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Ken Sparling Displays His Handmade Books

Ken Sparling Displays His Handmade Books

By Coach House Date: May 10, 2023

Watch Ken Sparling show off some of his handmade books HERE

Ken Sparling: "I’ve been messing around making homemade books for a long time, ever since I saw all the great stuff they throw away, or give away, or sell cheap at the library where I worked. For a while, I was taking discarded library copies of children’s picture books and pasting pictures over the words so that I could put in my own words. The thing with the bears that you see at the start of the video is one of those.

"Most of the other shots are of pages from the books I made over the last few years and shared over instagram and at There’s a half dozen or so of these books represented in the video. The first one of these that I made was the one with the scary doll on the cover, called I Have a Theory.

"When I was making the books, I wanted every page to be a chance for me to try something different, and I think this comes through in the variety of approaches that are represented in the pages we share in the video. I especially liked to find striking images in magazines and books with pictures – like photography books, or books about art or artists, or travel books (again, mainly discarded library stuff) – and then let the images suggest how I might create and place the text. I tried using different approaches to creating the text – like cutting out individual letters from magazines and flyers that came in the mail, trying to draw funky fonts that I found online, tearing out the letters for the words using just my fingers.

"Most of the books you see in the video are actually copies of the untitled book I did with Pedlar a number of years back. Basically, I just cut out all the pages, leaving a little flap of each page near the spine so I could glue in the new pages I was making. I have a lot of copies of that untitled book out in my garage (much to my wife’s chagrin).

"In the video, you’ll see some pages where lines of text overlap each other, so you can only read one line at a time. I started doing this in order to sort of force people to pay more attention to the way line breaks in poetry can create unexpected results. Stephen set up my website to mimic this effect virtually. Initially, I thought I would use this overlapping effect in all the handmade pages I created, but it didn’t take long for me to find myself wanting to try new approaches.

"The other bits and pieces of stuff scattered on the floor in the video are just random experiments that I did for fun, but didn’t wind up using in the books."

Ken is the author of Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall, commissioned by Gordon Lish; Hush Up and Listen Stinky Poo Butt, handmade using discarded library books and a sewing machine; a novel with no title; For Those Whom God Has Blessed with Fingers; Book, which was shortlisted for the Trillium Award; Intention | Implication | Wind; This Poem Is a House and Not Anywhere, Just Not. He lives in Richmond Hill, Ontario, and shares his handmade books at and on Instagram @kensparling.