From the Design Desk: Art and Books: A Fitting Combination

You may have guessed already, but we’re slightly obsessed with books here (big surprise, right?)! Among many more obsessions, another is art. Probably still not very surprising, considering we have an entire category dedicated to it on both our website and blog. That being said, it was only natural that we would publish a book completely dedicated to the combination of these two topics. I give you, Art Made from Books: Altered, Sculpted, Carved, Transformed.

This book is a survey of artists who are as enamored with the printed page as we are and have found new ways to interpret that. One of the featured artists, Brian Dettmer, explains it well in the preface when he says, “It is recycling, but not just in the material sense; it’s a recycling of ideas, images, text, and textures from our cultural past. We pull from the past to make something new, the way art always has.”

Brian Dettmer, Tower of Babble, 2012. Paperback books, acrylic medium.

The art filling the pages of this book ranges from traditional art forms like painting and collage to contemporary methods like installation and jewelry. Here’s a sampling of my favorites:

James Allen, Skulduggery, 2012. (75 years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking)

James Allen cuts his way through books in layers, revealing page by page what lies beneath. I love the combination of imagery that unfolds through his process, unveiling an entirely new story for each book that he works with.


Thomas Allen, The Phantom Tollbooth, 2011. (Rhyme and Reason and King Azaz)

Thomas Allen chooses to alter and photograph books using silhouette art to define his works. The pieces above are from a series created for the Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center at the John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Allen used different books to represent various characters from The Phantom Tollbooth. Pictured here are Rhyme and Reason and King Azaz.

Su Blackwell, Red Riding Hood, 2010. Secondhand book, lights, glass, wood box.

Artist Su Blackwell recreates a scene from “Little Red Riding Hood.” Blackwell uses light to add another dimension to her paper works. I find her style completely enchanting and whimsical!

Lisa Kokin, How to Be, 2010 (detail). Self-help book spines, PVA glue, wire, mull, thread.

In the piece above, Lisa Kokin used the spines of self-help books to create a floral garland-type arrangement. I find the irony of transforming these books into colorful and beautiful flowers to be genius.

Mike Stilkey, The Piano Has Been Drinking, 2010. Acrylic on books. Installation at Hurley International, Costa Mesa, California.

Artist Mike Stilkey uses book covers, book pages, and book spines as the canvas for his paintings. His ability to interpret a classical art technique in a new way is both intriguing and fun.

Check out Art Made from Books, to see more of these artists’ work along with the work of additional artists and learn more about the history and process behind creating art from books.

Meghan Nowell
Design Studio Assistant

Meghan Nowell

Meghan Nowell

As Design Studio Manager, Meghan has fun bossing around designers on the weekdays and avoiding them on the weekend. She also enjoys wine, pretending to be artsy, and eating/making delicious food!
Meghan Nowell



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