Upcoming Events: The Word On The Street

The Word On The Street is Canada’s National Book and Magazine Festival that happens every September in six cities across the country.

I’ve been attending this event for years, and have fond memories of wandering Queen Street in Toronto with my mom as we rummaged through the tables of books that took over the street for the day. For a bookworm like me it was a dream come true, especially when bargains are involved.

This year I will be sharing my work at The Word on the Street as an exhibitor. Look for me in the Alice MacKay Room as part of Word Under the Street, where you can also find zines, alternative comics, and book artists. I’ll be the one transforming unwanted books into sculptural artwork.

The Word On The Street
Date: Sunday September 30th, 2012
Time: 11am to 5pm
Location: Library Square, 350 West Georgia Street

Altered Books: Thread of Transformation

This finished work took an uncomfortably long time to complete, because it was a commissioned piece with loose parameters and no deadline. I think part of me was scared of messing it up because I had a very special book provided by the client.

The book in question was an old chemistry textbook from her university days that had sentimental value. When she approached me to create an altered book she had no particular requirements other than a horizontal composition, the rest was up to me. So of course I was overwhelmed with possibilities and completely blocked on what to do, up until two weeks ago that is.

My concept for this book was to create a sculptural piece with a more abstract composition than my previous altered book work. I began with a flurry of paper folding in a five page pattern with a slightly different variation on the right and left sides. The video above was taken using the iTimelapse app on my iPhone during about an hour or so of work at the beginning stages of page folding.



I added a decorative red paper with a gold design as the end pages once the page folding was complete, and then tried to figure out my idea of sewing thread throughout the book.

This part was tricky because paper is not at forgiving about sewing mistakes the way fabric can be, so I experimented a bit with a secondary book before fully diving in. I stitched the thread back and forth across the book in an irregular pattern because I felt it worked better and looked more interesting than carrying the same stitch across the entire piece.

Altered Book: Threads of Transformation - detail

Altered Book: Threads of Transformation - detail

Once the completed altered book was framed I needed to go back and increase the tension in most of the threads. I’d been working with the book flat or on a slight angle and discovered everything shifted once the book was in a horizontal position. Imagine me pulling the threads tighter as it hung on the wall, and you get an idea of this part.

Altered Book: Threads of Transformation - detail

Altered Book: Threads of Transformation - detail

In choosing the title for this I wanted it to relate to chemistry in a subtle way. I did my usual playing around with different terms in google search to inspire ideas and came up with, “Thread of Transformation”. It relates quite literally to the metamorphosis of the book itself, but is also a play on chemical reaction as a form of changing one thing into another.

Altered Book: Threads of Transformation - detail


I was very pleased with the finished altered book, but was nervous about sharing it with my client friend. I needn’t have worried because when I presented it to her over the weekend, she absolutely loved it. Hooray!

Altered Books: Owl of the Arctic

The Snowy Owl marks the end of the owl series of altered books I’ve been working on (at least until I can find more to use). This is the largest owl of the five, and probably the most intimidating with that glare of hers.

Altered Books- Snowy Owl-5

The composition for this one is pretty spare, and I’m struggling with whether to leave it as is or add a little “something”. From what I can tell these types of owls don’t perch in trees, and their environment isn’t very colourful. I decided to share it even though it feels unfinished.

Altered Books- Snowy Owl-3

Altered Books- Snowy Owl

I divided the book into four sections and folded these in alternating directions. I refolded some of the page ends to suggest a rocky (icy?) environment for the owl, and added silver and blue paper as the end pages.

Altered Books- Snowy Owl-2

Altered Books- Snowy Owl-4

My next step is to frame this one along with the other four. All of these will be on display and available for sale during the Eastside Culture Crawl in November.

Materials used: used book, decorative paper, paper owl, cardboard, white glue, and gel medium.

Altered Books: The Less He Spoke The More He Heard

When I first began creating altered books I would go to great lengths to come up with these wordy titles. I haven’t really been doing that lately but for this one I decided to go back to my former way of coming up with a title, which is asking google. In this case I looked up “quotes with owls”.

Altered Books- Long eared owl

This is a Long-Eared Owl, and though its ear tufts aren’t actually ears I like the idea that it’s a good listener.

The book was very fun to fold and I love the way the bottom and top sections swirl around one another. With all of these owl books I’ve been folding pages a second or third time after the initial sectioning and folding. It can be a tedious process to crease a three hundred page book and this is how I keep things interesting. It also has resulted in more sculptural work.

Altered Books- Long eared owl-4

Altered Books- Long eared owl-3

For the Long-Eared Owl I returned to making leaves using a paper punch and printed paper to create the suggestion of a tree. I also selected very dramatic Asian-inspired black paper with a gold pattern as the end pages.

Altered Books- Long eared owl-5

Altered Books- Long eared owl-2

There is one more owl altered book to unveil, so stay tuned.

Materials used: book, fancy paper, paper punch, paper owl, cardboard, and white glue.

Altered Books: An Uncommon Owl

We now return to your irregularly scheduled update about altered books with owls.

I completed this one two weeks ago, at the same time as a book with a Long-Eared Owl which I will share later this week. This is a Barn Owl and she is the most elegant of all the owls I worked with in this series. It’s wonderful how different each bird has been from one another, and it’s ensured they are each pretty unique altered books.

Altered Books Barn Owl

Altered Books Barn Owl-2

I kept things very simple with the composition of this one. I added fancy end-pages with a leaf design in gold which works well with the elegant figure of the Barn Owl. I stayed away from leaves and trees for this book and decided to add a tangle of red thread around the bird’s feet. I was originally trying to create a thread nest but then realized this type of owl doesn’t make them. Nest or not, the thread stayed because it anchors the bird in the book.

Altered Books Barn Owl-3

Altered Books Barn Owl

I did yet another new way of folding with this one, a mix of two different kinds. It was intended as a horizontal piece but then I decided it worked better as a vertical, and also to mix things up with these.

Altered Books Barn Owl-2

Altered Books Barn Owl-3

The owl series is complete and I will be debuting them all in person at the Eastside Culture Crawl in November.

Materials used: book, fancy paper, red thread, paper owl, cardboard, and white glue.

Altered Books: The Dovecote

I really loved this one as I worked on it and then when I finished I didn’t like it anymore. Now that I’ve had a few days to step away and look at it again with fresh eyes, I like it again. I think I was struggling with the lack of colour.

Altered Books: The Dovecote

With this one completed now there are four of these books with trees/birds/doorways. I keep thinking about these as the “Birdhouse series” because the trees with doorways are homes for birds.

Altered Books: The Dovecote - detail

The small white birds are a set of wood buttons I picked up at Button Button last year. I’d forgotten about them until last week when I was looking for something to work with. I have a few more of these that are in flight, and then four black crow buttons as well.

Altered Books: The Dovecote - detail

Altered Books: The Dovecote - detail

I realized after finishing this one I don’t enjoy working on this series of books as much as I do the owls. The process isn’t as creative because I’m using a lot of the same elements and ways of making them. I think this may be why I stopped working on this series when I first started it last year.

I’m sure I can find a way to make the process more interesting…

Materials used: book, bird buttons, inkjet print of my photo, resistors, rubber stamp and ink, white glue, and gel medium.

Altered Books: The Great Wise One

Owls are enjoyable subjects to work with because they have more expressive faces than the average bird. The previous owl looked cute and sweet while this Great Horned owl looks slightly bored but also intimidating.

Altered Books Great Horned Owl

With this book I began with an exploration of a different way of folding the pages rather than deciding on the composition I would work towards. It was challenging to work with three different directions of folds but the end result is a fascinating pattern and shape to the book.

Altered Books Great Horned Owl-4

I left Mr. Horned Owl (the Great) attached to his branch and decided he needed to be sitting majestically in a tree. I rolled a few pages to give him something to rest on and suggest the shape of a tree. The leaves were the final touch that I really wasn’t sure was going to turn out as well as it has. These are made with a leaf-shaped paper punch and I’ve used them to add colour but keep the focus on the owl.

Altered Books Great Horned Owl-5

Altered Books Great Horned Owl-3

I’m going to keep exploring the subject of owls for a few more books, at least until I run out of the birds. To keep things interesting I’ve set myself the challenge of playing with new ways of folding the books as I do them.

Altered Books Great Horned Owl-2

Materials used: book, patterned paper, leaf-shaped paper punch, white glue, and gel medium.

Altered Books: Awaiting the Golden Egg

If you haven’t guessed by now the theme for the series I’m working on for the Culture Crawl is “Birds”. The work I shared yesterday is one “style” of altered book I’ll be making, and this book is representative of a second group of books I have planned.

Altered Book-6

I actually started this series back in March 2010 when I created two niche cut books using imagery of trees and bird-related items. All are made from books that are blank inside and out, because they were publisher mockups for the hardcover version of Harry Potter novels. My friend Siobhan saved them from the bin and gifted them to me for altering.

Altered Book-8

Altered Book-9

I’m going to continue to create these using similar elements: a doorway cut into a tree with items related to birds on the inside, and a design printed along the edges of the closed pages. While I really like the use of small twigs incorporated into the previous two books in this series, having them makes it difficult to store/ship the work because they stick out and are delicate.

Altered Book-7

Materials used: blank book, ink jet print of photo, transparent egg, gesso, book page scraps, wine cork, rubber stamp & ink, and gel medium.

Altered Books: The Owl House & Home

I’m about to let you in on a little secret…I don’t love all the altered books I make. True story. There are some I feel pretty meh about, while others I absolutely adore and will probably have a hard time parting with. This owl book falls into this second group of favoured pieces that I’m not sure I can give up. (But I will).

Altered Book: The Owl House & Home

I’m continuing to use the birds cut from the same encyclopedia as the ones I’ve used in the recycled collages I shared previously. There is a section on owls I’ve been saving and now at least some of these are going to show up in altered books.

Altered Book: The Owl House & Home - detail

Altered Book: The Owl House & Home - detail

As always I’m experimenting with how I work with the books. With this one I’ve folded the pages inward towards the spine but done the middle section at a different level. I wanted to play with varying how I fold the pages rather than keeping things the same throughout the book.

Altered Book: The Owl House & Home - detail

Altered Book: The Owl House & Home - detail

This is the first of two altered books I’ve completed this week. I’ll share the other tomorrow.

Materials used: book, card stock, paper owl, hand-cut leaves, wine cork (which you can’t see), and white glue.

Altered Books: Experiments with Page Folding

Experiments with new directions in book altering continues, this time with all the pages still attached to the covers. These explorations are part of the planning stages of a commissioned piece for a client, and I wanted to try something different.

Altered Books: Experimenting with irregular folded pages

Normally I follow the same pattern of folding the pages through out a book but with these two the folds are irregular and create a ripple effect through the book. It’s an interesting technique, but it doesn’t entirely work for me. I need to experiment further to figure out how to do this better.

Altered Books: Experimenting with irregular folded pages - detail

Altered Books: Experimenting with irregular folded pages - detail

Altered Books: Experimenting with irregular folded pages - detail

I may end up removing the covers from these books to use in a collage, and then turn these into a wall piece. I like the idea of the shaped pages rippling from one book to the other.

Altered Books: Experimenting with irregular folded pages - detail

Check out the work of Issac Salazar for advanced book page folding.