Photos courtesy of Wet Canvas Art
One of the things I’m most thankful about when it comes to blogging is the chance to introduce readers to new genres of creativity, brand-new themes, and new ways to think about an old concept. For most of us, when we think of a paper doll, we think of a colorful drawing that can be carefully cut out of a book. Once the character — often celebrities or pop icons of her era — is released, she can then be dressed in paper fashions, again requiring a great deal of painstaking precision. It’s totally essential to be careful with one’s scissors when freeing a paper doll from her paper bondage!
For artist Jodi Harvey-Brown, her “paper dolls” are elegant figural art rather than hands-on playthings. She shapes her creations from the pages of used books, and her finished artworks are indeed characters. They are the literal representations of beloved literary figures.
Jodi has been artistically inclined since childhood. Adept at sketching, drawing, and painting, and also a very talented dancer, Jodi has been immersed in an artistic lifestyle for many years. At times, she’s had to juggle customer-service jobs (a checkout cashier, waitress, animal-shelter worker) with her artistic pursuits. However, Jodi was always determined to pursue her creative inclinations.
The book sculpting is a way for Jodi to blend two of the pastimes that she is most passionate about: “I am a huge bookworm. I’ve always loved reading. I even carry a book in my purse! I’ve also always been very visual as well. It made sense to me to bring these two things together. While I’m reading about Hogwarts, The Little Mermaid, or Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, I want to see them. Books have the power to take you into a world different from your own. I wanted to try and bring that world into the physical,” she told me.
“Every sculpture I create is made from the pages of the story it depicts. If I’m asked to create a ship or a bicycle, something not so specific to one particular story, I try to use a book that has that subject matter included in it. So, for example, a ship may be made from a book about yachting. I’ve made a scuba diver from a book about sea life and a library from an old school-reference book,” she enthusiastically revealed.
Hailing from a family that had always dabbled with arts and crafts, Jodi was genetically programmed to excel at this visual art form. She taught herself how to do book sculpting via trial and error: “When I began sculpting, I did not think that it could possibly turn into my profession. Honestly, I just thought it would be neat to do and it would be something to occupy some spare time. It has quickly turned into a full-time career, for which I am extremely grateful. I had to figure this out on my own. Let’s be clear, what I do isn’t origami. Those in the origami field tend to get very upset when sculpting is confused for origami! That takes much more patience than I posses. I have had the opportunity to teach a few demos on sculpting and give people the leg up that I wish I had had. This way, they don’t have to make the same mistakes I did!”
Whether she’s accepting a commission through her Etsy store (WetCanvasArt) or creating a piece that speaks directly to her, Jodi is a bona fide reader. Her attraction to what an author dreamed up a century or a decade ago colors her sculpting methods. She strives to make her paper figures into their writers’ characterizations. If she surveys her handiwork and feels that the paper vignette makes sense and conveys the authors’ sensibility, then she knows that she’s done Austen, Dickens, or Bronte proud.
“I love the classics, and my favorite author is J. M. Barrie. He’s best known for his creation of Peter Pan, but he writes with this underlying sarcasm and humor, which is hard to find in authors of that era. I have a small collection of his first editions,” she shared. Of course, she wouldn’t transform those precious first editions into one of her sculptures. Those preserved collectibles are to be carefully read and re-read, not transformed into paper dolls.
“The only sculpture I’ve kept for myself is the first one I made. It’s an owl resting inside of a tree. I love owls, and it has a lot of sentimental value. I don’t have too much time to work for myself. I am a huge Doctor Who fan and have worked on a sculpture of the T.A.R.D.I.S., which I hope to keep for myself,” she pointed out.
Improving her sculpting skills and widening her literary horizons are two pursuits that Jodi Harvey-Brown enthusiastically embraces. She knows that she has to continue to find discarded books and secondhand books for her templates, and she joyfully recycles them into stunning pop-up friends.
Discovering new authors to explore, and new characters to bring to life, is a grand way for a book lover to pass her days. “Life is busy, and there are so many distractions, but you won’t spend your time on anything better than a book. People should keep reading,” she urges.
And every person who has seen her marvelous paper achievements paraphrases her encouragement: Jodi Harvey-Brown should keep on book sculpting!