Altered Book - altering my reality


I have several friends who are adept and devoted to the art of altered books. I'm floored by their dedication (dare I say addiction?) to the process, and the amount of materials, time and energy spent creating these imaginative works of art. They make it look so easy.

I have a few vintage books, in various degrees of decay, resting on a shelf in my studio. Mostly, I gathered them for use as imagery in other collage and image transfer processes. But, last week while waiting for my muse to call, I decided to putter around with an altered book. I knew exactly how I wanted it to look, and made decisions ahead of time on which pages would be seen and what they would reveal.


And so I began. I took photos and videos along the way, to document the process while trying to control the experiment I've set for myself. Mod Podge for the image transfer, layer this over that, carefully select the words I want to show through. I had it all figured out - or so I thought.


After waiting 24 hours to allow for the transfer process, I eagerly began to do the work to reveal the image I had planned; the video to the left is the "before" - the beginning of the process. The image on the right is the "after", soaked with the mushy bits of wet paper still needing to be cleared. The progress took more than an hour, plus the 24 hours I had to wait for it to set.

Dissatisfied, I moved to the other side of the book - where another image transfer waited to be revealed; an image of a delicate pink-flowered tree that can be found in South Africa. A page from yet another vintage book, robbed of its treasures in support of my visions and creations.  The book was becoming soft with the water needed to do the work, so I decided to stop working, to allow it to dry. The project has been sitting on my table, neglected for almost a week now. 


The little book taunts me now, saying, “Finish me!” but I’m so unhappy with how this looks; it is so, so far away from what I had envisioned, and I don’t know what to do next.I handle the little thing, flip through the pages that haven't been sliced out - the scar down the center of this first attempt scorns me, because I know I've made an error already. This is miles and miles from the elegant, intelligent, evocative altered books made by artists like Maria Patiño and Mary P. Larsen, friends whom I admire greatly.

I will get back to it; I won't leave it begging much longer. I know mistakes are important, in art and in life. I know that I'm learning still, and have plenty of resources to look to for advice on best practices. The poor little thing looks so miserably unfinished.