Kelly Campbell Berry is a book sculptor from Shawnee, Oklahoma, USA. '
She has been sculpting books since 2011 and currently has a Kickstarter campaign called Book Sculptures: Bring Books to Life which ends on 18 Oct 2014. It's to make her artworks available to more people. Outside of Kickstarter, she also accepts commissions.
For this interview, we've invited her to talk about her craft.
Qn: Can you tell us about the process of how you sculpt a book?
Once I receive the book, I start by finding the middle and laying it open.
With all the pages with illustrations facing the ‘right’ direction, I cut away all the unwanted parts, leaving only the illustrations I plan to use. The illustrations from the pages facing the ‘wrong’ direction are removed and detail cut. Wrong direction as in all the illustrations that are facing downward when the book is opened. All the illustrations on the left side of the book (when opened at the center) should be on the back side of the pages. All the illustrations on the right side of the book should be on the front side of the page, so that when it is cut all the illustrations will be facing the viewer.
The book is then ‘hollowed’ out around the desired illustrations and glued into position to give the sculpture a strong secure base. The removed illustrations are glued into a new position to interact with the other pieces.
The cutaway illustrations are then placed in among the rest, so as to interact with the scene. Once I am satisfied with the sculpture it is handed over to my husband you starts the custom framing process.
Qn: What are the challenges of book sculpting?
The biggest challenge is once I start cutting there is no going back. That and not having a road map. When sculpting a book I never know where I’m going. I don’t plan them out. I let the illustrations dictate where they are placed. It is always a wonderful surprise once the sculpture is complete.
Qn: How do you determine whether a book is suitable for sculpting? Does it mean that if a book has pictures, it will be suitable?
Books I use, of course, must be illustrated, but there is more to it.
If desired illustrations are on both sides of the pages, such as in children’s books and graphic novels, then I must purchase two of the same book to complete the sculpture.
If the illustrations are sparse, then there may not be enough to complete a sculpture, such as in some editions of Harry Potter. If the illustrations are huge and the subjects take up the whole page then I would have to make the sculpture into a large format 16x20 sculpture, such as in The Joy of JAZZ in New Orleans sculpture.
Also, if a book is of very high value, such as a first edition Mark Twain, then I will not sculpt it. The first edition Mark Twain book that I did sculpt was in horrible condition with missing cover and loose, brittle pages. Once I knew the book had no value, I agreed to sculpt. I loved sculpting that one!
Other reasons for not being able to sculpt would be if the book is so old, the pages are too brittle to work with. Another one is the old style comic books; the ones with ‘newspaper’ paper. The adhesives don’t work well with that kind of paper. It causes the pages to buckle and pucker.
Qn: Which book sculpture is your favorite? Why?
I love working with the classics, but lately my favorites are the Graphic Novels. Ask me that question next week and it will change again. I am always working with new books and titles. Since I love adventure, the one I’ve never done before are always my favorite.
Qn: I read that you also accept custom orders. What do your customers usually look for when they ask for a commission?
My most common request is a childhood favorite, next would be the book that changed someone’s life. The hardest custom order was To Kill A Mocking Bird. She had her heart set on it, but there was only one edition ever printed that was illustrated. That was the hardest book to find and when I found it, I had to pay a hefty sum to acquire it. But it was worth every penny.
Special thanks to Kelly Campbell Berry for this interview.
Her Kickstarter campaign Book Sculptures: Bring Books to Life ends on 18 Oct 2014.