Book Art & Text-based Art

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February 7, 2013

On January 4, 1998 I tied the last knot on a piece of leather cord, and finished my first serious piece of book art. 15 years and almost 200 projects later, I’m still amazed that it took me that long to find one of the enduring loves/obsessions of my crafting life.

Crane book -- Book of Hours

As Marian Crane of Crane Designs, I am an award-winning and published book artist with works kept by many university special collections libraries and private collectors. I make bookshelf bling and library jewelry: small book arts sculptures designed to look good from a distance, but be even more hypnotic in the hand. I rarely use paper, but prefer to use fabric, fiber, acrylic paint, leather, wood, stone, and glass in mixed-media, museum-level crafts. My books can be one-of-a-kind or small editions; they may contain original prose and poetry, or feature out-of-copyright text and art. Because they can take an absurd number of hours to create, they tend to be no larger than a paperback book or cellphone.

Road Trip open for blog

In addition to hand-held books, I also make fiber wall hangings that either reference literary motifs, or incorporate text with beaded embroidery and applique fabric. These take even more time to make than the books, so they’re limited in size also. The largest I’ve yet finished is a mere 20″ x 22″. I’m also on semi-permanent retainer to create the iconic fabric-and-bead award ribbons for a prestigious regional art festival.

Crane text art -- Green Desert

Digression: what is book art? Every time I think I have an answer, I see some new amazing piece of art that directly contradicts me. Let’s just say that books can be more than containers for art and prose: they can be art, themselves. Here are some brilliant and inspiring sites that can probably explain my discipline better than I can, if only by example.

The Center for Book Arts  one of my first introductions to book arts.

One of my favorite places on Tumblr    Fuckyeah, Book Arts: brilliant projects from other artists.

Seager Gray Gallery   California gallery passionate about book arts and textual art, sponsors of a major book arts exhibition.

Minnesota Center for the Book    All-around great resource from one of the biggest book arts university programs around.

The Book Arts Web    another vast introductory site with everything from artist’s musings to deep, scholarly articles about historical bindings.

Keith Smith, one of the genre’s foremost teachers  his how-to books are works of art, themselves.

Artist’s Books 3.0 on Facebook: a very large international community of book and text-based artists.

Due to the cheerleading of Vamp & Tramp Booksellers, I summoned the courage to enter Lark Books’ landmark ‘coffeetable’ art book The Penland Book of Handmade Books. And I actually got a couple of pieces into the final book! This bills itself as ‘a master class is book arts’, but more of a gallery overview of the joyous madness from many incredible book arts masters (I am humbled in their company.)

Last but never least, David LaPlantz’s memorial site for book artist and teacher Shereen LaPlantz, who left us in 2003, but lives on in the memories of the artists who learned from her. Her how-to books and art pieces were my first glimmers of “What, what? You can make art into books? How?” All of LaPlantz’s work was technically brilliant and vividly inspirational, but Cover to Cover is still a milestone in the book art field. So is The Art and Craft of Handmade Books.

You can see most of my book art for sale or on display here: Vamp & Tramp Booksellers

From 2011, a short video that in part features my book arts agents Bill and Vicky Stewart. and a brief glimpse of ‘Winter Dawn’, one of my book arts pieces. The whole video is an quick, enchanting introduction to bibliomania in all its forms.

The admittedly-daft purpose of these pages are to document selected pieces of book art I’ve done over the years. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be uploading images and short descriptions.


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