Bronia Sawyer is an artist whose dyslexia and obsessive compulsive disorder gave rise to a fascination with books. This interest grew into an art form, one that is both an exploration and meditation for her. Her sculptures of manipulated pages are ethereal and transformative, causing viewers to see old books in an entirely new light. We caught up with Bronia for an insight into her introspective creative process.
When did you make your first book sculpture and what inspired you to do so?
I first started to make book sculptures when I was experimenting with recycled materials at college. I played around with old cutlery, bottle tops, old toys and many other household objects and books. I also remember reading something years ago about Victorians folding books to look like Christmas trees. I liked the idea of folding books, turning something flat into a 3D object.
At that time, I had my first compact camera that my dad had given me and I was keen on using it for close up photography. I liked to take abstract images of the ordinary objects.
I fell in love with photographing distorted book pages straight away, the texture of the pages, the way they looked when lit and the organic shapes that they created.
The folding and the photography really fed each other and I was hooked.
Could you walk us through the process of creating one of your pieces?
It starts in recycle centres and charity shops looking for interesting books. ‘Interesting’ could be the name of the book, the cover of the book, the font or the texture of the pages. If I’m making an abstract piece then the texture is important.
Once I have a collection of folded, distorted books I set up a space to take photos. I light the books in different ways. This is an exploration, searching for interesting shapes, shadow and texture.
Do you choose certain books to use for a particular reason?
It depends on why I’m making a sculpture, some (probably most) are an exploration of paper and books as a material, some are made in the response to an idea and others may be a response to a particular book title.
Could you explain the meaning or feeling you wish to inspire or explore with your book sculptures?
I’m dyslexic and I struggle with written words while at the same time I love them. My sculptures in some way seem to mirror how I sometimes feel with reading and writing.
Folding the books makes the words look distorted, they feel hidden or missing, folded away somewhere. Which resembles some of the difficulties that come with dyslexia.
Also I have OCD and I feel the repetitive folding of pages reminds me of the repetitive worries that come with OCD. The same fold over and over almost like a physical action to mirror the repetitive thoughts and worries that replay over and over sometimes in my head.
While making the sculptures I have reflected on why humans love repetition. I read it’s because we use repetition to learn. Repeating over and over to master a task.
So we are hard wired to enjoy repetition. This is why pattern grabs our attention or why seeing multiple numbers of the same object can be pleasing to see.
The flip side is repetitive negative thoughts can cause crippling anxiety or addiction.
I like to think of my book sculptures as representing both the dark and light in the mind and in the world. The book sculptures contain both light and shadow which in a way represents life, we live in a world of intense beauty and crippling sadness and we are trying to find a way to exist with these polar opposites side by side.
See more of Bronia’s work at www.broniasawyer.co.uk.