Altered Books - Tips and Hints - Part 1

Last Updated 10/14/09

I have gathered these tips and hints about creating Altered Books off of various email lists that I am on, from the archives of the email listcollageartists@onelist (Thanks Kinga!), and from a on-line class that Karrie from Turtle Press taught. The hints from Karrie are marked.Hope these help all of those folks who are entering into the world of Altered Books (me included!).

dotLet's walk through of an altered book. I'll talk about my latest, "On Foot", cause I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the fathers book yet. "On Foot" was originally about walking trips to take all over the world. Good walks things to see, etc. I altered it to be about my own personal journey over the last few years. It is more about spiritual journey now, personal identity rather than actual walks to take. "On Foot" is an example of a book that does not close, and sits open in a pie shape. In "On Foot", I used a lot of metallic thread from the fabric store, and dark red bookbinding thread. The bookbinding thread wasn't necessary; it was what I had at hand. - Karrie of Turtle Press

dotAdd a page.

dotAdd a section in the back for everyone to put his or her name, etc.

dotAdd fabric, buttons, coins, or whatever you would put on a collage!

dotAre the pages thin and flimsy? Are they sturdy? Will this match your intentions, or will they distract from them? Ok, let's say you found a good book. Now what? You can make it into what you need it to be. You can pull pages out of the binding. You can glue pages together.A book about dad, a big, strong guy, made on thin flimsy pages, might be a mismatch. (Then again, it might not. You might want the contrast.) In art, anything goes, but it needs to have a reason why it is the way it is. That is my opinion, of course. Your opinion could be different. - Karrie of Turtle

dotArt depends on the artist. My books are mostly visual, but some artists use the stories in the books more, or write new stores on top of the found book. - Karrie of Turtle

dotChange the wording to say something new or funny.

dotCollage a landscape on a page.

dotCollage a page (or number of pages)

dotCut away holes, or make little boxes by cutting away several layers of pages. Which you can put 3D objects into. Like a shadow box. - Karrie of Turtle

dotCut out a shape from your book. If it is not too thick you can cut through the whole book; or just cut out a shape (a circle, a moon, a pyramid, etc) from the cover. Then glue something under the hole, something visually interesting (an eye is an evident example, but you might come up with more bizarre or funny image...)

dotCut out magazine pictures and collage them

dotDo you want to cut a hole in the cover, or in the pages? For both, a Xacto or similar craft knife would work well.Don't try to go through the entire layer at once. Cut a little bit at a time, for the best results. You can work reductively to a book as well. - Karrie of Turtle

dotDrill holes. - Karrie of Turtle

dotFor decoupage go to Office Max to have the colored image laser printed so you can decoupage the prints.

dotGlue a foldout picture in the book.

dotGlue in puzzle pieces.

dotHow do you find a book to start with? Flea markets, garage sales, old library books that they throw out. Libraries always have sales of their older stock, stuff from the basement library sales, discard piles. Flea markets, friends, rummage sales your own bookshelf, the discount piles at big bookstores (like Barnes and Noble) all have good alterable books. As soon as you let your friends know that you will take used books, no questions asked, the books will start to appear. - Karrie of Turtle

dotI painted over pages with acrylic paint; I cut windows out of pages, to show peeks of pages later in the book. Painted out words, left some words unpainted, and thus reformed the text into a found poem about journeys. Some pages have been totally removed, to provide fewer pages to have to work with. Like magnetic poetry. :) Or cutting up a bunch of magazines, and rearranging the words to make a new poem. I removed pages, glued some pages together, and cut windows out of others. I added collage elements, of course, and added stitching in a meandering path, reflecting the journey theme. Yes, I cut windows around some images, and through some pages to show words on the next page. There is a fence photo that I cut around, making an actual fence to overlay the next page. - Karrie of Turtle

dotI use mostly my own photos, drawings, etc, lately and photocopy them as necessary. - Karrie of Turtle

dotIf it is a cutting tool, it can be used to take away from your book. Leaving more room to add good stuff. Cutting through a whole book isn't as hard as it sounds. Just do your cuts slowly, a few pages at a time, and be sure to use a sharp knife. Any power drill will work on paper, too, for round holes. - Karrie of Turtle

dotIf you have a book with a title that inspirational, use that as a topic for your altered pages (my book's title is Orientation and it's about how to use a compass, a map, etc. so I am probably using old maps, traveling images, etc.)

dotIn my opinion the best-altered books begin as a comment about the original book. - Karrie of Turtle

dotLet's talk about finding the perfect book, if you don't already have a collection. The book you decide to use will direct the process and content of your finished work.Just like the color of paint that you have at hand will make a big impact on what you decide to paint. - Karrie of Turtle

dotMake a hole in the cover and attach something to your book.

dotOr start reading one of your pages: if a word 'speaks' to you (try not to pay attention to the sense of the sentence or paragraph), cover the whole page with paint except that single word; then make a topical-atmospheric collage around it.

dotPut a new caption to the original photo.

dotPut in stickers.

dotRubber Stamp onto the pages.

dotSand away holes with sand paper. - Karrie of Turtle

dotSaw holes with a scroll saw. Saw the entire book with a scroll saw! Make a new shape. - Karrie of Turtle

dotTear out a half page; tear out the page unevenly.

dotTear out a page (or two, or three, or ......)

dotThat is where the paper comes in. A good paper will take ink well. Acrylic paint will stick to almost any kind of paper, and if you have problems with warping or buckling, that is when you can glue pages together to make a stiffer support. Think of using other things besides glue to stick things together, too. Staples, needle and thread, nuts and bolts, tape, rivets or.... Yes, and if you make "mistakes," you can figure out how to use them to your advantage. (I do that a lot, since I make lots of mistakes.) - Karrie of Turtle

dotThe altered book could be a book about grandma's cooking. Or more conceptual, about how we are made, about the time there was a kitchen fire in your house, etc. Or a book will present itself to you, and the ideas will flow directly from that. The altered book could be about music, family records, or memories that the artist wants to record, etc. - Karrie of Turtle

dotThe artist (and you are all potential altered book artists!) Can tear away pages, cut away parts of pages, draw, paint, stamp, color, or write on the pages. - Karrie of Turtle

dotThe artist can add 2D and 3D collage and assemblage elements - Karrie of Turtle

dotThe book can be sculpture, and does not have to close. Yes, I'm telling you to tear up good books. You will make them art, and they will be better. - Karrie of Turtle

dotThe book should be a good size for you and your intentions and should have pages that are easy to work with. - Karrie of Turtle

dotThe book you choose should relate to what you want your artist's book, the altered incarnation, to be about. - Karrie of Turtle

dotThere are many decisions to make when making your artist's book, and if it should close or not is one of them. - Karrie of Turtle

dotThere are many things to do! You can cut out holes, windows, or entire pages. You can collage on top of pages. You can use many tools to make marks on top of the page. Stamps, markers, pencils, collage, pastels, clay, or... ou can mark over words, or you can highlight words to make them stand out. You don't have to end up with a book, unless you want to call it a book. Book can be broadly defined, of course. And, by all means, use the byproducts of your altered books to make more art. - Karrie of Turtle

dotThere are two kinds of rivets- the hardware store kind, that they use to connect canvas or metal together and the sewing store kind, that are also called eyelets. I think coffee break designs sells tiny eyelets that follow the same idea. They work great to connect one thing to another. Always, of course, thinking about the tools and how they will effect your finished work and the intent of your altered books. You can get them at the fabric store, too, by the snaps and buttons, usually. - Karrie of Turtle

dotThink about how the original book relates to your artist's book. If you don't know the purpose of your art, how will your audience? - Karrie of Turtle

dotThis book contains images and/or text that fits the artist's purpose, is usually printed and mass-produced. The book that the artist chooses to alter is the perfect size, color, and number of pages, is made up of the perfect type of paper and feels good. - Karrie of Turtle

dotTo make an altered book, an artist begins with a book that is already bound, or has a given structure. - Karrie of Turtle

dotTry it, you'll like it. And, if not, you'll have learned from it. - Karrie of Turtle

dotWhat the book could become, the possibilities that a book possesses should be at the back of your mind as you are searching for alterable books. - Karrie of Turtle

dotWhatever feels like it needs to be done can be done. - Karrie of Turtle

dotWhen it comes to collage, I am a pack rat. I also have a big pile of found collage elements, from magazines, books, the paper scrap box, etc. - Karrie of Turtle

dotYou can add images and text, or work with the images and text that is already in your found book. - Karrie of Turtle

dotYou can leave the spine, or not, but be sure to leave some of the spine. Remember, it will be art, and not subject to as much wear and tear as a traditional book - Karrie of Turtle

dotYou can punch holes with paper punches. - Karrie of Turtle

dotYou can reinforce the spine with glue, or even re-sew the pages, but I've never needed to when I've cut my books into shapes. If a page looks like it will fall out, glue it in pace. - Karrie of Turtle

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