Carving into Books and Creating Sculptures, Creating Magic from Paper.

Have you ever see a piece of art and wondered how the artist has done it.  I always look at some art pieces as little pieces of magic.  Some times they are like little magic tricks, fill you full of wonder ……….until you see how they are done and think well that was simple.

Well that’s the thing Book sculpture / carving are simple, they do take the patience of a saint to make as they can take some hours to do.  But if you want to see how they get put together then read on.

But if you don’t want the illusion revealed then you may want to move on to the next post.

Various book artist have developed there own ways to create book art, and some are very guarded on how they construct their books.  Which is fair if you have spent a long time developing a process.  Some of these book sculptures can go for thousands of pounds.  So all books featured in this blog are my own and I am happy to show my process and hope I inspire people to have ago.

As an artist you always want your work to be different and stand out from everyone else’s work, so I do try to make sure my work does not look like anyone else’s. Lots of artist fold books, some physically carve like carving stone, lots make the books look like frame and they are a 3D diorama.  I like my book to still like a book.  Here are some of the first book sculptures that I have created.

first book sculpture
My first ever attempt at a book sculpture

This was the first every book sculpture I ever made, I did not have a clue as to what I was doing, how deep i should cut, how or what images would work and biggest thing, how do I set the pages to make it solid.

Readers Digest Folklore Myths and Legends Book Sculpture
Readers Digest Folklore Myths and Legends Book

Readers Digest Folklore Myths and Legends Book Sculpture, my second every book sculpture which sold at the Discerning Eye Exhibition.

Private View at The Mall Galleries

And here are a few others that I have made since.  I have made sculptures from mass produce, broken, obsolete books, carry cases and even packs of cards.  Some books are wonderful to cut and the pages come away really nicely………..well that’s what I hope for the majority of the time but it does not happen that way.  A lot of the well known book artist pay quite a bit for their books which does give them a good quality paper to work with, but I don’t always like cutting into an expensive book so I look for the mass produced broken ones.  This causes a problem because the quality of the paper is bad, even with the sharpest and newest blade the paper still tears or crumbles.

What I am about to share isn’t a tutorial.  This is me showing how I do it.  If your inspired then have a go and if you want any advice then please email me and I will help you out if I can.

So here is my latest carving. Using a book from 1970 called The Victorian Underworld.  I have taken to creating an extension to my books, so the images look as if they are coming out of the book.  I started by cutting my cover.

cover cut
I did not want to have a straight up square cover so I just drew a random shape.
london roof 3
The book seems to focus mostly on London. I am going to use the London sky line as the main focus of this book carving
london roof 2
To do this i need to make an extension off the top of the book. I draw around the cut out image and then drill guide holes to help with cutting out.
london roof 1
Once cut our it then needs to be shaped to the sky line cut out.
london roof
Then I attach the cut out illustration.

The covers can vary in thickness and can be quite difficult to cut.  I tend to use a Stanley knife, but I have now started to use a hand held rotary tool to help remove the bulk and then sand the cover so it is smooth.

Now its all about the composition, I use different methods when it comes to this.  It can be challenging and rewarding if you can leave the images where they lie within the book.  But that can create problems because you can end up with empty spots and no images.  So I like to use the images within the book to create a whole different story or create an illusion of what is included inside.

For this book I wanted to create the illusion of a narrow Victorian London street.  Focusing on not putting too many little details so it looks crowded but clean and not cluttered.  All the pages are cut one by one with a scalpel.  Make sure you work with a shape blade, as soon as you start to feel drag on your blade change it, if you don’t you have the risk of tearing the pages and even worse the image you are trying to use.

The cutting is now all done and it now needs sealing.

Side View
Side view of newly cut book sculpture

You need to tidy up your edges, so remove any stray bits and dust, I use the edge of the scalpel to do this as using a hand held rotary tool you may end up damaging your images, one slip and its ruined.  Also use a soft paint brush to remove any paper dust.

Finshed cut
Finished Cut
Open Book
Open book

You need to protect the book by sealing it.  You can leave it unsealed by it will make the book prone to damage.  Personally I prefer modpodge and treat the book as if I am creating a piece of Decoupage.  I use matte but you can use a antique version but this depends on how yellow you want your pages to look.

You need to apply up to 10 layers of modpodge and this will make your book sculpture solid.  When gluing you need to place weight on the book to prevent the pages from warping when wet.  The style of book I have shown you here is not for beginners.  When doing your first book if your going to give this a go, go for the frame option so you book looks like a picture frame.  You can use other books on top to weight the book down so you can seal the sides without it warping.  You can if you do this frame format, glue your pages before you cut out, just make sure you cut your cover out first before you do first.  I prefer to glue after I have cut everything as it just helps with image placement.

Currently my glue is just drying so a final image will be posted on this blog when its all done and dusted.  I hope you enjoyed the insight and hope it inspires you to have a go.  If you want to talk about anything mentioned in this blog then just drop me a message.



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