the pages might bend into…. And during this the book usually begins to “tell” me what it might turn into!
I start by selecting a few pages to remove – often chosen because of their illustrations or the words on the papers. These are set aside to be cut, shaped and sculpted in order to be added back into the rest of the book. I then spend a long time folding, cutting, gluing and clamping the whole book in sections, often with a few days drying time in-between layers!
The books are a delight to photograph and my next step is to get some of the images I’ve taken printed up as postcards and larger prints – I will then have these on sale in my Folksy Shop and at various arts events.
The books are now all packaged up inside sturdy boxes (I’m sure I can hear them talking to each other though!). Their next outing is at Sherwood Arts Week in June in Nottingham.