By Christina VanGinkel
Altered books are a great way to use up old hard covered books that have otherwise outlived their usefulness. Maybe the titles are very outdated, pages might be missing, covers slightly damaged, or the books were just not very great to begin with. For whatever reason you might have, the books are no longer wanted in their original incantation, and are ideal for altering, as long as their spines are still intact. Disclaimer: Do not alter a book that might be of collectible value. Double check any title you might not be sure of its value, to make sure it is not a collectible. This can be done online at a venue such as Ebay, or a bookstore or outlet that deals with collectible titles.
If you do not have a hard covered book, you are willing to alter, check out a second hand bookstore, or a store such as Goodwill or St. Vincent DePaul. All of these venues usually have a selection of hardcover books that have seen better days, but have little or no value beyond their low cover price. Kid's books can also be altered, and if you choose a board book, you may even wish to skip the section on adhering pages together, and just alter the pages as they are originally aligned.
Once you have chosen a book for altering, decide on a theme. Themes for altered books usually focus on a central topic, but because they are being made on a one by one basis, the focus of each book can be whatever the maker wants it to be. I have myself compared altered books to scrapbooks, but there is a difference. An altered book is often made to commemorate a love of something, not necessarily family, kids, vacations, or other common scrapbook themes. However, any of these topics is as fair game as the next. Maybe you love cats, and would love to make use of a few favorite poems that commemorate your feline friends, along with some adorable cat pictures you have salvaged from magazines. Other altered books are more focused on a special date, or a person, any subject matter the artist wants to make a book about.
Scrapbook supplies can be used, including stickers, rub ons, etc., but other supplies, craft and everyday, can make great, altered book additions. Paints and collage materials are personal favorites. If you create with it, chances are it can be incorporated into an altered book project. Browse some online galleries of altered books for ideas if you are having a hard time picturing what an altered book is, or just let your imagination roam. From wallpaper scraps to painting, glitter and sequins to fabric, clay, photos, even text from another book or salvaged from the one being altered, anything goes!
Once a theme has been decided upon, plan the layout of your book. Decide how many pages your book is going to have, and group pages accordingly. Division of pages does not have to be equal and the more random the thickness the more natural the finished altered book will look. If you original book has one hundred pages for example, and you want your altered book to have five pages, maybe one page will be assembled from fifteen pages, and another page will have five. Once the page division has been decided on, use any craft glue you are comfortable working with to glue the sections of pages together. I usually apply a thin layer of decoupage friendly glue to each page in a section and press the pages one by one together, lightly pressing out wrinkles as I work. I then use large paper clips to hold the sections together, and to keep them separated as they dry.
Covers are commonly altered along with the interior of the books. If you plan to alter the cover, you may wish to rough up the cover somewhat depending on what you plan to do to it. If the cover is glossy, and you wish to paint it for example, sanding it will help your paint application stick better than if you just painted over the glossy surface.
Once the sections of your book are complete, it will be time to decorate and create your altered book. The sky truly is the limit. I have even seen a few altered books that had secret sections cut away inside for various purposes. Handles can be added, transforming the altered book into a persona of a mini purse. Miniature books can be altered just as easily as a larger book. Do allow each section to dry before beginning work on the next section. The more care you take in the construction, the longer your artwork will be around for others to enjoy.