Alexis Arnold’s Crystallized Book Series is a sight to behold. Made from a supersaturated solution of Borax in boiling water, the Crystallized books gleam like ancient treasures obtained from a faraway land or washed ashore.
But the creative process that goes behind it is rather technical. “When water boils, its molecules expand,” explained Arnold in an interview with Redefine Magazine. “I place the book in the saturated solution when hot and manipulate the book to my liking. As the saturated water cools again, the molecules shrink and any excess Borax crystallizes. Once the solution has completely cooled and the crystals have grown on the submerged objects, I drain the solution and dry the object without disturbing its shape. The objects will hold their new, transformed shape when completely dry.”
Arnold points out how the crystals transform the books into aesthetic, non-functional objects – removing the textual context. “The books, now frozen with heavy crystal growth, have become artifacts or geologic specimens laden with the history of time, use, and nostalgia,” she says.
The books themselves were found and collected by Arnold over the years. In fact, it was the increase in discarded books and magazines (the result of e-books and digitalization) that prompted Arnold’s series. As such, her books also raise questions about the palpable ways in which time shapes our cultural experiences. “With the addition of the crystal growth, the story within the book remains in memory, but new stories can be created by viewers as well,” she reflects.