Gray's Anatomy Altered Book Sculpture


I picked up this vintage Gray’s Anatomy book from the “last chance” bin at a local thrift store {can you say - score!} and decided to transform it into a 3 dimensional book sculpture that would showcase the different systems of the body.

Let me just say, as someone who has dissected 2 human cadavers, dissecting the imagery of Dr. Gray’s for this project was far more enjoyable, relaxing & rewarding.

However, I would not recommend using this type of book if you are still developing your paper cutting skills, if you are inexperienced with layering/collage design or if you are trying book sculpture for the first time.

This particular book sculpture is rated at a skill level of advanced due to the intricate cutting & dissection required and due to the thinness of the individual pages.

I clocked in approximately 40 hours of work in order to bring this piece to life, with the majority of time being spent on choosing the images to dissect & deciding the placement of each image.

But enough about the tell, let’s get to the show…


I opted to hollow out the book with only a few pages left intact to serve as a backdrop of text on the inner cover. I wanted to create the illusion of an open chest with body parts spilling out. The upper & lower extremities form the hinges of the chest.


I grouped images by body systems and then layered multiple images within each system. I tried to represent as much of the human body as possible given the small area I had to fill.

Organs, nerves, blood vessels, muscles and bones are all represented. I intentionally chose several images with extremely fine details to showcase the appeal of book sculptures, namely the advanced level of paper cutting involved.


I layered images in such a way that viewing the book sculpture from different angles reveals text & images not readily visible from other viewpoints. I did this as a way to draw people in for a closer look to see what else they might discover.

Although it was an incredible amount of work and my hands ached for days, this Gray’s Anatomy book sculpture turned out exactly as I envisioned: from a classic, mass-produced visual guide to a unique handmade piece showcasing the beauty & artistry of the functional machine known as the human body.


natural project: altered book sculpture