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: 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: 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: Experimenting with Book Bursts

I recently picked up a copy of The Repurposed Library by Lisa Occhipinti at Oscar’s Art Books, and last week I began exploring some of the projects from its pages.

I was drawn to the elegant simplicity of these book bursts, which are made from cutting a book into sections and then folding the pages. I chose a fairly thick book so it took quite a long time to do all that folding.

Book bursts-3

Each one is done in a slightly different way, and it’s interesting to see the patterns and texture that emerge in each. I’m going to experiment a bit more with something different again with the remaining section of the book.

Book bursts

Book bursts-2

It feels really good to be exploring books in a different way than usual and I’m curious to see where this will lead.

Altered Book: Constellation Of The Great Bear

Altered Book - Ursa-6

When I pulled the bear out to work with I started thinking about polar bears but then inspiration led me (and I can’t remember how) to the constellation of Ursa Major. I felt this was a much more interesting idea to work with and sorted through my other materials looking for further items to incorporate into the composition. I was glad to find a star map in my paper box to use as the end pages in the book. But when I rediscovered the rusted bed spring, scavenged from Bowen Island a year ago and forgotten about, I then had everything I needed to complete the work.

Altered Book - Ursa-2

I really wanted to do more with this book. The last two I’ve made have left the books as flat canvases. With this one I decided to fold and cut the pages and make it a three-dimensional piece. I spent a long time cutting and shaping the space in the pages where the bear would rest because I wanted to make sure he would sit flat and be well supported. The rusted bed spring also needed a lot of careful work to have it supported where it’s inserted inside the book. I reinforced things between the pages with cardboard so the spring would float over top rather than rest on the pages on the outside.

Altered Book - Ursa

The metal stars and red thread were a final touch. These are meant to echo the star shapes and the lines that connect them on the end pages map. I always find working with thread rather aggravating because it slips away from me as I wind it around things like the spring and stars, but I love the affect.

Altered Book - Ursa-5

Altered Book - Ursa-4

This work will be available for sale during the Eastside Culture Crawl in November. I’m creating as much new work as I can to entice people to visit me for the Crawl.

Altered Book - Ursa-3

Materials used: book, wood bear, rusted bed spring, red thread, metal stars, star map from an encyclopedia, glue, and gel medium.

Altered Book: Heralding The Dawn Of A New Day

Altered Book - Heralding The Dawn Of A New Day-6

The bag of animals made of wood has been a wonderful thing to work with so far. I’m enjoying pulling out each animal and choosing a different one each time to create a home for in an altered book. I’ve always adored this rooster for his proud posture and decided to run with the cliche of having him crow at sunrise.

Altered Book - Heralding The Dawn Of A New Day-5

As I began work on this I took a detour into studio cleaning as I went through my storage boxes of paper looking for things to use. All of the boxes were a complete mess and sorting through them allowed me to discover paper I’d forgotten all about. I used two of these to create the very colourful sunrise in the book. The triangle with bricks printed upon it is from collection of wooden toy blocks I picked up at RubyDog’s Art House, and it serves nicely as a rooftop for the rooster to stand on.

Altered Book - Heralding The Dawn Of A New Day

This altered book came together quickly and easily, which surprised me. It always feels a bit wrong when an artwork seems too easy, but I’m not really sure why. I’m really happy with it though, and love how colourful this is.

Altered Book - Heralding The Dawn Of A New Day-4

Altered Book - Heralding The Dawn Of A New Day-2

Altered Book - Heralding The Dawn Of A New Day-3

Materials used: book, sewing pattern paper, origami paper, wooden rooster, wood triangle, glue, and gel medium.

Altered Book: Of Animal Folklore and Fables

Altered Book: Of Animal Folklore and Fables

For the next little while, I have decided to focus on creating two series of altered books, one based around a collection of toy animals made from wood and the other around the blank books Siobhan gave me. It’s been awhile since I’ve made new work so this week I dove into the bag of animals looking for inspiration and came away with the idea to use four of them at once.

Altered Book: Of Animal Folklore and Fables - detail

I started thinking about fables and folklore using animals to teach lessons and explain things about the world. I couldn’t find a suitable tale on which to base my composition but I kept thinking about Chicken Little and the Town Musicians of Bremen. The calf, goat, piglet and chick are in a tale all their own. It involves piling one on top the other to try and reach the sky, but also the wearing of special party hats. I leave the details of the story up to you.

Altered Book: Of Animal Folklore and Fables - detail

Altered Book: Of Animal Folklore and Fables - detail

I’m starting to make new work in preparation for the Culture Crawl in late November. This piece will be framed and available for sale at my studio, along with much of the work currently listed in my etsy shop.

Altered Book: Of Animal Folklore and Fables - detail

Materials used: book, wooden animals, tissue paper, Japanese paper, cardboard, acrylic paint, wooden blocks, and poppy seed pods.