A UNT Professor Turns Paper into Polished Stone Through a New, Trademarked Material

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UNT professor James Thurman might want to borrow that book when you're done with it. Don't let him. He'll turn it into stone.

There's no dark magic at work, and the "stone" in question is actually a new art material that Thurman created and has now trademarked, called Thurmanite. With the stuff he can manipulate a stack of text the same way a potter uses clay to create an unlimited range of items. From recycled sheets of paper he builds bowls, plates, tiny polished pebbles and even delicate jewelry.

Making Thurmanite is a time consuming process that begins with selecting a graphically interesting piece of source material. As the pages are molded into their new medium and shaped, those ink lines become visible and layered. The effect varies widely depending on what the artist chooses to start with -- a graphic novel gives a different finished look from a biography or a chunky atlas.

Next, Thurman then saws into the document, freeing up the pages and giving them an initial structure. Then he marries them together by brushing epoxy resin on each individual sheet before stacking them, similar to a chef buttering a mountain of phyllo dough. When all of the sheets are coated and combined, they are clamped together overnight to cure. In the morning, the transformation is complete and the Thurmanite is ready to work.

The Prof likes to shape the stuff with a wood lathe, which results in silly string-like ribbons of paper shooting off in all directions. It's fun to watch, if not a bit hypnotizing. Once he's formed the thing, he'll polish it up. The end result looks like tumbled stone.

Making new stuff from old stuff isn't new territory for the UNT educator; a recent collection of his sculptural work called the "McMuseum of Anthropological Archaeology" played with the meaning of objects to build other objects. A reading sofa made out of old books. A dining room chair worked from old flatware. It seems fitting that this resurrector of castoffs found an entirely new form, moldable into many uses. And in a hyper technological world of electronic readers and phones with mapping technology, it's nice to think that some our text could find new life, new beauty and new purpose with Thurmanite.

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