Archive for the ‘Altered Books’ Category

Hardware Store Fun-damentals Part 1

Stroll down the local hardware store aisles and discover a variety of finds for art that cost double in the craft stores. There are hundreds of products that are easily adaptable to altered art and altered books, plus other products. I find the more interesting objects in independent stores, especially hardware stores that have been established for many years.

A few suggestions to get you started:

Look in the mirror department to find settings to fasten mirrors to walls. You can find rosettes, squares, stars – ornate and plain.

Pick up a selection of metal objects in all shapes and forms: keys, washers, rivets – to attach heavy materials together, wire – look for different metals or coated in plastic colors, keyholes, brads, latches, frame hangers.

Use clear, plastic finger pulls as backgrounds for a label or as a focal spot for a few words.

Laminate samples are easy to use. Emboss or stamp using a Staz-On or other solvent dye ink pad.

Sandpaper for use as background material.

Metal or duct tape, easily altered using alcohol inks.

Mesh drywall tape, used plain or painted with acrylic paints.

Paint chips for instant color.

Lots of circles – felt or cork pads, self-adhesive paper dots to add texture and variety or the background paper with holes in it for a stencil.

Hitch pins or a variety of unusual safety pins.

Small screen patches, just a few inches square or rectangular, that can be used plain or painted, or can be used as a painting tool by dabbing paint through the screen.

Twine, hemp, string, jute, fishing line.

Mosaic tiling.Cheesecloth (stretch for interesting effect). Don’t pick up tack cloth by mistake.

Not to be overlooked are the huge assortments of adhesives. Also tool boxes and containers for product organization.


Bookmark Doll for Altered Book

This doll bookmark is made so the head will peek out of the top of the book, and its legs can hang about 4 inches down from the bottom. It is a fairly flat doll so it will not be very bulky in your book.

Begin from the legs and work upwards to the head. Make legs from a flat trim, at least a half inch wide, found in a fabric store, a tape measure, cotton cording wrapped in 1 inch strips of colorful torn cotton or muslin, or 3 different types of fiber or ribbon braided. You can cut the fabric for wrapping the cording, but the torn edge provides a distinctive textural look. Cut lengths for legs that extend from the top of book to 4 inches below. You can leave the ribbon at the bottom plain or knot it for feet, even tie a bead on each one.

Make arms with similar items recommended for use as legs, although I suggesst using a different medium than the one you used for the legs. Make arms the length of the book. Since these will be inside the book, use a flat material. Look for unusual beads –two smallish, rather flat ones to tie on the ends for the hands.

For the body use a patch pocket cut out from old clothing or sew a simple pocket. Denim jean patch pockets are fun. I like to embroider on the front and add a few embellishments, but it’s not necessary. I’ve used ribbon, fibers, appliques, buttons, lace and beads to spruce up the body. Then fill pocket slightly with fiberfill or other stuffing. Pin the legs into the open side of pocket and sew, securely fastening the legs into the body.

Attach arms to top corners of the pocket and you can cover with lace, shawl, epilauts, etc. if desired.

Be creative making the head. Consider using flattened bottle cap, one inch diameter button, flat wooden circle, a large washer from the hardware store wrapped with light gauge wire or embroidery floss. Since the head is above the book, it can also be 3-D like a large wooden bead or a wad of cotton balls wrapped with wire or floss. Attach head to top of pocket, either by sewing if possible or by gluing with a strong glue appropriate for the material you are adhering.

Adding a face is optional. I often do not bother with features on 3-D heads, but I sometimes cut out a picture or photograph of a face to put on the flat surfaces. For hair I top the head with a material such as curly excelsior, unraveled 3 ply yarn, or multiple strings of crochet chains.

To personalize your bookmark, add other embellishments. Sometimes my doll sports a tiny straw hat or plastic ‘jewel’ beads at her ears for earrings. I have made a long scarf to wrap. around her ‘neck’. This is a project that I find hard to finish. I can always think of just one more thing to add.

ABCs for Altered Books

Altered books provide lots of creativity, spawning the use of all sorts of media and it’s fun.

Braid or macrame, heavy string or yarn; affix it in rows to the outside spine of book, letting threads hang from the bottom edge for a fringe effect.

Crumpled plastic wrap to apply ink onto page for background. Use 2 or 3 colors of ink if you’re adventurous.
Color block technique provides a colorful geometric background.

Duct tape, masking tape or black electrical tape can be used to mask part of a page or to use as a funky adhesive.

Embellishments such as buttons, fibers, flowers, beads and buckles add interest to a page.

Fabric painting on muslin or other material make a interesting decorative piece, especially if embroidered or machine sewn to paper.
Found objects make a flat collage, especially using a variety of collected papers, tickets, to-do notes, etc.

Graph papers that have patterns or figures drawn and colored on them make fun backgrounds. If you don’t have real graph paper, make your own. Let your lines look natural. No rulers allowed.

Hardware from a typical hardware store can be arranged in patterns — use washers, very thin nails, rubber gaskets, nuts, etc.

Ink jet prints for transfers make unusual copies of photographs to display as focal point.

Junk, found in thrift stores, dollar stores or antique shops, can be used as all types of embellishments or project starters.

Knots, the tiny embroidered ones, can be sewn as an outline of a special image or around the edge of a page.

Labels from products, glued to a page randomly, make an interesting background or layer.

Mylar balloons, deflated and cut in pieces, are fun to glue onto pages.
Metallic paint or pens add glittery accents.

Nail polish, in moderate amounts, can be used to draw or write on the page. If page is very thin, draw with polish onto a thick piece of paper and glue it on as part of a collage.

Openings cut through some attached pages make windows to hold tiny treasures.

Pockets, especially from jeans, are great to glue onto a page and use to hold secret messages, photos or manila tags with attached strings. This makes a nice textured page.

pieces, hand embroidered or machine sewn together, add lots of color. Can add a secret panel; one to lift for a surprise or make a pocket over an embroidered piece to hold a secret.

Ransom note cut out of magazine or newspaper letters can fill an entire sheet of paper, and can deliver all sorts of messages.
Ribbons, braided or singly, one or many colors, can be cut to hang from a page. Use as a multi-colored fringe from the bottom of the page.

Stencils can be used for positive or negative images; paint through a screen, plastic doily, a net bag that once held potatoes…

Thread a shoelace through holes punched on the edge of some papers to bind the pages together, or tie pages together with the lace.
Time lines personalize an altered book and at the same time add a new variety of marking.

Unryu papers or other hand-made papers add diversity.

Vellum paper to layer, scratch, stencil, or use in rubbings.

Weave thin strips of paper together to add to an altered book page, using paper that has been stamped, or has been handwritten on, or on paper that’s been covered with modeling paste and paint.
Wax relief — mark with wax crayon, then paint over with a variety of marking media.

X-acto knife to cut a window or door in an altered book and then use as a little altar or shrine.

Yarn, embroidery thread or fibers to wrap around a page, a card or to hold the entire book together.

Zebra paper or fabric and other wild animal prints add a slice of animal life to the book.

Emily, My Muse

Poem 2, by Miss Emily Dickinson, is presumed to be the second poem she wrote for possible publication. It was supposedly composed in 1850, but not published until 1894, after Emily had died in 1886. Upon Emily’s death, her sister Lavinia went through Emily’s papers. She discovered a small box filled with over 900 poems, tied into 60 simply constructed packets with twine. Lavinia went to a publishing acquaintance of Emily’s and insisted the poems be published. So in 1890 a selection of 115 poems were published and well-received by the public. At least seven more collections with Emily’s original poetry were published, the last one printed in 1945.

Today I read Poem #2. Four of the simple lines gave me the inspiration for artwork and a few lines of poetry or non-fiction. The verse sounds quite like a kindergarten class’s recitation, so I will create an altered book featuring Emily Dickinson, with 8 to 10 pages using Dickinson as the focal point. Since I am reading a poem a day of Emily’s, I should have plenty of imagination fodder. I need to remember to print a few words on each page if not the whole verse. I also might create several ATCs using the same basic kindergarten art techniques.


Here is a little forest,
Whose leaf is ever green;
Here is a brighter garden
Where not a frost has been.

Using heavyweight watercolor paper or mat board. Cut a large-sized rectangle to serve as a collage base, at least 8″x11 1/2″, preferably 12″x15″. Cut remaining paper into several cards 2″x3″ to use for ATCs (artistic trading cards.) Since I am only doing 2 or 3 ATCs, I will put the rest of the paper cards aside to use at a later date.

Make the backgrounds using a technique with modeling paste (found at Michael’s or an art store, or through a mail order store like Spread the paste onto all of the papers, using a palette knife and covering the surfaces as if you were frosting a cake. Create a different texture by using the long side of an expired or junk mail credit card that has been cut like a saw’s cutting edge. Other textures can be made with a natural sponge, or an “art’s only” toothbrush or comb. Use your imagination and make texture on the papers until you are pleased with the designs. If you want a softer look, you can use white gesso instead of the paste, but I love the modeling paste’s peaks and valleys. They hold their shape and provide more texture.

Dry modeling paste completely. This will take several hours or possibly overnight. Pick two yellow shades of acrylics, ones that are next to each other on the color wheel. Mix some glazing medium or other transparent medium into each color, about 2/3rds paint and 1/3rd glaze. Apply the lighter color with a natural sponge, soaking the paint into the cracks to enhance the texture. While the first coat is still wet, rub the paint lightly with paper toweling. Remove paint from the surface, but the color remains in the cracks. When the paint dries until it is sticky to the touch, wipe again with damp paper toweling. Then apply the second coat of paint in a shade a bit darker and repeat the process.

Next, there are two methods to make the tree trunk. First method: Make a personal stamp using a small piece of linoleum block and cutting tools or a piece of transparent vinyl and an eXacto knife (from an art store or In this case, cut a stretched diamond, long and narrow, which will be used to stamp the roughened bark of the tree. Draw the shape of the tree you want, and using the homemade stamp, ink the shape with brown dye ink. Then add a slight (very slight) bit of black ink over the brown. Second method: tear a piece of a yellow phonebook paper from last year’s book. ( This is a wonderful thing to save for all types of mixed media art.) Paint a whole sheet of a yellow page with brown paint (you may mix in some glazing medium) and let the words show through a bit. Use two colors for more contrast if you want, but only if you use another shade of brown. It’s okay to be a little messy with the paint as long as you stay pretty much in the shapes. Dry the paper carefully, using a heat gun to speed drying time. (Do not hold heat gun too close, as the paper can burn.) Then tear paper — not cut, tear! — into the shape of a tree trunk kinda following the lines. Apply tree to the background paper or mat board using matte medium like a glue.

Take a small natural sponge, about an inch in diameter, dot in slightly dark green paint (so that it contrasts with the background) and splat paint in the shape of a tree-top, covering most of the width of the paper. Rinse sponge well. Then use red and pink paint to dab onto bottom of the paper to make a garden of bright flowers. Finally, accent with bingo blotters (, using green for the leaves and red for the centers of the flowers.