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Altered Books, part 1

Many months ago, Elizabeth asked me to describe how I make an altered book. I had grand visions of posting a series of tutorials, and like most grand visions, I got overwhelmed by it all and did nothing.

Besides, I’m not an artist. I don’t draw. I can’t paint. My handwriting isn’t naturally beautiful. There are fifty million creative people out there on the internet with beautiful altered books to show off, why add mine?

But maybe you’re like me, and you find those images more intimidating than helpful.  And since I’m getting ready to go on a road trip in a few weeks, and since that means I’m making an altered book travel journal to schedule/document the trip,  I figured I could at least show you how I do it.

Here’s what you need to know:

I make mostly travel journals because that’s just what works for me. I love that they’re useful and make a great repository of memories of the places I’ve been and things I’ve done. But you can adapt anything I’ve done into what works for you – an art journal, a regular journal, a memory book, guest book, anything.

I’m cheap and I’d rather reuse than buy new. This means I’m not out buying coordinating papers, stickers, and embellishments. I did break down and buy a $10 paper cutter, but I don’t have a cricut or a ton of stamps and die-cuts.  If I can’t make it from something I’ve already got, I’ll just figure out something else. I use a lot of paper bags. Stuff from magazines. Wrapping paper, tissue paper, scrapbooking stuff picked up on sale or second-hand. Buttons, fabric, torn-apart silk flowers. The books I use as bases are old discarded library books, last year’s calendars, and those cheesy pocket-sized gift books filled with ‘inspirational’ pictures and quotes. This is what I like; your mileage may vary.

The main thing is: this is personal. If it makes you smile, it’s good.

My first travel book happened by accident. Five years ago I was sent to a week-long conference. I had no guarantee of having reliable internet access, and I was worried about finding my way around an unfamiliar city and getting all the places I needed to be. I bought a cheap blank notebook and started filling that sucker with maps, addresses, hotel and flight reservation info, phone numbers ... any information I thought I might need.

Along the way I started decorating it by accident, and the rest is history. That notebook served me well and I've not taken a trip since without one.

Then there was the grand road trip through the southwest. Again, limited internet access, and what can I say? I'm a girl who likes to plan ahead. Hitting 6 major areas in 10 days required a lot of preparation, and it totally worked out. I loved arriving in a new city and having a list of things to do, see, and eat at my fingertips. I'm all about the options!

As I went, I pasted in souvenirs and wrote down memorable moments. I still love paging through this book. Especially since it's made from my day planner from the previous year - two sets of memories for the price of one.

By the time my impromptu Norfolk trip rolled around, I'd realized that I valued these books as much for their decorative/memory-holding properties as their usefulness. So this one still has the envelope pasted in the back (so useful for holding receipts), but now it's prettified: I did more with adding decorative elements like punching the corners of the pages and adding text.

I've always loved gathering bits of nature as I travel, so after I got home I added bits of shells and sand and leaves that I'd picked up.

The next three travel books I made got progressively more decorated - some had hollowed-out sections to hold souvenirs and some had pockets, but they all had plenty of blank space to fill up as I traveled. And fill it up I did: with recipes for pumpkin bread, quotes from books I was reading, plenty of journaling, and, after I got home, pictures.

They aren't necessarily fancy, but I love these books. They're not perfect; they're lived in. And I'm excited about making this new one to carry around for a week as I meet new people and encounter new places.

I'm even more excited to see what it fills up with. ♥

Up next: How To Prepare a Book for Altering, or But Isn't Evil To Tear Pages Out of a Book? (part two, part three, part four)


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 6th, 2012 08:06 pm (UTC)
I LOVE this post. Love, love, love. and am drooling over your travel notebooks. :)
Sep. 7th, 2012 06:31 am (UTC)
I love this! It looks terrific :D
Sep. 7th, 2012 10:43 am (UTC)
These are just gorgeous.
Sep. 7th, 2012 12:40 pm (UTC)
I totally understand how posting something like this can become overwhelming such that you simply don't do it, but I am So Excited to see this! And looking forward to more. I even have a book picked out to be my first "tear into", as it were. I think it'll be a winter project, but that's okay. I still have to psych myself up a bit more to actually, you know, break a book. ;-)

Sep. 7th, 2012 12:51 pm (UTC)
Re: Yay!
I am excited too! I guess I just had to wait for it to be the right time. :)
Sep. 7th, 2012 02:25 pm (UTC)
Wow, I had never heard of altered books before, but I really like yours!
Sep. 9th, 2012 08:09 pm (UTC)
I am super excited for these posts!! Thanks for writing them!
Sep. 10th, 2012 05:48 pm (UTC)
Aw, thanks for reading!

Also, your icon = perfection.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )