I love making altered books – these tend to be ongoing projects over months. Initially preparing the book is done over a few days and from then on, bits a pieces may be added at random. If there was no theme to start with, one will begin to develop over time.
For some I have chosen an old hardback for its title, which has suggested the theme. With others, the theme has developed organically – perhaps from a collection of bits and pieces of paper detritus – stickers, postcards, labels, sugar sachets – anything that carries an appealing image and which can be stuck down.
When I prepare a book, I remove pages to make room for inclusions, and if the paper is a bit fragile, I glue two or more pages together to make a stronger ground to work on. I might also glue a stack of pages that I have cut into, creating a niche inside the book. Text can be obliterated with paint, blank stickers or plain paper, or pictures glued in. Words of text that may fit into the theme, or have appeal for some other reason, are left uncovered (redacted). Or the unwanted words can be crossed out with a black marker pen, or white correction fluid, or bits of stickers…
Then I add quotes, pictures, stamp, doodle, paint etc etc until I am satisfied that the book is finished, which can take weeks or months, depending on how much time I can spend on it.
The two books I have used to illustrate this post are
-“How He Died”, which was a book of indifferent colonial poetry, and which I filled with a collection of snippets, quotes and cuttings about Kurt Cobain. When I started out, I didn’t think I’d be able to fill up a whole book , but I was wrong.
-“Make Way For Tomorrow”, an indifferent mid-century novel, which I made over as a gift for my elder daughter. Although the title is suggestive, I started out with some random images and went from there.
Making altered books is a lot of fun, and requires patience and glue more than any great artistic vision. Being raised to value books, I initially had trouble trashing them, even for such a worthy cause. That’s why I pick books that are pretty bad – I figure no one would’ve wanted to read them any way!
Today is Kurt Cobain’s birthday. He would have been 46.
He was a hero.
He was ordinary.