Books as Art: Steven B. Levine's wood works
In the latest installment of our art series, here's a look New Jersey artisan Steven B. Levine, who crafts beautiful books from wood. They can have hidden drawers or engraved titles, and can be arranged in stacks or as shelves. (Here art links to previous posts for Jim Rosenau, Carol Owen and Val Lucas.)
What is it about books that connects with you – and with buyers? Since I'm a book seller, you may be surprised to learn that reading is not my passion. Instead, I'm a lifelong artisan/woodworker who channels his vitality and creativity through his hands. When I read (or stare out the window or watch a movie), I often see something that sparks my imagination and drives me right into the workshop--if not physically, then mentally. Sometimes I'm not even sure what little thing it is that causes the inspiration. Over the years I have learned to use a plain piece of paper as a bookmark when I read, just in case I want to jot down a thought that may lead me somewhere with my craft.
How long have you been working with books? After more than thirty years as a professional woodworker, the idea to make boxes that resemble books came to me about five or six years ago. I'm really not sure of the impetus. The book boxes were an immediate success at craft shows, appealing to readers and wood lovers alike. Their popularity escalated when I added classic titles to the spines. Within a day of introducing the titled books, my customers started asking if I could engrave their own favorites. Yes, of course, I replied. And the business grew. A few years ago I recall a gentleman asking me to craft a custom-titled book as a surprise gift for his friend, who had just found a publisher for his novel. The book was called "On the Mantel." Or maybe the title was "On the Mantle." The gentleman wasn't sure. So he ordered one of each to be on the safe side!
Name a favorite book. For a while now, my wife and daughter have been encouraging me to pick up the Harry Potter series, which they loved, because they know I like science fiction. (They see fantasy as a related genre.) I discovered that if you can get past the first one or two volumes, which are child-centered, the characters get older and deeper, and the plot gets sophisticated, complicated, and dark. One nice thing about reading a series which has been around for a while is that you don't have to wait a year or two for the next volume!