In the silent aisle of that old bookshop lay a thousand stories waiting to be told. The books keep still, patiently filling the aisle’s emptiness with faint echos that become louder and clearer as one let his thoughts be led by them, and finally merge, until it seems as if you are breathing the stories themselves that arise from within a book…
Meet Emma Taylor. Emma is a book sculptor. But she is not. You see, a book invites you in a story, a world. Emma however has the ability to do the very opposite; she invites the book’s story to our world by giving it form. Something between Geppetto and the blue fairy from Pinocchio. So, I firmly believe that behind the facade of a “book sculptor” Emma is actually a book wizard.
Supposedly a wizard never reveals his secrets. However I’ve managed, under the pretext of an interview, to trick Emma in sharing a thing or two about how she works her magic on books;
So, lets begin; How did you become a book sculptor? Call me predictable but hey, we don’t get to meet one everyday!
I saw images online of a series of book sculptures which were left anonymously in Edinburgh and just loved the concept, as you say you definitely don’t meet a book sculptor everyday or even see many images of book sculptures so it was really a bit of a revelation! I have always loved the smell and appearance of old books, so the possibility of making artwork out of them really excited me. I made the first one for a college project and uploaded an image of it to my blog ( link at the bottom ), I was astonished by the positive response and a few people had asked if I would be making anymore, so I did and as they say the rest is history!
Tell us how you choose the books for your creations. Do you feel a “calling” from certain books, is it the idea of the sculpture that comes first, or is it something entirely different?
A bit of a mixture really. I like to match the book title to the theme of the piece, so often when I am perusing the many bookshops that I visit a book title will jump out at me and that will act as the starting point for the piece. In those cases I guess you could describe it as a “calling” from the book, it’s just whatever takes my fancy at the time. The books are always aged with discoloured pages, I love the off white colour and also I know it’s a cliche, but I do love the smell!
Living through an art or a craft is like an intense relationship; For example I love sewing headbands for my bindings and I absolutely loathe sanding book edges. Which is the least and most favorite part of making a sculpture according to you?
Well my favourite part would be adding all of the details, this is when the piece really seems to come together for me. My least favourite part would have to be adding the wadding to pad out the various forms. I dislike this part simply because it always seems to take much longer than I expect it to, also I finish the wadding and then have to go over all of the forms again covering up the wadding with strips of book pages.
You are obviously a booklover. What does a book represent for you?
For me books represent stories and not just the ones that are written in them. Each book tells its own history and within that history is often many owners. Some owners who have treasured the book and added a slip of tissue paper to protect a particularly fragile page, others who have had a new set of crayons for Christmas and have tried them out by colouring in a few of the black and white illustrations and finally the giver and receiver named in the inscription inside the front cover.
I am all for book arts and book sculpting in particular. However I’ve heard in discussions, more than once, that using books in this way is sacrilege. What would you say in regard to that perspective?
I will simply describe what happened when I bought a book from a market stall recently. The said book had its cover hanging off, so when I handed it to the owner of the stall he discreetly put the cover back into place; he was obviously very surprised by my choice and sheepishly asked for £1.50. I happily handed over the money as I saw potential in the book, where as he obviously considered it to be somewhat past its best. Although many people had obviously glanced at the damaged book and completely ignored it, I had chosen the book not for the purpose of reading it (as this may have been an issue because a few pages were missing) but to create a sculpture out of it, thereby giving it a new life as an object to be admired and once again appreciated.
Bear with me, we’re almost there! What are your thoughts and feelings during the making of a new piece?
I am always excited to start a new piece and intrigued to see what it will end up like, I do make a rough plan but I tend to deviate from this. However by the time I finish the piece it’s as though I can’t actually see what it looks like anymore. I think this is because I spend many, many hours working on each sculpture, so I tend to get absorbed in the piece and know every millimeter of it and so my image of the piece consists of all the different elements and everything that they have involved. After what I like to call my ‘cooling of period’ I can then see what it looks like and assess what I feel has worked and what hasn’t.
And last but not least; What would you like to achieve by creating all those wonderful sculptures? Is it art for the sake of art or are you trying to communicate something through your creations?
The first piece which I made focused on the decreasing demand for books as they are sadly being partly replaced by eReaders. To me the possibility of the end of the book is a tragic one and so the continued aim of my work is to present the book as an object to be admired. I am simply presenting the book in a new light. Although people are no longer able to read the books I use, they are instead given a visual image to view.
Merry Christmas everyone!