Dana Durwin enjoys finding that perfect book, though she is not looking for a new novel to add to her reading list, but the ideal canvas to carve out a story.
Durwin sees life as a book with many chapters, some having already been told and others still left to write.
“Just as every book has its own story, every person has their own story to tell,” Durwin said. “Each chapter is different, but all together they weave a beautiful, unique story.”
With some direction from her father, an avid woodworker, Durwin uses a scroll saw and other tools to cut artistic designs in books.
“I consider myself an artist in the sense that I create art but not in the traditional form,” she said. “I do not draw or paint, but consider books my canvas. I’ve done crafts my entire life from sewing, plastic canvas, paper crafts, scrapbooks, and even woodworking.”
While displaying the books at events in South Georgia and North Florida, Durwin has found people to be curious about the process of creating the book art.
“Most people’s first reaction is, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this before,’ and then they tell me how unique it is and how much they love seeing old books transformed into art,” she said. “I’ve had very positive responses from the majority of people at shows, but there is always at least one person who doesn’t understand how I could cut up a book. My response is that they are all previously loved books that were destined for the landfill, so by turning them into art, I have given them new life.”
In 2018 Durwin started A New Chapter Art, and is expanding her hobby into a small business that is rapidly gaining attention. She enjoys seeing the transformation of a book to a piece of art that often has sentimental meaning.
With more than 500 pieces of book art completed, Durwin has gained confidence and passion for her new business endeavor.
“My skills have vastly improved since the first book I made,” said Durwin, who started creating book art in 2015. “I love to challenge myself with more complex designs. I am more confident in my work, as well as myself. My passion increases daily. I love every part of the process from searching for just the right books to designing them and attending shows.”
Durwin spends a lot of time carefully selecting from hundreds of books at local library sales and thrift stores.
“Supporting libraries is very important to me,” she said, “as well as supporting thrift stores with important causes like crisis pregnancy and homelessness.
Durwin said not every book fits her criteria, “I look for books with interesting colors and title, but without stains, mildew, funny odors or offensive words.”
Each book is handcrafted so that no two are the same, even if the same pattern is used.
Once a book is selected, the design is based on the title of the book. Durwin said she has many favorites including a silhouette of a Boston Terrier carved out of an Edgar Allan Poe book, which was created for a couple who loves Poe’s work so much they named their dog after the famous writer.
“I enjoy making every piece of art, but especially love making custom orders where I work with the customer to carve out their story and make a unique piece just for them,” Durwin said. “Some of my favorites have been a cardinal with daisies and a special verse for a customer’s mom.”
Durwin said she feels a special connection with her customers, “Hearing the stories behind why people buy the piece makes the hard work worth it.”