The Beauty in Books

Literary art takes on entirely new dimensions—literally—with the judicious application of scalpels, water and other things. I found these pages a while back and meant to share them, but forgot all about them until recently, when the topic of book sculptures came up with a group of friends. Enjoy!

Su Blackwell is probably my favorite of the artists. The Mad Hatter’s party is hard to beat, but so is the flock of butterflies exploding from the page.



Thomas Allen cuts up pulp covers and gives the tableaux even more humor and drama. The one below is my favorite.


Daniel Essig creates intricate sculptures using books. My favorites are probably his bridge books.


Nicola Dale cuts up the pages of books to create intricate sculptures, reminiscent of Su Blackwell’s work.


Georgia Russell cuts up book covers (and sheet music, and photographs), throwing the titles and themes of the books into stark relief.


Cara Barer takes old, outdated books, distorts them using water and other means, turns them into sculptures and then photographs them. Some of them verge on incoherence, but many of them are intricate and astonishing. The two pieces below are “Butterfly 2” and “Snowflake,” respectively.




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  1. 1

    Taking the love of books to a whole new level.  Thanks, Candy.  This kind of art is way cool.

  2. 2
    Toni says:

    While I admit that the sculptures are beautiful and astounding in their intricacy, there is a little corner of my bibliophilic soul that cries at the thought of defacing books.

  3. 3
    Brandi says:

    The juxtaposition of looking at this after searching for tips on repairing book pages and dust jackets is a little peculiar to say the least—but the art is pretty, and if the books are already badly damaged or (in the case of Alice in Wonderland) very readily available, I don’t mind as much.

    Actually, it’d be a nice thing to do with the excess volumes of trash written by Ann Coulter, Jonah Goldberg, and the like…

    [Anti-spam entire77—so, okay, not *entire* runs by these goofs: we need a few copies as warnings…]

  4. 4
    Angela James says:

    Oh, to have just an ounce of that creativity. I think they’re gorgeous, and I don’t think of it as defacing the books at all, oddly. Probably because it’s bringing the love of books alive in a whole new way.

  5. 5
    kate says:

    I find this art form fascinating.  my feelings are similar to Brandi’s – if the books used are not rare, and are ready to move on to a new life, it’s all good.  plus, it’s a better end than the poor books I have to strip at the bookstore get.  two other artists whose work I enjoy are Brian Dettmer and Peter Callesen.  ^_^

  6. 6
    Emily says:

    Thanks so much for posting this! Those are fabulous!!!  But…. Now I have another reason to acquire books.  I have no artistic talent, but it would be cool if I could make something even half as pretty.  I may give it a go with a throwaway.

  7. 7
    Willa says:

    Wow, lovely!

    I’ve seen the Alice in Wonderland one before, and love it, but the rest are new to me, thank you for sharing these! So creative, so pretty.

    I also had a knee-jerk, almost animal reaction to the defacing of the books, until I reminded myself that the Alice book is nowhere even close to a rare book and probably gets pulped every year, and the others are likely the same. Then I felt much better.

  8. 8
    Kelly says:

    Don’t forget about The Humument! Beautiful redone books.

  9. 9
    Maya says:


    We have a famour weekendlong artdoor art festival/sale every July over a big, pedestrian-friendly area outside of our city hall, and last year some of the artists made impassioned statements about how everyone is willing to grant a person who picks up a paintbrush and canvas the title of ‘artist’, even if their work is mediocre or worse, whereas others who choose different media can labor for decades without being accorded that recognition.  This reminds me of that.  Amazing how the human creative spirit can be ignited by practically any material whatsoever.

  10. 10
    Tae says:

    Those are beautiful, but I agree with what everyone has said.

  11. 11
    StephB says:

    Ooh, those are gorgeous. Thanks for posting them!

  12. 12
    Sandra D says:

    This artist uses books to build bookshelves.

  13. 13
    Claudia says:

    One of the more fascinating bookart projects too me is the 85:1 scale house made from laser cut pages.

    A cool online exhibit I like is the from the Smithsonian’s Science and the Artist book.

    I’m very lucky & happy to live in ‘Frisco as there’s lots of bookarts centers, classes, and events in the SF Bayarea.

  14. 14
    Wryhag says:

    I absolutely LOVE this art!  Wish I could afford some . . .


    Thanks for sharing, Candy.

  15. 15
    Tish says:

    Love! These are amazing.. thanks for posting..!!!

  16. 16
    Brandi says:

    Those bookshelves are really spiffy, Sandra.

  17. 17
    voodoo chile says:

    They’re brilliant. I especially liked Su and Thomas.

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