Carving a niche: Forest City artist gets creative with books

Sam Evanusa in front of three of his works: a photo-strip picture of his in-laws, a book folding of the face of Jesus and a folding of Bryce Harper from the Phillies.

A Forest City man took an interesting hobby and transformed it into a small business.

Samuel Evanusa, 41, began transforming books into art in October 2021, when he discovered a YouTube tutorial and decided to give it a try as a way to keep busy at home. He recently launched a new business on Facebook selling his specialty art.

“When I first saw it, I was like ‘it’s got to be hard,’” Evanusa said. “But it was way easier than I thought. The hardest part is the very tiny cuts.”

The Scranton native and stay-at-home dad moved to Forest City with his wife, Tracy, four years ago. They’ve served as foster parents for the past three years and have adopted two daughters, 11-year-old Aalyhia and 6-year-old Alana, and a son, 4-year-old Andrew John.

The first book folding he ever did was of a dog. From there, he went on to fold nativity scenes as Christmas presents. When people started asking for art of their own, he moved on to more diverse pieces — including foldings of Batman and Tinker Bell — and started selling them. His most requested piece is a cross with the words “Amazing Grace” carved into it.

Some of his recent projects include a carving of the Harley-Davidson logo and the title of The Lord of the Rings carved into the pages of its first book, “The Fellowship of the Ring.” He normally charges $35 for a piece, but prices can rise to $60 depending on the complexity of the design. Anyone interested in requesting a commission can contact him through his Facebook page, SEvanusa Bookart.

Evanusa gets most of the books he folds from donations, Goodwill and the Salvation Army. He uses an app known as Wunderfold to show him what the fold will look like and to map out what steps to take to transfer his art to the book’s pages. The app places the desired image on where it would be on the book and outlines the parameters for cutting and folding.

Once that is set up, he uses a straight-edge ruler and a special folding tool — a wooden block with a slit in the middle — to fold each page evenly. The app indicates where on the page he needs to cut, so he marks those on each page and then cuts them with a tiny pair of scissors. After the cutting is done, he folds the sections in between the cuts on each page, creating a three-dimensional effect.

This process usually takes between two and 10 days, depending on the intricacy of the design. He normally spends an hour on a particular book before switching to another to prevent the process from being too boring.

Evanusa also does print-strip designs on his books, where a printed image is displayed on the edge of the pages of the book. He does this by going into Microsoft Excel and setting all cells to half an inch. From there, he stretches the image he wants to apply across multiple cells. Each half-inch section of the picture is then cut out in a strip and folded into a page. For a 400-page book, he would need about 100 strips, which would be more than six sheets of paper.

Despite this book-centric craft, Evanusa doesn’t read much. Most times, the subject of the book he uses for his art has nothing to do with the book itself.

“My favorite books are the ones everyone enjoys,” he says.

Not all of his works of art have been for sale. In fact, one of them was a gift for Stitches & Strokes — a local collective of artists, tailors and craft makers with which Evanusa is associated. The Forest City business offers art classes, events and services and collects works from local artists to display and sell.

“Our arts and crafts business … commissioned several original works to display in the shop gallery, which have attracted interest and orders,” says John Harcharek, Stitches & Strokess co-founder. “We recently delivered one with the company logo of a local employer, a one-of-a-kind corporate gift.”

Evanusa is grateful to Stitches & Strokes for the early support.

“The people at Stitches & Strokes were there to help us when we started adopting, so I did a carving for them as a gift,” Evanusa says. “They were the ones that told me I should make a Facebook page.”