Is it OK to deface books in the name of art ... or to make a wreath?

Decorating with books is all the rage these days. Every retailer from Pottery Barn to 1stdibs sells old (or made-to-look-old) tomes for people to display in their homes. Crafty types have been busy creating wreaths, paper flowers and other pretty paper wares that are tempting me to do something I was taught never to do: destroy a book.

When it comes to crafting with paper, I'm eager to dig into my piles of pretty paper in search of the right one for the project at hand. But if the project calls for using the pages of a book, I've yet to muster up the courage to tear out pages of a book or even bend them.

Last winter, I set my sights on making a wreath made with the pages of a book after being inspired by tutorials I saw on various blogs. Among my favorites was a sweet burlap-backed wreath made using the pages of a "Little Women" book (featured on Redberry Barn blog) and a simple but pretty paper wreath with a detailed video how-to on a post titled, "Librarians, Please Avert Your Eyes" on the Living With Lindsey blog.

I rushed right over to a thrift store, where I took more time picking out a book to rip up than I would usually spend choosing a book to read. I ended up choosing two old romance novels that are now sitting untarnished (and unread) on a bookshelf, largely forgotten until I came across another book-altering (or is it destroying?) project.

More than 50 people weighed in on a post on Apartment Therapy that explained the best way to carve a hole in a book that would serve as a planter. Many commenters lamented the book-cutting but plenty others defended the project as a worthwhile way to repurpose a book that would otherwise remain unread and unused. Being the obsessive type that I am, I began researching or rather Googling "book art" and came across the most wonderful creations.

I suddenly found myself wavering on the whole issue of keeping books intact. Mesmerized, I scrolled through the portfolio pages of London artist Su Blackwell and read through her blog, where she just posted a video detailing the creative process behind a sculpture she created using pages from a book.

Her work is beautiful and evocative, and I further admired her creations upon reading on her website that she reads at least once or twice the book she is using to create her sculptures. Is it OK then to cut up a book in the name of art? And, if so, who is to say that the most beautiful wreath out there is not comparable to an intricate paper sculpture?

Certainly not me. For now, I've decided to leave the romance novels untouched, but I'm not getting rid of them just yet. And it's not because I'm ever planning to read them.



Razmataz said...

Hi Minnie, lots of food for thought here. First, I am gettign fed up with all the contrived "crap" out there such as the bundled books. It is as bad as all the things people are buying to make their house look "travelled" such as Indian elephants and african masks that are made in China and sold at Home Goods to give people "the look" To me, if you travel or are gifted authentic pieces, display them. If you read, display your books anyway you wish, but don't buy a bundle of books so you look like you are well read.

I think Su's cutting of books for art is OK. Her message can only be achieved with that medium, plus it is preserved for life in her art form. As for cutting the book to make a planter, I think that is an idea destined for the trash once the trend passes, as with the wreath idea. A novel idea for the crafty person may be to actually read the book.

I have a feeling Minnie that you will never make a wreath from a book, because I think you value the written word too much.

Heartfire At Home said...

I love, love, LOVE Su Blackwell... did a post on those stunningly awesome sculptures a while back.

I'm a bit of a hypocrite in this area... I'd buy a book sculpture or something made from old books in a second BUT, I have not yet been able to bring myself to destroy a book to make something from it. Closest I've come is using old sheets of music or old maps.

A 'real' book though... I dunno.

Linda. xox

Jenn said...

I don't think I've mentioned this, but welcome back! I like having your posts pop up in my reader again :).

As for book art, from a purely aesthetic standpoint, I LOVE it. Beautiful. But, like you I actually bought a couple books to deface for a project, and just can't seem to bring myself to do it :).

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