Saturday, May 3, 2008

Attack of the Book People....!

I first saw one of these at the Marin County art festival a few years back, a doll (of sorts) made out of a book. The artist exhibiting them, along with many cool letter press items, was Elaine Benjamin. I loved this artists work - you can see more here:

As an altered book artist and instructor i was intrigued by the possibilities of making a doll out of a book. I immediately starting buying up vintage doll parts on ebay to get a good supply of heads and limbs to make my own dolls. I keep them in a massive apothecary type jar that my husband finds creepy - but i think looks cool on the top shelf of my studio. (perhaps you agree with him!)

So anyway - i have the parts and many books but am really unclear how to attach them. Glue? -then they won't move like real limbs. Wire? - but they don't have holes. So this idea for a project went the way of the dodo.

Until Asilomar, that haven for crazed artists, crafters and wannabe artists! I met a lovely lady named Kit Davey who sold me this adorable book person. Ahh - so the secret is out. You just need to use wire to wrap around the parts. Isn't the spool of thread for a head a great touch? She added other turquoise stones and beads to repeat the colour.

So today after a lovely brunch al fresco on Grant Avenue in historic Old Town Novato, CA (ok - maybe that sounds WAY better than it really was) i dragged my husband to my favorite used book store to find some books. We had two criteria. They had to be OLD and they had to have a person's name on the cover, just like Marjorie here. Easy, right? There must be thousands of books named after people. But wait. Most books do not have the titles (as i found out) on the cover. They are printed on the spine of the book. Not the cover. poop.(oddly enough i have purchased this marjorie book before - probably gave it away in an altered book class)

So here i am in the book store sliding books out of the tightly packed shelves to see if they MIGHT have the titles on the cover. There weren't many - but i managed to find 8 - just enough for a sample and one for each member of my altered book swap group for our next workshop. Click to enlarge the pic to see the titles. I had to give up on names - found a few, but also added: Happiness, The Girl from Montana, Lancelot, The Man Nobody Knows. And won't this one be cool: Human Being!!
Next stop - the hardware store. The mission: to find large bolts and screws to rust to be limbs. The gals will have have a choice between poreclain doll parts, or rusty metal things. But since i don't have any rusty metal things we'll have to buy new and make old.
Thankfully we have Leslie Riley to thank for her magnificently detailed articles in Cloth Paper Scissors, who in the Nov/Dec 2007 issue explained exactly how to rust stuff. It was funny how my husband had to ask the hardware specialist which bolts would rust. Of course we know that stainless steel won't rust, but there were several other kinds. And imagine asking which one would rust "BETTER" than the other?!!

If you wanted - you could pay a lot of money for bolts, as we found out - up to $5 each! But we found some that were suitable for around 50 cents. I also picked up some copper wire - 20 guage, and few plumbing joints that were reasonably priced. Let me tell you - you could create something really awesome out of hardware store findings, if you had a big budget.

Just before posting this post, i read my email and saw a comment from someone taking a class at Art and Soul in Virginia this weekend. She was taking a class with Linda and Opie O'Brien called Who's Your DADA. In their class you are making dolls, but with a piece of wood for the body, rather than a book. Check out their wildly creative art here:

Here is an unassembled book person named James Joyce. I love how the copper elbow joints create nice manly shoulders. And he ain't gettin' my spool of copper wire for a head - but you get the gist! Cool, huh? I don't know who started Dada dolls - and who exactly I am "copying" but i can't wait to create my own book person and share this new way to alter a book with my artsy friends! I'll be sure to post photo's of the book people we create. thanks....!


Candace said...

Oh my gosh. What a fabulous post and it spurs me to do similar work. (love love love those little doll heads, lol!)

What I enjoy about this blog is you show and tell what you do and I think this is so generous of you. I have found most artists really have more of this generosity of spirit than is commonly believed.


janene said...

Diane, we met at the Art Bungalow and then you moved southward, but I like to check your blog now and then. I just got the Obrien's book Who's you Dada and like you, am raring to make some of my own. You have me doubly inspired now. Janene