Saturday, April 21, 2012

Trash to Treasure

I love books, absolutely adore them. When I pick up any kind of book it is with great joy and anticipation of all the wonders, words, and ideas which could be within its hard or soft covers. Even the smell of books, especially older ones bound in leather or cloth-covered hardboard, causes my heart to flutter and my hand to shake as I reach for my wallet to buy yet another tome. Big, thick books, old or new, fascinate me and I want to explore them to see what is it a person had to say that it took so many pages. Put me in a library or a book store and I am one happy camper. So knowing all that about me, you might find it surprising that these days I am often searching for books in yard and garage sales and on the bargain tables at the bookstore to use as the base of a relatively new art form...altered books. Knowing that the word "altered" means changed in character, appearance or composition, you might have already guessed that altered books are books which have been totally reconfigured into something else. That something else is whatever the "artist" or craftsperson wants it to be. I know that by now you are wondering how a true bibliophile could cut, fold, staple, glue, and otherwise manipulate the pages of print in a book.

To many of you (as it did to me at the beginning) it seems almost a sacrilege to cut or mutilate a book. Just so you'll relax a little, the books usually used for this craft are typically disgarded tomes about to be thrown out or sold at a garage sale. Bargain table new books with good spines also are favorites of mine. Matter-of-fact, I've been buying and collecting old and new books just for the purpose of turning them into altered books. And, much to my husband's chagrin, I have been known to stop next to the trash cans and boxes put out to the curb for the garbage truck. Stacks of old encyclopedias are just about the best for all the man-handling necessary to shape a book into "art."
Taking these old and used books, I draw, paint, cut, fold, glue, sew, and manipulate the inner pages of the book until I'm satisfied with the finished product. The popularity and appeal of this craft is that there are NO rules. Artist will often glue several pages together to create a stronger background for the layers of Gesso they then paint over the pages. This technique yields creative blank pages for journaling with words or drawings or paintings. Some friends of mine have also made altered books into a type of family album.

The blue book pictured above was in a stack of disgards at a charity garage sale. For less than a buck, I found the perfect backdrop for my own personal altered book. I left the cover intact; however, not one single page inside was left untouched. My altered book is a personal album of sorts, filled with family photos and childhood photos of me.

The two page lay-out above features some very old photos of "adopted" family members (some orphaned vintage photos I purchased), school photos of me, and sheet music from the 1920s.
With the lay-out above, I painted, stamped, glued, folded and punched several pages together to make up a three dimensional collage and page pocket. Just turning a page up and using brads around the edges creates a great "pocket" page where I've stored notes, tags, and special cards.
The lay-outs above where fun ones to do. On the left is a page which has a cut out torn through which allows an elementary school photo of me to show through from the page lay-out underneath. When the torn out page is opened to reveal the next set of lay-outs, it lays on top of another page and outlines or "frames" the page underneath it on that side. On the right is a page of the skeletons of leaves glued onto pages which were first painted a neutral shade. Then, gold brads were used to seal these pages to those underneath on both sides.

Above is a lay-out with a paper strip weaving I made and then mounted to the book page. On other pages (not shown) is some journaling describing parts of my life which God wove together to give me more purpose. This lay-out reminds me of God's remaking my life one piece at a time.
The lay-outs above were painted and/or stamped with glued on paper titles torn from old magazines and other old books. On the left, there was a passage on the book's original page which appropriately fit the page theme of "editing our image" and I painted around it and left it as part of the page.
Finally, the two lay-outs above have a quilt like look and were made from scraps of some of my very favorite hand-made and purchased papers--both new and vintage. I like these pages because of the muted colors and the texture provided by the different papers. I actually sewed on some of the papers rather than glue them--just another technique to use with this art form.

I know that altering books is not an art form which everyone will enjoy--neither enjoying the direct involvement in the craft nor the finished product. However, it is an art form which has piqued my interest. I rather like the idea of making something different from an object that has either lost its original appeal or its usefulness. I relish the process of creating a personal artist statement that has far more value than the original price or origin of the item used as the base or canvas. And, of course, working with this craft always reminds me again of making something new, useful, and purposeful from something that might have been on the trash pile. It's not such a far stretch to look once more at that wonderful scripture that describes what Christ did for us when He saved us and made us His own:

2 Corinthians 5:17..."Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come!" Praise the Lord!!