Seattle artist James Allen, who calls his work "Book Excavations," cuts away sections of each page to reveal layers underneath to create an entirely new composition. The book remains bound and the pages intact. This piece is a modified version of 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking.


Over the course of eight months, from March to November 2011, the artist known as Anonymous produced 10 small book sculptures. Each was smuggled into cultural venues around Edinburgh. Blogger Chris Scott photographed each sculpture as it appeared. Scott and "Anonymous" have never met.


Edinburgh novelist Ian Rankin is the only living writer to be featured in Anonymous altered texts. His books Exit Music and Hide and Seek are used in @beathhigh.


Citing nature, language, and dreams as key influences in her work, Pamela Paulsrud used several dozen books to create this floor sculpture. She incorporates books in her work as a way of exploring a new language, a new perspective, and a new way to tell a story.

The Compleat Enchanter

Part of Pamela Paulsrud’s 2009 series "Dream Palimpsest," this piece is made from altered book, acrylic, plaster, Sumi ink, Xerox transfers, stick, stones, hardware, and encaustic.

The Compleat Enchanter

Part of Pamela Paulsrud’s 2009 series Dream Palimpsest, this piece is made from altered book, acrylic, plaster, Sumi ink, Xerox transfers, stick, stones, hardware, and encaustic.

Disaster: Twisters: Twisted Borough

Brooklyn book sculptor Doug Beube began altering books in 1979 by cutting, folding, gouging, piercing, and slashing. He excavates found books as if they were undiscovered archeological sites," reports Art Made From Books.

Pandora Opening Box

Drawing inspiration from fairy tales and folklore, London’s Su Blackwell reads each story first before carving three-dimensional tableaux from secondhand books, lights, glass, and wood boxes. In Art Made From Books, Blackwell says books “can transport you to a different time and place, and some­where more magical.”

The Man Who Fell to Earth (David Bowie)

Alex Queral peels away pages of old Philadelphia residential telephone books to create celebrity portraits. His tools: a very sharp X-Acto knife and a small pot of acrylic medium.


Jacqueline Rush Lee scrambles books’ formal arrangement to create what she calls "residual" sculptures. Installed at the Honolulu Museum of Art, Hawaii. "Island" was assembled from telephone books using screws and decorated with found and applied inks.

Saturation Will Result

Atlanta-based Brian Dettmer used knives, tweezers, and surgical tools to turn this found encyclopedia set into a sculpture by sealing the edges and creating an enclosed vessel full of unearthed poten­tial.

"Art Made From Books"

Compiled by Laura Heyenga, the hardbound volume, subtitled Altered, Sculpted, Carved, Transformed, features book-based works by 27 artists. The cover art, a map sculpture by Cara Barer, is made from The Ultimate Road Atlas.

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Stories That Jump Off The Page: See Stunning Art Made From Books

A new book showcases 3-D art carved from books.

They stalk books with X-Acto knives, tiny sandblasters, glue, paint, scissor, and a shared obsession for giving new form to old things. The resulting sculptures, as pictured in the upcoming Art Made From Books: Altered, Sculpted, Carved and Transformed (Chronicle Books), extend the shelf life for phone books, encyclopedias, pulp fiction and fairy tales. Instead of winding up in the landfill, ink-on-paper artifacts can now be rejiggered as astonishing text objects that have nothing to do with words.

"There’s been a huge proliferation of artists who are interested in the book as a medium," says Alyson Kuhn, who authored the introduction to Art Made From Books. "Some of these artists are making comments about the role of reading in contemporary culture, others find that books are a handy art form. They see books as a backdrop for their creativity."

Many "altered book" practitioners cut, snip and gouge with surgical precision. For example, the woman known as "Anonymous" crafts intricate miniaturist tableaux, like the one pictured below, that literally jump off the page. But when her work first gained traction via Twitter in 2011, some traditionalists sounded sour notes. Kuhn told Co.Create. "This is a somewhat controversial practice because there are people who think of it as vandalizing books," she said. "But Anonymous is obsessed by her love of books. Anonymous wasn’t looking for recognition or compensation. She was creating this ode to the book."

Art Made From Books, edited by Laura Heyenga, demonstrates how obsolete books can now serve sculptors as a 21st-century equivalent to marble or molding clay. Kuhn points out that, "The information is outdated, the paper is probably yellowed or worse, so the fact that a book can become something charming and creative and valuable in a new light is kind of great."

[Images courtesy of Art Made from Books: Altered, Sculpted, Carved, Transformed | compiled by Laura Heyenga | published by Chronicle Books 2013]

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