Monday, May 31, 2010

Prepping Your Book For Altering

Since I know that I will be creating a niche, or shadow box opening in my book, the first thing I have to decide is where in the book that will be, and reserve enough pages to accomplish this.  For this book, I will have my niche in the front. (You can put one anywhere in the book, front, middle or back.)  I held together enough pages to create a niche as deep as I'd like, and attached a binder clip so the pages would be out of the way and I wouldn't accidentally use any of them.
At this point I don't know what I'll be putting in my niche, but if I did, I'd hold the object up sideways to the gathered pages to make sure it would fit inside the opening without protruding.  I'm just interested in exploring techniques here, so when the time comes, I'll find something that will fit.
That's all for the niche for now.  We'll come back to it when we're ready to create it.

Whether or not you're doing a niche (and if you're not, just skip the above procedure), you have to start removing pages from your book.  If you don't, your book will not even come close to closing when you're finished, and the pressure on the spine will be enough to cause it to break apart.

Even if you don't plan to add anything bulky, you still must remove pages. Everything, even a thin coat of paint, adds bulk to a page.   How many?  At least half of what you're starting out with (not counting the reserved pages for the niche, if you're doing one).  So however many pages are left, remove at least half.  I don't recommend just tearing them out, as this may cause other pages, pages you want to keep, to fall out.  Just go through the book, and holding a metal ruler near the binding, start removing pages, about a half inch or so from the binding.   I removed two pages at a time, turned two pages, then removed another two, and so on.  You don't have to be too precise, but distribute the removal throughout the rest of your book.
Don't worry about a torn page like the one above.  You can glue it down later, or it can be covered with paper, paint, ink, etc.
Here is what the book will look like after the page removal:
You still have lots of pages left to play with.  Maybe even too many.  Remember, you can always go back and remove more later on.  Or, you might want to glue two or more pages together to get a page that is very strong, to use when you're going to be adding very bulky or heavy embellishments.  Not anything you need to think about now.
This is how many pages I removed:
Don't throw them out!  Pages of text are great backgrounds for cards, ATCs, scrapbook layouts, tags, etc. There may even me some text or illustrations on the removed pages that you'll wind up using again in your AB.
What comes next is a matter of personal preference.  Some people might want to prep every page, front and back with gesso.  Gesso is a primer, and prepares the surface for future work.  If you want to totally cover all of the text, you'd use gesso.  Later on you can add color with paint, ink, chalks, pencils, markers, etc.
If you're like me, you haven't planned that far ahead.  You might want to decide one page at a time what to do.
Gesso isn't mandatory; I'm just telling you what it does.  Good to know too, it will strengthen the paper.
I'm adding a light coat of gesso here.  I want at least some of the text to show through.
You can skip the gesso and go right to paint, and paint a few pages with acrylics.  A light coat so the text shows, or a heavier one so it doesn't.

Another possibility if you want to add color without covering the underlying text, is to use a glaze.  You can buy glazes, but it is much more practical and cost effective to make your own.  Just take a quarter sized dollop of gel medium and mix into it a little acrylic paint, and you'll have a glaze.  Here is a black and white illustration in my book that I covered with a green glaze that I made:
Or you can spray your page.   Here I'm using some Colorwashes (Ranger product):

***IMPORTANT TIP***  Always cover the page next to the one you're working on with some wax paper, as well as inserting a sheet of it underneath the page you're working on, so your ink, paint, spray, etc. only goes where you want it (and it will keep the pages from sticking together while they dry.

The Colorwashed page is very wet, so I took one of the pages I'd removed from the book and used it as a blotter.  That does two things:  speeds up the drying process, and adds color to the second page.  Save that page.  You may use it in this book, or in another project.
Using the removed page as a blotter
On the left, the page used for blotting, on the right, the page in my book.  Notice the wax paper on both sides.
At this point I want to mention the technique of masking text.   There may be a word, a phrase, or a sentence of the original text that you want to keep.  Cover it with a lo-tack tape, such as painter's tape, then procede to gesso or paint or spray your page.
Before the page dries, lift off the tape.... reveal the words.  Who knows how this page will turn out?  I may wind up covering the words after all, but this phrase tickled me, and I wanted to keep it just in case I can use it on the page later on.

You can leave the page as it is above, or.....since I had some of that green glaze left over, I covered this page with it as well.  You can still see the phrase.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Choosing A Book To Alter

You can use just about any hard covered book, but be aware that most newer books have their pages glued in, as opposed to sewn in, and also may have been made with cheaper paper than the older books.  So, a somewhat older book will probably be sturdier and better for altering.  I emphasize somewhat older because if a book is very old,  the pages may be too fragile, the binding may be weak, and you don't want to put a lot of love and effort into a book that will fall apart.  We'll be doing a lot to these books....adding paint, ink, glazes, gesso, papers, embellishments....the book you choose has to be in good enough condition to stand up to all this altering.

Here is the book that I chose:

Why did I choose this one?  First of all, I like the way it looks.  It is large enough to do many pages.  One of the techniques I'll be doing is creating a niche in my book, so it had to be thick enough to do that and still have enough pages to do other things.  Bear that in mind when choosing a book.    Also, my book  has some interesting illustrations that I may want to include in some of my spreads:
The book is about the life of Henry VIII, which I found interesting.  If you can find a book with a subject that appeals to you, great.  But it really isn't necessary.  You may wind up totally covering each and every page so that the original text disappears.  But you also may decide to allow some original text to be a part of your design,
The most important reason, however, that I chose this book is its condition.  It is about 40 years old, the pages seem sturdy, and you'll see in the next photo, the pages are sewn together.
If you go to the Lisa Vollrath site I mentioned in the previous post, she has a section on "how to identify a sewn spine," that clearly illustrates what a sewn, as opposed to glued, book looks like.

Have fun choosing a book!  If you don't have one at home, look in flea markets, yard sales, second hand stores, and your local library for older books for sale.   

This is a good time to talk about themes.  Do you even want one?  My book will be all about technique, so I probably won't have an underlying theme, but I've done books with specific themes and if that interests you, there are tons to choose from.  Click on Lisa's blinkie on the sidebar, then click on altered books, and you'll see a link to well over 300 possible themes.

A theme can be broad, like "my life," or specific, like "my career," or even more focused, like "my first job."  Of course it doesn't have to be about you at all.  Look at the list of themes and you'll see the possibilities are endless.

Suggested Supplies

You probably already have everything you need, and you will not necessarily use all of the supplies mentioned here.  This list is more of a reminder of what can be used, than a shopping list.  
Cutting Tools:   scissors, craft knife and replacement blades (necessary if you want to make a niche in your book), hole punch (useful for adding danglies and charms), and don't forget a cutting mat.

Adhesives:  there are so many to choose from, and you probably have several.  A good paper adhesive of course (some suggestions:  PVA glue, PPA (Perfect Paper Adhesive).  Gel Medium is an excellent all purpose adhesive, and will hold embellishments down. It can also be used with acrylic paint to make a glaze.   If you’re adhering metal or very heavy objects, E6000 is excellent.   For light weight papers, a glue stick is fine.  Mod Podge works well too, if that’s what you have.     Sticky tape is best to use with folding techniques – it really holds the papers in place.    For masking sections of your pages,  lo-tack tape like painter's tape is excellent.  It will mask without ripping off the area when you remove it.

To add texture:  think household items:  bubble wrap, plastic wrap, cardboard, paper towels, sponges…..all can add texture to a painted surface.

To add color:  acrylics, inks, pastels, colored pencils, markers, sprays….anything goes. And don’t forget the paintbrushes.  Inexpensive ones are fine.

Rubber Stamps:  if you have them, they can be used to create backgrounds, focal points, etc.  As for the ink you use, just bear in mind that if you are going to be adding color later on with water based materials, you’ll want to stamp with a permanent ink so your image won’t smear.

Paper:  cardstock, wrapping paper, music sheets, old text, scrapbook paper, tissue paper…..

For collage:  clipart, magazine pages, old postcards, calendars, copies of old photos.  There are also lots of free graphics available on the internet.

Embellishments:  fibers, beads,brads, buttons, charms, wire, ribbon, lace, old costume jewelry, coins, keys, game pieces, postage stamps,  hardware store items such as washers, bits of metal, small hinges.  If you are a scrapbooker or card maker, you probably have a lot of embellishments that can be used in an AB.


I've created this blog to document an altered book project that one of my groups is beginning.  I decided to separate it from my regular blog so that it would flow uninterrupted by unrelated blog posts.  

The people going on this altered book journey come from all levels of expertise.  Some have done many altered books, some none.  Some are very experienced in papercrafts and mixed media projects and are comfortable using many different materials.   Some are just starting to learn.    So, I will definitely try to inform the newbies while keeping the veterans interested.

And PLEASE remember, I'm just one of the volunteer guides on this trip.  I have made altered books (from here on abbreviated as AB), and used many of the AB techniques in other projects, but I make no claims of being any kind of expert or last word here.  I only hope to share what I've learned through reading, observing, and trial and error (with the emphasis on error).

There are many good books on AB techniques out there, and other resources as well.  If you google altered books you'll be inundated with places to check out.  My wonderful co-guide, Diann, found a great site and I hope you'll use it as well as this blog as you begin to make your own AB.  Check out what Lisa Vollrath has put together.  (I also put a link to Lisa's site on the sidebar so you can easily access it whenever you want.)