Although CBD artist Nicholas Jones doesn’t live in the CBD, he probably knows a whole lot more about it than you and I.
His family have been in Melbourne since 1840 and, although he was born in London, Mr Jones has lived in Melbourne since he was two.
“I’m very much Melbourne bred, just not Melbourne born. I’m a Melbourne boy,” he said.
As a guide for Hidden Secrets Tours, Mr Jones knows every nook and cranny of the CBD, as well as its history.
With an air of olden-day charm about him, he is drawn to the eccentric and the characters of a city such as ours.
“I love little stories about the history of why Melbourne was set up the way it was. I always say to people, ‘if you’re lost, just turn left’. It’s very easily navigated,” he said.
“I especially love the look on peoples faces when I take them down Degraves St and cross Flinders Lane into Centre Place and show them the Majorca Building. You look up at it and go ‘wow, what a majestic building’ and you think it’s just a little snippet of it, but that’s the whole building. That was actually designed by Harry Norris who designed the Nicholas Building.”
Although a very well-informed guide, Mr Jones is actually primarily a book sculptor who works out of his Nicholas Building office, overlooking panoramic views of Federation Square and Flinders St station.
He has worked out of CBD studios for 20 years now, including studios at Carlow House and Santa House.
For Mr Jones, a self-proclaimed “flaneur”, the CBD serves as a never-ending source of inspiration for his works.
“I find inspiration in observing people. The way people dress, the way they interact. I’ve noticed in the CBD, especially over the last five years, people are becoming more and more detached. They’re walking around just staring at their phones,” he said.
This detachment could be attributed as one of the major reasons behind Mr Jones’ craft. As a book sculptor, he takes old books and meticulously carves intricate shapes and patterns into them using a scalpel and fret saw in an effort to bring peoples’ attention back to books.
Mr Jones admits that he has had a lot of negative reaction to his craft. People question why, if he has such respect for books, he cuts them up. But his admiration and reverence is obvious not only when speaking to him, but through the intricacy of his pieces too.
“I love books. I collect books. In my opinion, they’re the most important artefacts in world history and they’re being thrown away at a great rate,” he said.
“By throwing this spanner in the works, I’m trying to get people to re-examine how they relate to books and how they access information.”
Book sculptor Nicholas Jones in his Nicholas Building studio.