Canadian sculptor Guy Laramie has created an art form called “book carving”. At first, you might think he’s a bit of an oddball. But the end result of his work is amazing.
When Laramie goes to work, armed with a circular saw, wearing a protective coat and rubber gloves, he looks like a mad surgeon. But unlike horror movie characters, he doesn’t destroy anything. On the contrary, he gives new life to decrepit outdated books that have miraculously escaped the landfill. He cuts them, sharpening and polishing them, creating miniature landscapes of amazing beauty.
Over the past thirty years Guy Laramie has tried himself in many different capacities. He has been a screenwriter, composer, director, musical instrument maker, sculptor, painter, singer, and writer. It is not surprising that such a versatile person managed to find such unusual uses for old books.
Guy Laramie: “I don’t know where the idea came from. I was working as a locksmith in a metal store at the time, and I received an order from a Quebec theater to make scenery. One day I was blasting a piece in the sandblasting chamber, and suddenly I imagined myself putting a book into the machine. One silly thought, and within seconds the whole project unfolded in front of me.”
Thirteen years later, we see what his idea has become: from paper and book covers, he creates amazingly accurate copies of sculptures, green valleys, caves and mountain canyons cut by rivers.
People often ask me why I do this. They say to me, “Look, you can’t treat books that way. Books are sacred. How can you do that to them?” But I answer that I actually make books even more sacred. I sacrifice them to show how far progress has taken us.
We live in an age of information overload. Knowledge is a click away on Google. So it has ceased to have value for people. It has become too easy to find the answer to any question.
And books… well, mountains of neglected knowledge become what they originally were – mountains, gradually turning into hills, plains… They collapse. And only then do we begin to appreciate them more.
Laramie’s works are indeed valued very highly. Collectors often ask him to sell a particular piece. One of his works was bought for $20,000!
Laramie looks for ideas for his works while wandering through old bookstores. But his inspiration comes not from reading, but from looking at books:
I am not interested in what is inside these books. I originally focused on encyclopedias, dictionaries, and reference books. There are a lot of these books everywhere, and they become obsolete faster than other books. They sell out at $0.25 for each because they are no longer a source of knowledge. I deprive these books of content, but I give them form. Over time, many words become obsolete. But the landscape says nothing. It’s just beautiful…
A Japanese proverb says, “The best words are the ones you don’t say”.
Any book is made up of thousands of words. Over time, many words become obsolete. But the landscape doesn’t say anything. It has no purpose to convince you of anything or to sell you an idea. It’s just beautiful, it makes you feel more alive in the background. You just are. And you don’t have to say anything for that.