Kerry Miller is an artist who loves books.
The fact that she cuts and seemingly mutilates them in her art may seem incongruous here but these books are the unloved, the unwanted or those soon to find their way to the trash. Miller takes these books and reimagines them, repurposes them. Technology has changed our view of the book, made them seem sometimes passe and disposable. While this maybe more a media creation than reality (indie bookstores are doing quite well thank you very much) perception is a part of reality.
Miller, a British artist, provides a new place for these lonely tomes, especially those destined for the pulp mill.
"I have been working in collage and mixed media for many years and have always been attracted to the extra dimension that 3D affords," says Miller. "Having inherited a passion for old books from both parents, I have been an avid collector since I was a child, spending endless hours rummaging around in junk shops and secondhand bookshops. It became increasingly apparent to me that vast numbers of discarded books are being destroyed, simply because they are surplus to the world's requirements."
Her response was to begin experimenting and using books in various ways. She used written pieces and images in collage. In some instances she included other media. The details changed in these early versions to her book pieces. Often the book itself dictates her approach.
"In times gone by, coloured ink was often just too expensive to print. So if a book doesn't have colour already, I use inks and watercolours in order to breathe new life into the characters," says Miller. "The quality of the paper used in old books varies enormously, some paper becoming very brittle with the passing years. Over time, I have devised a series of techniques and processes designed to strengthen the paper, not just for the purposes of colouring, but also to allow me to create the structure of the finished work."
Find out more at www.kerrymiller.co.uk
"My process for creating the sculptures varies and is dictated largely by the book itself. Usually I start by removing the images, then hollowing out the book right through to the back cover," she says. "After very carefully cutting and shaping the images into the form I want, I take each one through the series of strengthening processes, adding colour where appropriate. I then gradually re-introduce the images back into their old home, layering and constantly manipulating them as I go, until eventually I am satisfied with the finished result."
Many bibliophiles recoil at the notion of cutting books up and seemingly mutilating them but what if these books are headed for the pulp mill, or worse, the landfill?
"I get a buzz out of using books that may have been designated for recycling or have been sitting unwanted in a loft for many years, never seeing the light of day," says Miller. "I am often able to make use of books in a condition that others might consider to be unusable, and that pleases me enormously.As people have become aware of my work, it is not unusual for me to find a bag of unwanted books left on my doorstep by friends and acquaintances!"
"One of my recent sculptures was made from two volumes on flowers plus one on butterflies," she says. "The inspiration behind the sculpture being that the books have been casually left open on a table and the illustrations have mysteriously come to life: the flowers sprouting from the confines of their books, the butterflies gently fluttering in amongst them, creating a scene of a peaceful English spring."
Some of the pieces have added significance to the artist.
"Two of my recent sculptures were created from books that I loved as a child. One was Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, a piece commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company for an exhibition, the other was Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," she says. "Both of these books seized my imagination when I was young and, having re-read them prior to making the sculptures, I was delighted to find that neither had lost any of their charm and magnetism!"
Her art is largely directed by the books she comes across, the ones that inspire her.
"I only have to find an unloved book with illustrations that stir my senses and I become totally immersed in that little world, as I work with all the tiny detail. Who knows where that might take me in the future!" says Miller.