Monday, October 11, 2010

When is a book not a book?

Chris Porter has a magnificent view from her house which is perched on the skirt of a mountain looking down at the beautiful Derwent River.On the day I visited her it was a bright sunlight sparkling sea kind of day with even a hint of warmth in the sun.
    Her house has big windows looking out on the view though from the moment I stepped through her door I was captivated with the sculptures she is making from books.

I'd had a serendipitous meeting over the counter at work, chatting with some regular customers who mentioned they had a sculpture made from a book. The next day they even bought it (made by Chris) in to show me, which is an especially lovely thing for customers to do- and they also put me in touch with her - which is even lovelier.
"I don't just use any old book," Chris said - and on closer inspection there is a lot more to find - language, art, drama and poetry are all there. A dictionary has made for a particularly intricate piece.
   Chris entered in to the world of book sculpture or "page or book folding" as she calls it, when she started making books from scratch. This process has evolved now - and she sources her books from op shops and charity stalls. She has also been given copies of favourite books to transform into art-as-memento for people.
A book sculpture can take anywhere from fifteen minutes right through to hours and hours and while Chris acknowledges that she is not alone in creating art from books she doesn't use a scalpel like some other practitioners of this art.

This, of course, begs the question; when is a book not a book?

There may be some people who are horrified that a book can be used for anything other than reading - but a book is a consumer product- and, sacrilegious as this may sound and with a full acknowledgment that a book CAN transform your life, there are a lot of books that end up at the rubbish tip. Take a look at the book shelves in any op shop - full of microwave cookery books and never opened school issue dictionaries - and novels that do not deserve a second reading.
When Chris starts her tricky folding and evolves these books into sculpture that are both decorative she is also recycling.
They are a perfect way for a book to finish its life - and show a lovely evolution of Chris' creativity - moving from the art and craft of making books from scratch, through to book rescue and transformation. She is also preserving a form of the book that, as we lurch in to the digital, may become a mere museum piece.

Chris can be contacted at chris.porter (at)


  1. I'm of two minds. The sculptures are beautiful, and it creates something that can't really be replicated by anything else. You wouldn't have the same effect if you would create that sculpture with just any recycled paper for instance. However, while I'm looking at them I can't help but think of what edition it the book is, what binding, what is the paper made out of? I know it's a tad bizarre, but a book is more than a consumer product for me, and it's production and method of publishing over time has changed, and different editions and prints of books are evidence of that process. However, the way we consume books has now changed too, with the introduction of the e-reader and i-pad ect, so in a way, to me, these sculptures celebrate what books once were. And hey, if these are books that don't deserve a second reading, they at least deserve a second life. Great post.

  2. I love the books I accumulate but I can't keep them all forever and I agree that this is a positive way of recycling. Have you seen this - jewellry made from books


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