Self-taught artist Isobelle Ouzman has earned a name for herself making carved and altered sculptures from old books.
Isobelle’s objects feel like travel through a space of whispered words and mysterious hideaways, each tiny well delicately carved and surrounded by a network of detailed drawings, forming a Brothers Grimm style space. Modest about her work and beginnings, Isobelle none the less has the power to enchant and intrigue.
For the most part, the work is monochrome, but when Isobelle adds a touch of color, it seems as if a spirit is stirring within, the narrative made living, those forest creatures alight with character and a sense of breath.
The intricacy of her technique leads to sense of intimacy, and it is a delight to see the tininess of drawings, the cutting away, the weaving of branches with vines and inky black night to make magical worlds….
Folktales inform a lyrical escapism and woodland spaces and animals are recurring themes, a reflection of the artist’s early interests –reading quietly about fairy tales, and plants.
Isobelle describes her discovery of altered books as beginning one day when she found a discarded box of hardback novels sitting out in the rain.
The artist was determined to use the books in some way, and drawing on the inside cover led to carving the pages. Isobelle’s work has been called many things, three-dimensional illustration, paper sculpture, repurposed and altered books… Whatever it is, it is distinctly hers, and provides a telescopic view into her worldview and imagination.
Isobelle grew up in Leeds, England and notes that
“Tales of fairies and talking woodland animals were a big thing for me growing up in England and play a role in my work today.”
Rosa: Today you live and work in Seattle, and have lived in America since age thirteen. You studied art a bit at high school but you are truly self-taught. Please tell me about your technical process, your materials, and the way you work?
Isobelle: I collect discarded books and old journals for a while until I feel inspired enough to pick one up and work with. I spend a couple of hours gluing pages into sections and sketching up an idea, then I jump right in. Most the books become projects I must revisit at different points in time. I prefer to build on ideas, rather than determine a solid one from the beginning.
RB: Your work is very intricate and complex; how long does it take to make a book?
IO: I have problems paying attention and keeping focused, so generally I work on a book just 1-2 hours at a time. Smaller books take up to a week to complete, bigger books (such as the novels) can take me up to six months. I’ve calculated the big books to take around 30-35 hours.
You may visit Isobelle Ouzman’s repurposed books on the artist’s website or her Etsy shop. Want more ? Check out more amazing close up photos of the carved areas and drawings available via Flickr