Topsail Beach resident Leslie Marsh is a self-taught fiber artist, book artist, photographer and painter.
If books spoke aloud, the ones made by Leslie Marsh might first comment on how intricately they were made. Cutting, steaming, pressing, soldering, stitching. They might preen and show their eco-dyed covers where a daisy’s color and form leave a lasting impression next to a pansy’s happy face and the citronella leaf’s implied protection.
Or maybe they would be silent and hold the secrets for which their pages were designed.
Marsh’s love for art began as a child. She was about four years old when a neighbor commented on a duck she had drawn, intimating that Marsh’s mother must have drawn it because it was such a good depiction. Marsh knew then that maybe she had some talent.
She is not the product of formal art school. Rather, she is a self-taught, Zoom-taught and apprentice-taught. Galleries, sponsors, students and a major university agree that Marsh was a talented bookmaker. Like many artists, her pleasure comes not only from making art, but also from knowing that others like and buy her art. Baylor University purchased one of her bound books for its art book collection.
A fiber artist, photographer and, most recently, painter, the Topsail Beach resident calls herself an “accidental artist.”
“I think I was always an artist,” she says. “I really do love it. It consumes every part of my life now and I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
In high school Marsh was a theater creative. She thought about art college but instead married young and had children. Her creative outlets were embroidery, stenciling and making her sons’ Halloween costumes.
“The Internet changed my life,” Marsh says. “I found all these people making incredible art that I wanted to make. I took classes, met others and learned. That opened up the world to me, and I started making art and doing photography.”
Her book art is rooted in her love of books, it also led her to become a proofreader and a managing editor at a nonprofit for a time before returning to art full time.
“I love books, especially old books, medieval and Byzantine books,” she says. “Books with clasps. I learned how to make clasps so I could make books with them. I’ve always liked antiques with stories behind them. I’m inspired by them. It started when I found a book someone had crossed stitched the cover back on. The book was so precious to someone that they did that to mend it. And it grew from there.”
She’s made journals, travel diaries, leather-bound books that contain a Marsh-made calendar that can be updated every year, a sketchbook, a notebook, a book with class information. “It holds my life. I’m basically an analog kind of girl,” she says with a laugh.
“The largest I do of the metal books is six by nine. One that I really love I made for my son and his wife. It was a guest book for their wedding with their engagement picture on the front. Then, I changed that picture to one of their wedding pictures. I rebound the book with paper I made using flowers from the wedding and some black pages and it became a guest book and wedding photo album.”
Marsh began making small, wearable books as a commission for a client and now, about 15 years later, those classes are her most desired.
She teaches from her home studio. Each student walks out of the two-day Riveted by Nature class with a six inch by four-inch eco-dyed, soldered metal and paper hand-bound bound book and a hand-stitched wool felt bag.
If you are not the DIY type, her wearable books are available at the Eclipse Gallery in Wilmington and at a gallery in California. Last year Marsh began painting, but she’s “only dabbling” in plein air painting, she says.