Bend artist Kelley Salber has a fascination with all things miniature. An explorer of art and words her whole life, her tiny bookshelf treasures are custom-crafted to her client’s reading desires and youthful dreams. No two of these intriguing miniaturized masterpieces are alike, being carefully created with painstaking detail and realism. Story by Jeff Spry
“I’ve been infatuated with books and miniature things since I was a little girl and made little miniature landscapes out of bark and things I found outside,” said Salber. “I’ve always been a fan of bold bright colors and texture. The little bookcase series started with a piece called Seven Billion Souls… And Each One Has A Story. I was watching a Tom Cruise movie, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and the spy team hopped from Moscow to Mumbai and I was amazed at how many people there were everywhere.”
Salber grew up in the wilds of Montana and moved here to Bend where the Central Oregon population is low.
“I was stunned with how many people were milling about in these huge cities and so impressed with the idea that everyone was important and had a story and it got me contemplating things. I did that piece in 2012 when there were seven billion people on the Earth and that’s why I titled the art that way.”
One of the bookcases formed from a recycled book, The Collected Works, operates on that same concept. It’s a collection of “good reads” books representing the incalculable individual stories that create our complex tapestry of history.
Her miniature wooden bookcases came about due to her obsession with books and a fundraising project for Atelier 6000 in Bend where artists were all given a section of 2X4 and told to do something with it and bring it back to auction off.
“I got the idea for a little bookshelf and really liked it. I try to recycle old books to make journals or art pieces. They come from garage sales, thrift stores, library sales and donations from friends who are moving and need to get rid of books. Sometimes I have the book I need for a particular piece and sometimes I have to go in search of one. Each tiny book is made from book board or foam core with added decorative paper or print paper and some paper I hand marble. Every book art piece is very labor intensive and tedious but I love it.”
Salber savors books for their portability and because books tend to lead toward deeper contemplation. Her wonderfully whimsical works resonate with strains of toys and childhood.
“I’m finishing a custom order right now with the theme of The Wizard Of Oz,” she said. “I actually printed some backgrounds and textures for the Yellow Brick Road and have rainbow colors and a little magic wand and a little Toto and tiny ruby slippers. And I always put quotes on the spines of the books or philosophical phrases to contemplate.”
Each finished novelty bookcase or book collection is a window into the stories of life and the accumulated memories, images and tales we absorb through life.
“People are really drawn to the simple concept of books on bookshelves, it’s comforting and it’s familiar. I have people look at them and get really excited by the endless possibility of what can be created and discovering the hidden messages. They’re just really fun and they make me happy and smile.”
Salber’s sensational art can be seen inside Hood Avenue Art at 357 West Hood Avenue in downtown Sisters.