Stories Come Alive: Repurposing Books in 3-D

When pop-up book artist Jodi Harvey-Brown was asked to create a sculpture for the 2014 Bridge Art Show, she agreed. “How can you say ‘no’ when a project like this approaches you?” she asked.

And after carving some of literature’s well-known characters — including Harry Potter, Tom Sawyer, and Huckleberry Finn — the Pennsylvania-based artist was ready to take on a different challenge.

Wind in the Willows/Courtesy of Jodi Harvey-Brown

Wind in the Willows/Courtesy of Jodi Harvey-Brown

An avid book lover who also loves to draw, Harvey-Brown studied art at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, PA. Nearly everyone in her family is creative in some form, she said, and after learning her grandfather was forbidden to pursue art, she was determined to succeed.

What inspired you to start creating book sculptures?

“About three years ago, I bought an old box of books at a yard sale, and one book in the bottom was crushed,” she recalled. I started folding the pages to make a bowl, and my husband told me it’s really good. When I posted it on a community website for artists, the response was huge.”

Library 2/Courtesy of Jodi Harvey-Brown

Library 2/Courtesy of Jodi Harvey-Brown

Books pull you into a new world, while art lets you see it. It made sense to me that these two mediums should come together.

The first book sculpting was Christmas bulbs; each work is a little more complex than the previous one. “I find basic shapes of things, then build it all together,” she said.

Her rule is no rare books and no first editions: Harvey-Brown uses mainly old and/or discarded books. Each handmade scene is protected with a UV finish; sculptures are wired through to hold them in place.

“Sometimes I walk into something thinking it’s what I will do, and then I get thrown a curve ball with the book or pages,” Harvey-Brown explained. “All pages are different: some lend themselves better, and some pages are too thin.”

The Faerie Door with LED Lights/Jodi Harvey-Brown

The Faerie Door with LED Lights/Jodi Harvey-Brown

Every work comes from a book with a similar topic.

After seeing pictures of the bridge, Harvey-Brown chose a geography book for the art show. “I’m using pages from northern states and New York State. It was donated by people in the community and otherwise would be in the dumpster, so I’m giving it a second life.”

Doing pieces for other people has made me venture into genres that I normally wouldn’t pick up for myself, and that’s been great. No matter the type of book, I’m still able to put my own style into it.

Game of Thrones Tree front/Courtesy of Jodi Harvey-Brown

Game of Thrones Tree front/Courtesy of Jodi Harvey-Brown

What are favorite sculptures you created?

“The Faerie Door with LED lights — I like using LED lights from behind since they bring another dimension to the art — also anything with trees (because) I like the way they turn out. Water is interesting and fun to make from paper, as are ships. My first sculpture that really became popular was a ship, Kidnapped.”

The books that we love to read should be made to come to life. Characters, that we care so much for, should come out of the pages to show us their stories. What we see in our imaginations as we read should be there for the world to see. My book sculptures are my way of making stories come alive.

“I was asked to do a Harry Potter sculpture for a woman to give to her granddaughter for Christmas, and had two days to complete it,” she recalled. “By the time it was finished, I looked at and said, ‘Wow! Did I just do that?’”

Kidnapped/Courtesy of Jodi Harvey-Brown

Kidnapped/Courtesy of Jodi Harvey-Brown

Harvey-Brown’s work can be seen at Dancing Tree Creations in Boyerstown, PA, at her Etsy shop, Wet Canvas Art, and on Facebook.

Which bridge is she sculpting? We’ll have to wait and see.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2014

4 comments so far

  1. The Nothing Expert on

    Art and books, what more could we want? Thank you for bringing this lovely work to our attention.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nykeypad on

      And thank you for your kind words and compliment. Where are you located? Your About Me says, “I have never turned right in the middle of the Tappan Zee Bridge and gone through the barrier into the river, yet.” Same here!


  2. The Nothing Expert on

    New City. I think you must be local too. We ought to have a cup of coffee someday. My husband, Jerry the Great and Good, was featured in the Journal News as one of the oldest TZ commuters. It’s an interesting story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nykeypad on

      Yes, let’s. Please send me an email; your address isn’t posted. Thanks!


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