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2011 January 17

Learn more about Featured Artist Julia Feld!

TOAST of the town

I love the hand-technique and the personal aspect of work in which you can see the artist’s hand.  I don’t need or want perfection.  I want to be amazed by talent and patience and thought and creativity. This month’s artist challenges me. AAAD is happy to feature the work of book carver Julia Feld. Feld’s work reminds all of the wonder found in books…words AND illustrations.  So many people dismiss the work of illustrators.  I find Feld’s work is entirely her own while at the same time, it celebrates the work of illustrators, past and present.  

Games for Two circa 1937 carved by Julia Feld!


Julia Feld is a scientist and artist living and working in St. Louis.  All pieces featured on her Holey Stokes! blog are her intricate creations and must be seen to be believed. 
(‘Hokey Stokes!’ is a phrase used to express wonderment or surprise in situations when ‘Holy Buckets!’ is deemed too explicit or crude. — Book Carver Julia Feld)

Feld has no formal art instruction and accidentally ended up as a book carver. 

Webster's 7th Collegiate Dictionary circa 1971 carved by Julia FeldA few years back, she found a set of Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedias in the free box outside a used book shop.  “I didn’t know what I’d do with them but thought it was a pity that such a lovely set of books could end up in a dirty cardboard box in a parking lot, so I brought them home.”

“I really don’t remember what was going through my head the first time I thought to go at one with an exacto knife.  I do what I do because I like reminding people that books are things of beauty and that pictures and diagrams aren’t just about the information they convey.”

There is a cult-like following of Julia Feld’s work online, and a popular myth that I see over and over is that she laser cuts her shapes and images.  False.  She hand cuts every shape.  

“For some books, I carve through a page at a time, removing all the text and empty space and leaving only pictures and outlines.  For others, I gut the entire contents and rebuild it from scratch.  They all involve a ton of exact-o blades, tweezers, glue, and framing glass.  I’ve tried using power tools, but haven’t been pleased with the outcomes.”

All about House Plants carved by Julia Feld“If anyone from the future has prototype laser cutter they’d like to donate, I’d certainly be game to try it out.” — Julia Feld

I enjoy asking artists about their terminology for their process and media.  I find that it often gives me insight as to the frequent disconnect of an artist from the public perception of his or her work.  
Altered books have a long-documented history in traditional art settings as mixed media, but I find that media are becoming more and more specific over time.  Feld considers her work book carvings, but when I asked her for the school of art into which her work fit, she defers the questions to you, my loyal readers:  “I am overwhelmed by the amount of research I’d have to do to answer this question properly.  I like carving books because it draws attention to the aesthetic quality of objects that are usually valued primarily for their informational content.  Gentle readers, using the comment section below, please share with me what school of art do you think this falls into!”

Selected tables in Mathematical Statistics carved into a Butterfly specimen book by Julia FeldSo, back to the armchair psychology of it all… Feld’s Favorite Food?  Toast.  No really… toast.  I would NEVER think of asking an artist if they have a back-up plan just in case art doesn’t work out.  I’m not your momma; you don’t need something to fall back on with me. 
Nonetheless, Feld is prepared. “I want to open and operate a dining establishment called Julia’s Toasteraunt (maybe Julia’s Toastorium) where every table has a really nice toaster on it and you order big spreads of different kinds of breads and jams and cheeses and everyone feasts on toast.  If someone wants to open a soup joint next store, I’d be open to that.” Editor’s Note:  I will offer this blog and the transcripts of my interview with Julia Feld as evidence if you steal her idea, people.

Thank you Julia for sharing your work with us.

I felt a little like I was looking through the keyhole into a mad scientist’s laboratory (in the nutty, harmless 1950s definition of “mad”) during the discovery of Julia’s work.  Loved the adventure. 

Learn more about Julia Feld online!

Click to Learn More about Book Carver Julia Feld!

Should you be our next Artist of the Day?  Be sure to let us know!
5 Responses
  1. Chad permalink
    January 17, 2011

    Whoa, what a super spotlight! What a talented and creative person!

  2. Christopher permalink
    January 17, 2011

    Amazing art, clever interview. Loved every bit.

  3. January 27, 2011

    Holy cow! This is some really awesome talent

  4. lillib permalink
    February 2, 2011

    I love your book carvings! They give me a waking dream-like feeling, as if I’ve seen them or known them before. And, I guess that could be true because maybe I read the book they came from. Thank you for your amazing work!

  5. August 11, 2011

    Love the work! I have friends who cut and carve too! Visit Cape Town and let’s start a Book Club?

Comments are closed.