I’m pleased as punch to present the works of Bronia Sawyer, today, whose mirrored book sculptures you might have spotted on All Things Paper last week. Ann Martin and I seem to be on the same paper wavelength as of late, highlighting remarkable artists who are creating breathtaking things with paper.
I’ve done a little bit of book altering myself, an inverted book mobile that was inspired by Lisa Occhipinti’s book mobiles and featured on Eva Black’s blog and on Bonnie Forkner’s Going Home to Roost. Anytime I come across an altered book, it pushes me in the direction of trying my hand again at altering a book. Perhaps I’ll come up with something for our upcoming holiday guide?
Anyhow, enough about me, today’s interview is with Bronia Sawyer an artist who hails from England and is addicted to creating, anything from paint to sculpting to photography. I was immediately drawn to Bronia’s altered books and her detailed photographs of the curls and textures of each book, which made me conjure images of a dancing paper in my mind. I had the esteemed pleasure of asking Bronia a few questions about herself and her craft and I’m thrilled to share her response. Read on to find discover more about Bronia, her journey into altering books into marvelous masterpieces, and what she fancies about working with paper.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, England in 1982. I feel lucky that I was young before the age of computers. We played out in the garden or on our bikes in the street. My brother, sister and I went on adventures in the park and my parents would take us on countryside walks on the weekend.
My mum did a lot of crafts with us when growing up. She encouraged us to recycle old bottle tops, silver foil, old magazines and empty cereal packets. I think this made me view everything in the house as a potential art material, Which lead to me cutting up lots of things I later realized were definitely not art materials.
I have dyslexia so I spent a lot of extra time at primary and secondary school working on my spelling, reading and handwriting. I think that while putting in the extra time on my reading and writing I formed an interest in the aesthetics of text.
After school I did three years at college, studying art and design. When I left college, there being no creative jobs on offer, I worked as a play-worker at a nursery, and as a youth-worker. In my mid 20s my dream of being an artist, and making a living from it, became my priority, so I went back to college and did a year on a fine art course. This was a very academic course, and stretched me intellectually. After completing the year I wanted to learn more about how to make art, rather than why I make it. So I swapped on to a Higher National Diploma in design and craft. It was a fantastic course, being very hands on. We learnt ceramics, glass, jewellery and textiles, and this has provided me with a sound foundation to my profession as an artist. But I will always look back at the fine art course as being important. It helped me to understand why I create things, influencing my creative journey greatly.
Since leaving college I have been working on trying to make a living from my creative passion. In the last few years I have exhibited and sold work internationally and have had a number of large and small commissions. things seem to be heading in the right direction.
When/how did you become interested in creating art with books?
I have always loved working with paper because it is so easy to get hold of and so easy to work with. I always loved that you could make a plain flat piece of paper into a 3D model. Then when I saw a post on a blog showing you how to make a Christmas trees from an old book I had a go, and I was hooked.
I strove to create pieces that where different to the ones I had already seen.
I love the surreal, and find books lend them self well to it. I love stories and the magic of words, and working with them in a different way
Pure and simply I love to create. With book sculpture I am fascinated with the infinite ways a flat book can be changed into something magical; something that looks slightly odd because you know what a book is supposed to look like but it has been distorted.
I find that the book sculptures lend themselves really well to photography, which adds a new layer to the way I work and combines my passion for sculpture with my passion for photography.
Can you share a little bit about your process?
I often work with dictionaries, due to my dyslexia, but I mostly use fairly old novels that have been stored somewhere damp, as they seem to be the right thickness and a nice, aged yellowed colour.
I consider the colour, texture and story when choosing a book.
At the moment I am working towards a spring garden instillation, so I am experimenting a lot with paper flowers. I spend hours experimenting and draw on what I have learnt to create each piece.
I often sit for hours folding books. I am not always sure at the start what the finished sculpture will look like. The process is very organic I have a starting idea and then see how it grows.
What specifically do you enjoy about working with paper?
I am drawn to the versatility of paper, as it can be ripped, coloured, folded, cut, glued, soaked, varnished and waxed, so the possibilities are endless.
I also love the different textures of the pages of books , and I especially love yellowed pages of old books. I like the feeling of age and time gone by.
What inspires your work?
I am inspired by dreams and nightmares, my childhood memories, fairy-tales, nature, and philosophy. My style right now is mainly organic due to the spring flower garden installation I am working on. But, as always, I am always working on a variety of other things too.
My recent flower project, “Sustenance”, which I exhibited in Solihull was inspired by thinking about how we grow from the knowledge that we absorb around us.
What’s one of your favorite pieces you’ve created?
My favourite so far is “sustenance”, the wall of flowers I created for my solo show. The idea behind the flowers is how each of us grows intellectually and mentally from the knowledge and stories around us. I made the flowers to look as though they are growing through books. The books are a mixture of encyclopaedias and story- books.
This is really the start of an idea and I would like to work on this more in the future on a larger scale. creating different plants growing through different books/magazines/newspapers. putting more individuality to each piece and how I would expect it to grow from the book it is growing from. the flowers do not represent physical beauty.
What’s one factoid about yourself?
I am addicted to photography. I take my camera everywhere, and get the same adrenaline rush from taking a good photo as you get from buying a new pair of shoes. Luckily photos don’t take up as much room as shoes, as I have thousands of photos! Although I also have a lot of shoes.