Lake Norman & Mooresville

One-of-a-kind art book? Cornelius artist has it covered


When Magdalena “Lena” Muller says she has just completed a book, she doesn’t mean she’s read or written one; she means she has created a work of art in the shape of a book.

Her creations are tactile. Rather than plot, the pages feature materials and items. When you find a word or two, it was inserted as a whimsical surprise – “giggles,” for example. One could liken her cover to a main character and each page to a supporting character.

Muller’s concepts and techniques intrigue and fascinate, plus they beg to be touched. Each book is a one-of-a-kind work of art. To create covers and pages, she has used treated paper, metals, fabric, lace, wood, wax, charms, buttons, beads, old keys, photos, stamps and other embellishments. Over the years, Muller has employed several techniques.

For the cover of her most recent creation, Muller said she formed it using a two-part epoxy compound finished with watered-down acrylic paint. White lace peeking around edges softens the dark effect. She added interest by burning away a center hole using an incense stick. In the hole is displayed a cocoon of a moth. Upon opening, one again sees the cocoon– now framed by burnt edges of paper pages.

“There’s something about book art that’s different,” Muller said. “Some will say it is a craft, but I think it’s art. And you can pick it up and view it closely.

“Another thing I like about it is that you don’t have to buy special equipment,” she added.

Muller, now retired, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Carnegie Mellon University where she focused on crafts. Her mother was a sewer and Muller learned early on to sew, cross-stitch and knit.

She said that before she became inspired to create art books, she was active in a weaving guild. Subsequently, she focused on mixed media art books and participated in the Pittsburgh Book Arts Collective for 10 years. There she began learning techniques and enjoyed seeing the works of other members.

After moving to Cornelius three years ago to live closer to a sister, Muller searched for a group of artists in the area focused on the art book niche but could not find one, she said.

To find inspiration as well as the objects to embellish her books, Muller said she visits hardware stores, flea markets, craft stores like JoAnn’s and Hobby Lobby and searches online for mixed media artists.

Suzanne Fulton is a freelance writer:

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