Monday, March 28, 2011

When is a Book not a Book?

When it comes to ephemera, is there anything sacred?  Is there an item that you would NEVER in a million years even DREAM of cutting up or decimating in any way?

How about books?

I know a couple of people who wouldn't ever consider dismantling a book!  Books are for reading and shelving.  Books are treasured tomes to be handed down from generation to generation.  Books are....

Well, sometimes books look like this (by the way, you can actually purchase book parts from Manto Fev and The Paper Flea Market!).
Now, before you think that I'm an unfeeling, reckless artist who would destroy anything if it meant having the perfect item to use in a collage - you're half right.  I will use anything, as long as it's freely available and not sentimentally tearing someone apart. 

Here's a great example - the annual AAUW book sale.  This year the Fond du Lac chapter of AAUW (American Association of University Women) held its 50th annual book sale at our fairgrounds. It's a huge event every year and I always wind up donating two ways:  by cleaning out my shelves of used books AND by purchasing books at the sale.  I got some doozies this year, including some fantastic vintage foreign books (above) and of course, more vintage magazines (as you can see from the photo, they're falling apart).

Will I, at some point, cut these babies up?  Absolutely.  The way I look at at it, I'm giving these books a new lease on life.  What good are they sitting in someone's mildewy basement, or worse - being tossed in the trash if they're not sold?  I prefer the sunnier outlook of book rescue - saving them from book purgatory.

I am a founding member of Fond du Lac Visual Arts and our very first themed show is entitled, "Cover to Cover", which will run from April 7-29 at our local library.  It's all about handmade books, altered books, and art (both 2D and 3D) made from book parts.  I am very excited about this exhibit and we've got over 25 books so far that will be displayed!  I have two entries, one of which is shown here:

I used a deep Hardbord canvas backward for the "classroom" and an old book cover for the roof.  For the "walls" I used bits of old schoolbooks and learning guides. The tiny desk is from a Japanese company called Rement.  I'm keeping the other piece under wraps until a later date (you'll find out why later - it's a surprise!).

Books and book pages have been used in so many of my ATCs, too - I think of it as a tribute rather than destruction.  :D


  1. Will photos of "Cover by Cover" be online anywhere? I'd love to see it. Also, I've just finished a two-year project where I used pages from new copies of my own book (a hardcover published in 2003 by Random House, now out of print)to make postcards, which I sent to other mail artists around the world. I finished up the project a few weeks ago with Card 300. They're all on

  2. Used to feel the same way about books. They were treasures and I couldn't imagine cutting into one!!...But then I discovered the joy of creating with book pages and illustrations. Now I search for old, abandoned books just for their use in my artwork. Don't get me wrong, I still cherish the majority of my books, but I'm with you and would rather see them re-purposed than just thrown away! Love your "See Spot Run" ATC!

  3. HI Mel - when I started altered art the Librarian in me rebeled at doing any kind of surgery - I finally forced myself to make the first cut and now I am into it - in fact, I tried hard to use original materials as much as possible - somehow does not seem environmentally friendly to scan and print (unless it is very precious) I'm with you - great finds as well and love the ATCs

  4. I love the bird guides and other similar books are fun to use in art. Some books I just cut out the pages that I like if it's damaged or old and scan some too. I have quite a few St. Nicholas books from the turn of the last century that are really gorgeous books, but falling apart. I'm going to bite the bullet and start saving and tossing.
    I'd love to see the entries to the book show too. The one you shared is really awesome!

  5. Ladies, I can't believe I hadn't replied yet to your lovely comments! :D Mary, you can see some of the exhibit photos here:
    Fantasia, Jewels and Dianne - we need to bite the bullet together! I do get "stage fright" every now and then with certain ephemera but let's all "just do it" and start cuttin'! :D