Book artist for designer book-binding and sculptural artist books

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Book artist for designer book-binding and sculptural artist booksMia Leijonstedt, from Finland

Leijonstedt likes the sound of silence, and works best early morning or at night. For her, a book as a piece of art is more tactile than most other art forms. She recently bound Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare for a New York-based book collector, an owner of the world’s leading miniature designer binding collection.

“I made it [binding] look like it belonged to Cleopatra. I used jewels and raw silk in purple, a colour rumoured to be her favourite. On the back of the book, I hid a lining of snakeskin in a decorative box. It is claimed she died from snakebite, where the snake was hidden in a basket. These details vivified the story,” she says.

Leijonstedt also designs sculptural artist books which are artworks in the shape of a book, where shape, material, and content express a theme; the content can be a painting or drawing. Sculptural artist books differ from designer binding in context, where the latter uses printed text.

“I make these [sculptural artist books] primarily out of paper and leather. The visual details express the theme. For example, my artist book, The Lost Spells of Merlin, creates intrigue, and draws the viewer to ‘read’ the book from all its visual and textural details,” she says.

She also designs books that combine elements of designer book-binding and sculptural artist books. “I completed one for a couple’s anniversary. It was a collection of their letters to each other from their years together,” she says.

Book art has gained interest in Europe and the US as galleries host regular book art exhibitions. Leijonstedt has exhibited in more than 40 countries, including Japan, Australia, Europe and the US.

Creating art on a three-dimensional platform keeps her passionately interested more than painting, an art form she first dabbled in. “My head is full of ideas, my sketch book full of sketches … I only have time to bring a fraction into reality,” says Leijonstedt, who took part in the ARTE Soukh for the first time last month, and will exhibit this month too.

It was a fortuitous visit in the early ’90s to the British Library in London that emboldened her to take up a special university degree course in the modern and historical skills of making books by hand. At the time, she was an exchange student from the Helsinki University of Art & Design.

“It [the library] was hosting the annual competition of Designer Bookbinders. I had never seen a modern, finely-bound literary work before!” enthuses Leijonstedt, who has won six awards at the same competition between 1995 and 2005.”

Her studies covered every aspect of structural book history – from the birth of the codex to book development through medieval times. In her work, she uses the finest recherché materials like specially tanned natural grain book-binding leather, genuine 24-carat gold leaf and semi-precious stones. “It is the familiar shape of a book that allows one to enjoy the colours, textures and their combinations without worrying about identifying the art form. I deal with colour, scale, layout, symbolism, personal vision and expression.”

– For further details, contact Leijonstedt on galleriamia@gmail.com

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