Artist of the Month: Brittany Sawrey

Written by Wynter Holden Category: Arts Issue: December 2017
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Paper artist Brittany Sawrey brings fairytales to life with 3-D book sculptures.

photo by Angelina Aragon
photo by Angelina Aragon

Brittany Sawrey is a modern fairytale heroine. She has Merida’s archery skills and Belle’s reading habit – not to mention a master’s degree in animal conservation and wildlife communication skills that would turn Snow White witch-green with envy.

The Phoenix artist’s love of fantasy literature inspires her to create bespoke sculptures from book pages, held together with Elmer’s glue and imagination. “Storybooks are a natural medium,” Sawrey, 27, says. “Sometimes I get lucky and my first idea works. Sometimes… well, you go through a lot of paper!”

Self-taught Sawrey crafted her first fairytale book sculpture about a year ago. No detail is overlooked. Her Chronicles of Narnia piece features a wardrobe and lamppost with working lights, while the Great Hall from Harry Potter is faithfully re-created down to a miniature sorting hat. Sawrey’s “novel” sculptures can be purchased on Etsy (etsy.com/shop/storybooksculpture) or at the Phoenix Festival of the Arts on December 8-10 at Margaret T. Hance Park. Prices range from $40 for a small ornament to $389 for Harry Potter, which took 40-plus hours to create.

“My grandmother was an incredible painter and my aunt is a wonderful portrait artist, but I inherited none of those skills,” Sawrey says. “I can’t make things look like I see them in my head, except with paper.”

Sawrey works as a research scientist, mentors teens and studies Krav Maga self-defense – further proof that this princess doesn’t need a prince – though she’s open. “A year ago, I didn’t know I could make anything like this,” Sawrey says. “It’s a new chapter in my own epic story.”