Altered Books

by Sara Naumann

Why in the World Would I Alter a Book?

Youve seen them in magazines. Youve heard about them online. And even though altered books look pretty cool, you cant help but wonder, Now, why exactly would I make one of these?

Designer Paris Dukes and I pondered this questionthe longer we talked, the more ideas we came up with. From gifts to seasonal displays to creative exploration, weve got ideas and inspiration for you. Take a look!

Idea #1: To Give as a Gift

The altered book shown here was a gift to my mother, who loves a good cup of herbal tea. She also loves the color green, so I combined the two in this altered book. The pages are covered with green papers rather than the traditional paint method. I prefer covering pages with paper; its much faster and less messyplus the pages dont get warped. I added a yellow special tag for a splash of contrast and as a place to write.

This is an easy altered book to make, since you only need to decorate one spread rather than multiple pages. The niche on the right side is cut just deep enough to hold a couple of tea bags. Ive glued the rest of the pages behind the tea bag niche together.


Artsy Collage Alter-able Book
Artsy Collage Textured Papers
Part not in database (may have been discontinued): #4328
Part not in database (may have been discontinued): #4331
Paper Pizazz Words Embossed Paper Charms

Idea #2: To Make Something Totally Personal

Love quotes? Me too! And an altered book is a perfect place for a collection of wise words. Compile a collection of quotes, sayings, songs, poems, proverbs or lines from your favorite movie. Pick a theme if you want, or keep it general. Decorate a page or a spread with the quote (you can computer journal it and glue it to the page) and appropriate paper art, charms and embellishments.

This also makes a great giftfor example, you might find music quotes for a musician friend, or nature quotes for the gardener you know. One altered book artist I met recently is working on a gift for her mother. Shes decorating an altered book with scenes, snippets and one-liners from her mothers favorite novel, illustrating the story with papers, tags, charms and embellishments.

Idea #3: To Participate in a Round Robin

Round Robins are a popular way to share and make altered booksand a great way to make new friends. A Round Robin typically has 5-10 people; any more than that and the exchange starts to feel a bit unwieldy. Participants often hook up through online groups, but you could also find one at your local paper-crafting store. This is how it works:

  1. Pick a group coordinator, someone who maintains the timeline and acts as general troubleshooter. This person figures out the postage arrangements, if books are being mailed. She organizes the order in which the books are sent, and how many pages each person is decorating. She can also create an email group on Yahoo so participants can post emails and photos of completed pages.
  2. You decorate a couple of pages in a book, then send it to another participant in the group. She decorates two, three or four more pages, then sends it to the next person on the list. The book is sent to every person in the group, who each take a turn.
  3. While others are decorating your book, youre decorating pages in another participants book.
  4. After the book has passed to each member of the group, its returned to youdecorated in different styles to celebrate each participant.

School Teachers: I heard a great idea from a high-school English teacher, who thought a Round Robin altered book would be a great project for her students. She decided to coordinate it with the class regular reading, designating a specific book as a topic, then having students create a page exploring a certain theme in the book.

Idea #4: To Express Yourself CreativelyWithout Boundaries!

Wish you could get a little more personal in your scrapbook? Want to explore creative techniques? Nows your chance to do both. Think of an altered book as creative journal. Its a terrific place to play, explore, experiment and write without fear of making a mistake. It can be as personal as you wantas silly or serious as you want. You can also use it as a place for those wonderful 3-D embellishments that are too bulky for cards and too sharp or acidic for scrapbooks. In the book shown here, Paris used the books title as a jump-start to journaling, then illustrated the journaling with papers and embellishments.


Artsy Collage Alter-able Book
Artsy Collage Textured Papers
Artsy Collage Pretty Paper Art for tags, celestial images
Artsy Additions Blue 3-D Collection for fibers, ribbon roses
Part not in database (may have been discontinued): #4304
Artsy Additions Nature Embossed Paper Charms

Idea #5: To Make a Seasonal Display

I wanted to make a seasonal display for my house, but Im not very good at flower arranging! Instead, I decided to celebrate the autumn season with an altered book display.

I love this quote from Robert Browning, so I chose to make that my focal point, illustrating it with autumn-colored papers and a few three-dimensional embellishments. This book is held open and displayed on a plate easel on a shelf in my living room. (You can find plate easels at your local craft store.)


Artsy Collage Alter-able Book
Artsy Collage Textured Papers
Artsy Collage Nature Paper Art for tags, small quote, flower accent, skeleton leaf and paper leaf
Part not in database (may have been discontinued): #4304
Part not in database (may have been discontinued): #4306
Artsy Additions Nature Embossed Paper Charms

Idea #6: To Hide Tiny Treasures

Just like in the spy movies of old, an altered book is the perfect place to tuck away small treasures. A small drawer hidden in a book might contain a special surprise: I like this idea for giving small gifts, like a handmade necklace or bracelet. Youll need a small boxa jewelry box is perfect.

Its simple to make, too:

  1. Open the book and place a jewelry box on the right hand page, aligning one short end of the box even with one long edge of the page.
  2. Trace around the remaining three edges with a pencil. 3) Measure the depth of your box and add 1/8. This is how deep you need to cut in order to fit the box comfortably and allow it to slide in and out.

  3. Place a cutting mat under the pages and cut out the drawer space with an X-acto knife.
  4. Place a piece of wax paper under the cut drawer space. Use your finger to apply gel around the inner edges
    of the cut drawer space; let dry and place the box inside the space.


Artsy Collage Alter-able Book
Artsy Collage Textured Papers
Artsy Collage Pretty Paper Art for tags, dream letters and clock
Artsy Additions Blue 3-D Collection for fibers, beads, marble, skeleton leaf

Idea #7: To Make a Great Coffee Table Book

They say you cant tell a book by its cover. Often, altered book artists will simply place a closed book on the coffee table and watch as someone picks it up and leafs through it, only to discover that its not quite as it seems!

Why else would you make an altered book? Well, its been my experience that after you make one, you cant stop! If youre inspired, check out How to Make Altered Books, which covers tons of techniques like niches, covering pages, using three-dimensional embellishments, playing with the text and much more!