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Artist saves old books by cutting them to pieces

Julia Strand breathes new life into books that would otherwise be discarded, creating intricate carvings of the content within the pages. Minnesota Original, a weekly arts series from Twin Cities Public Television, spoke to Strand to find out more.

Julia Strand makes art out of old books. But when she tries to tell people what she does, she struggles to come up with the right words.

“When I say to people ‘I carve books,’ they say to me, ‘Oh, what does that mean?’ If I say, ‘I make sculptures out of books,’ people think I pile them up and make towers out of them or something,” said Strand.

A cognitive psychologist who teaches at Carleton College in Minnesota, Strand works on her carvings in her spare time. She carves into old cookbooks and science books, reference books, dictionaries and books of topographical maps, removing most of the pages “so you can just see the pictures.”

Julia Strand -- Book CarverWhen she is in search of new books, Strand follows a certain criteria. First, the book has to be thick enough for her to carve into and create layers. She primarily looks for books that are out of date and generally ones that are full of illustrations rather than photographic reproductions. She also won’t buy a book for more than $10 so that she doesn’t cut into something of value.

“Because some people are uncomfortable about the idea of cutting up books under any circumstances, I want to be really careful that when I do cut them up. I’m only using books that people aren’t likely to use for other purposes.”

Strand hopes to give these forgotten and unused volumes a second life.

“What I really hope to do with my work is to make people look a second time at something that they are used to looking at and just looking over. What I think is really fun about carving books, and doing this up-cycling work, is that it takes an object that is boring and it makes it fun.”

Local Beat is a weekly series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.

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