Altered Books from Karen's Whimsy




Welcome to my Altered Books Gallery. Inside you'll find a variety of altered books ranging from those that started as children's board books, to other sewn-binding books that have been used as the basis for painting, collage work, and found poetry.

Altered books have been defined as "any book, old or new that has been recycled by creative means into a work of art." The first time I saw an example of this intriquing art form, it immediately sparked my interest. Here was an opportunity to use the text of books, old and new, to inspire me.

Although I have loved and been surrounded by books all my life, it didn't take me long to get over my anxiety over "defacing" a book. So many books are tossed into landfills, that I believe I'm actually saving a book by rescuing it from obscurity and using it to create a piece of art. Now I use books as my canvas-- to create altered books, reliquaries, or book sculptures that are personally meaningful and that spring from my own imagination or eminates from the spirit and words of the book's original author.

Creating altered books is something anyone can do because there are no rules and your only limitation is your own imagination. In these pages you will find many suggestions on how to create your own altered books as I share what I've learned-- my successes as well as my failures.


Altered Books :: Altered Books Gallery

Altered Books :: Broken Doll Series

Altered Books :: Broken Doll Series

My latest series of altered books is a little dark, a little quirky. A mixture of book altering and assemblage, this Found Object Art :: Broken Doll Series uses cast-off dolls and other intriguing items to create book sculptures which have a distinct, unique feeling all their own.




Altered Books :: The Gift

Altered Books :: The Gift

My mother had Alzheimer's, and I watched the woman I knew vanish before my eyes. This altered book is about what that feels like to me. I use a bird's nest and eggs that she threw away along with images of her as a child and young woman to create one of my Found Object Assemblages :: The Gift. My mother passed away this May. This is my gift to her -- and to my father, who now has the book at his home.



Altered Book :: The Art of Happiness

Altered Books :: The Art of Happiness

In one of my most recent altered books, the Altered Book Journal :: The Art of Happiness, I play with vivid, bold color combinations. Using a scrap from a magazine as my starting point, I collage, play with my water color crayons, and create a little found poetry along the way.




Altered Books :: Dia de los Muertos

Altered Books :: Dia de los Muertos

Inspired by the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, I made a series of three altered books which draw on the traditions and images assosciated with the holiday. I used bright colors, made skeleton figures and tiny sugar skulls, and basically had a lot of fun creating these Dia de los Muertos Altered Books!




Altered Books :: Poetry Book

Altered Books :: Poetry Book

When the International Association for Altered Book Artists put out the call for people interested in providing classes for its members, I offered to teach a series of poetry writing workshops for those who want to put their own original poems in their altered books. They graciously accepted the offer, and so I am putting the poems that I write for the class into a new altered book of my own. My Poetry Book is definitely going to be an extended work-in-progress. I hope you'll take a peek inside.




Altered Books :: Dreams and Delights

Altered Books :: Altered Book Techniques

In Altered Book Techniques :: Dreams and Delights, I share some of my ideas for incorporating art and found poetry into altered books. The art in this book is inspired by Persian miniatures.




Altered Books :: Heart-chitecture

Altered Books :: Heart-Chitecture

The Altered Book :: Heart-chitecture was inspired by the incredible art work of Daniel Merriam. After struggling for days with my own art in the book, it was a relief to have the poetry flow out like a little miracle. Also, if you enjoy Daniel Merriam's art, you may like reading my essay, Meeting Daniel Merriam.




Altered Books :: Winter Moon

Altered Books :: Winter Moon

In one of my favorite examples of Altered Book Arts :: Winter Moon started as a poem. A lucky find of a moon-shaped board book at the library book sale, inspired me to create a home for the poem. One of the fun things about making altered books out of children's board books, is the variety of shapes you can find.




Altered Books :: 18 Wishes

Altered Books :: Altered Book Art :: 18 Wishes

I asked my neice what she wanted for her 18th birthday. Since she's always liked my altered books, I wasn't surprised when she said, "Make me a purple book with fairies." So happily I made Altered Book Art :: 18 Wishes just for her. It's full of fairy art and fold-out pages and eighteen tiny tags with a wish on each one.




Altered Books :: Sea Dreams

Altered Books :: Sea Dreams

I originally created my Altered Board Book :: Sea Dreams for the La Mer issue of Somerset Studio. They rejected it, but I still love it. Filled with mermaid images and lanquid shades of blue, green, and turqoise, it was the first multiple-paged altered board book that I ever created--and was one of the first altered books I ever sold.




Altered Books :: Love~Faith~Constancy

Altered Books :: Love Faith Constancy

I used a band saw to cut this board book into the shape of a house and then used transparencies for the little windows inside. I played with a pop-up too. I really liked the colors of pink and brown in this altered book. Faith~Love~Constancy -- what families are all about.




Altered Books :: A Cup of Sky

Altered Books :: A Cup of Sky

The challenge I made for myself in my Altered Book Pages :: A Cup of Sky, was to write a found poem for every chapter and to not use any collage. Unlike my previous altered books, I wanted this one to be totally my own original art work and decoration. How could I represent what I wanted with my mediocre drawing skills? I learned a lot while I created A Cup of Sky, and it is still one of my favorite altered books.




Altered Books :: The Astronomer's Apothecary

Altered Books :: Astronomer's Apothecary

I was inspired to create this altered book for a contest. I had to use the image of the little girl, which I loved, and the rest of the book was decorated entirely with torn paper. This piece went on to become a featured image in Amber Lotus's ART PLAY calendar for 2005. What an honor it was to have one of my altered books surrounded by the beautiful art work of eleven talented artists.

With this Altered Book Tutorial :: The Astronomer's Apothecary, I hope to help you find inspiration for your own altered book.




Altered Books :: As the Earth Turns

Altered Books :: As the Earth Turns

Altered Book Ideas :: As the Earth Turns was one of my most ambitious altered books, with five double page spreads for every month. Unfortunately, I got bored in "Summer," and could never get myself to work in it again, even though I love so much of what's in there-- especially the poetry. Maybe someday . . .




Altered Books :: Art in a Child's Hand

Altered Books :: Art in a Child's Hand

I created Making Altered Books :: Art in a Child's Hand for an exhibit of miniature altered books by ISABA. The quote by Picasso inside the book really reminds me to have fun with art and not to take it too seriously.




Altered Books :: Masquerade

Altered Books :: Masquerade

This Gesso Altered Book :: Masquerade was the first board book I ever created, and the second of my altered books. I was relieved to discover that I could create altered books in a week or two instead of several months, which was how long it took me to make The Motor Girls on Crystal Bay.




Altered Books :: The Motor Girls on Crystal Bay

Altered Books :: Motor Girls on Crystal Bay

It was The Motor Girls on Crystal Bay that started my whole adventure into altered books. As I posted my flub-ups and successes on my web site, I heard from so many people and found a whole community of artists who were willing to encourage and support me. I am proud of the art work and poetry in this altered book, but the memories of the journey into creating altered books are what I'll always treasure.






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