Thursday 3 August 2017

Book Transformations ~ Kate Bufton

I am delighted to bring something a little different to Jaffareadstoo today.

It's so exciting to be able to share with you the work of a very talented young artist who is based in the North West.

Kate Bufton from Book Transformations

Hi Kate and a very warm welcome to Jaffareadstoo. 

Thank you for spending time with us today and for sharing such an insight into your work 

Where do your books come from and how do you come up with your designs? Are they based on the book's content, the print, the age of the book itself, or do you let your imagination take flight and see what emerges once you start cutting and folding?

I have always been fascinated by old books and the untold journeys that they have taken before reaching me as an artist so I have been collecting old books for a number of years now. It’s usually the characteristics of an old book that I find most interesting, their musty smells and the textures of the pages along with their colouration too. There’s just something really inspiring about transforming an old book from a carrier of text to an object of art. I have also created a series of pieces using specific books, I created a beautiful Alice in Wonderland sculpture that I have exhibited a number of times but have never wanted to put her up for sale. I have also developed a series of Harry Potter sculptures where I kept the title and the chapters of the book visible for others to see. I have only made three of the Harry sculptures so far and they have been exhibited in Bristol, Edinburgh and at Llantarnamg Grange Arts centre in Wales.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

I do also work with specific books for commissions, usually the client sends me their favourite book or a book that is sentimental to them and I sculpt it into their chosen design. I have worked with an incredibly old William Shakespeare book that took me a couple of weeks to take apart as it was just so beautiful. I couldn’t put the commission off any longer so began to take it apart early one Monday morning. It was a little difficult taking the pages out of this beautiful book however it had such sentimental value to the lady who asked me to sculpt with it I just wanted to create something that she could admire for years to come.

I have spent a lot of time in my studio working with old books and their pages so I don’t usually plan out my designs I just fold & cut into the book in different directions to see what I can create. I feel this playful element to my work is what motivates me as I am never sure what sculpture I will create next.

How do you manage to keep the integrity of the book and its content, whilst at the same time making it look completely different?

I think the physical structure of the book is incredibly important, I like to try to keep the spines intact throughout the majority of my sculptures as it provides a lot of support for the end result. I did find that a lot of my sculptures where incredibly geometric by doing this, they were incredibly angular and the shapes I created were really bold. So I pushed my ideas further and wanted to focus on more organic forms, I was unable to keep the spines together as I explored this area of creativity however I was able to keep each chapter visible by making the different sections out of different chapters in the book. So although the books original form has been completely taken apart you are still able to see the pages of the book.

As an artist based in the North, does this present any problems in terms of marketing and promoting your work and if so, how do you overcome this?

I have always been grateful for the opportunities that the North has given me, for a number of years I volunteered at The Turnpike Gallery in Leigh working alongside the curator which at the time was Martyn Lucas. He pushed me as a young artist to get my work out there and also to deliver book art workshops, my first workshop was at the Turnpike and he believed in me! Which at a young age was incredible.

This support motivated me to teach elsewhere and I have worked with a variety of different people in a number of different locations over the years. My workshops and my work has reached a lot of people in the North and I have loved every opportunity and workshop that I have delivered. I have worked in Primary Schools, High Schools, libraries, community centres and galleries over the years working with children, teenagers and adults too! I find that my book art can be developed into a series of different workshops to connect with any age range or to incorporate any topics.

I have taught a couple of workshops outside of the North one of them was at the Southbank Centre in London last Christmas which was a fun experience but I was approached by the British School in Brussels last January to deliver a series of workshops for their Book Week in October 2016. Their Book Week consisted of a lot of famous authors and writers from all over the UK and there I was a young girl from Warrington delivering her Hedgehog workshops! It was totally surreal but an absolutely amazing experience! Probably one of the best opportunities I have had since being a book artist!

So I don’t think that I have had any problems as an artist from the North, I have promoted myself well throughout the borough and have found that a lot of my workshops have developed naturally through networking here. A lot of my workshops have come from previous recommendations and people sharing their experiences of my workshops to each other. I think its incredibly important to give back to a community that gave me so much at the start of my career. Even after all of the success I have had with my career as a book artist I still find the time to go back to The Turnpike and help out when I can. The current curator Helen Stalker is a very talented and inspiring lady, she has re-launched the gallery as an independent arts organization and its brilliant to be able to still volunteer there and work alongside her.

I feel that art is incredibly important for small communities that we have around the North. Not a lot of people realize how important art is in everyday lives, I have worked with a lot of adults and young people with mental health problems and it’s been incredibly rewarding to see how powerful art can be in making them better. I currently work with an amazing group of adults on a Thursday afternoon at The Turnpike delivering arts workshops. These workshops are every Thursday afternoon from 1pm-3pm. We have spent the past 5 weeks looking at Gustav Klimts work and the group have developed a great love for his work! The pieces that they have created are amazing too, sometimes even better than anything I could ever produce so its as inspiring for me as much as it is for them!

I have also recently worked in a school in the area which provides alternate provision for children who find mainstream schools challenging, it was great working with the GCSE pupils in this school to develop their ideas creatively. I developed a series of book art workshops that the pupils were able to participate in before thinking about what direction they would like to work in.

I think because I have focused so much of my career on working in the area that supported me as a young artist is helped with my application for ImagoWigan. I have always find it easier to inspire children and adults that are from the same area that I am, to show others that it is possible to succeed as an artist if you put your mind too it! Not a lot of people would promote the career of being an artist as it isn’t easy, I do work part time in a local high school as an Art Technician and I find that this is important for me as an artist. It takes the pressure off surviving as an artist as it allows me to shut off sometimes and enables me to think more clearly when I come to applying for residencies or arts projects. I do also find that working alongside the teachers is incredibly inspiring, its great to bounce ideas off each other and even more rewarding working alongside them in their lessons. I have always loved teaching and its always been a big part of who I am and what I do.

How supportive are local communities to your writing, and are there ever any opportunities for book shops, local reading groups, or libraries to be involved in promoting your work?

I find that a lot of the galleries, libraries and schools that I work in are incredibly supportive of me and my work. They help to promote me as an artist and to promote my workshops too. I have worked in a number of book shops over the years including Ebb and Flo in Chorley and Urmston Bookshop in Urmston. I find book shops are a brilliant place to connect with people creatively. I have also been working with Trafford Libraries & St.Helens libraries over the past couple of years and they are great in promoting me as an artist and providing me with further opportunities. It’s so important to build these strong connections with others around you as an artist as you never know whats around the corner.

I have never explored local reading groups though, but think it would be incredibly interesting to maybe connect with a group during this residency at Golborne Library. Although through experience I have found that avid readers and traditional librarians find my work a little difficult to interpret as they have cherished books for a number of years and I take them apart so casually!

You have a wonderful talent. I know that you do lots of workshops with both children and adults, so.....can anyone make a book sculpture?

I have been delivering book art workshops for over 10 years now and I have never had anybody who was unable to create a sculpture! I’ve had children as young as 4 making hedgehogs and ladies as old as 92 folding full books! Which is an incredible achievement so yeah I think it's possible for anybody to be able to make a sculpture !

And finally, are you a reader as well as a book artist and if so, do you have a favourite book or author?

I do find this question incredibly important as a book artist as you would expect a book artist to love reading books as much as taking them apart. However I do find it hard to sit down with a book as my busy work life usually gets the better of me.

However I do find that thrillers tend to keep me hooked as I am unable to put them down until I know whats happened and who has done what. So over the years I have become a James Patterson addict. I find myself submerged alongside Alex Cross in these books and find it hard to put them down once I have started to read them!

The last book I read was George’s Marvelous Medicine by Roald Dahl, after developing a series of workshops last summer I have began collecting these books and really enjoy re-reading them. I know I must of read them when I was younger but there's nothing wrong with re-living your childhood through his books! 

You can find out more about Kate on her website 
Follow her on Twitter @BuftonKate
Find on Facebook

Discover more about the artists taking part in Imagowigan by clicking here 

Huge thanks to Kate for sharing this unique art form with us today. 

Jaffa And I wish you continued success with your work.



  1. Replies
    1. I agree ! These Book Transformations look amazing . Well done, Kate.


Thanks for taking the time to comment - Jaffareadstoo appreciates your interest.