Altered Book Methods ~ As the Earth Turns
Winter ~ Page 1I have been aching to get started in this book. I can’t emphasize the “aching” part enough. Sometimes it felt like the insides of my fingers wanted to crawl out of their skin; they were itching with anticipation. But I had to hold back. I had to finish other half-started projects before I began my second altered book. I still don’t feel caught up with everything I need to do. In fact, I probably never will.
I picked up As the Earth Turns at our local library’s used book sale. I get a lot of good books there. I picked this one because of the title and the way that the book is divided into sections – one section for every season of the year.
But one thing that I did which made it easier to get started was to clean up my work area. I have a relatively small space to work on, and it’s surrounded by the supplies that I tend to reach for the most often. These things slowly start to creep towards the center until I feel like I’m working in a hole the size of a postage stamp.
My first step was to skim over the “Winter” pages, and using an Exacto, I cut out pages of text that had words about winter that appealed to me.
Each new section of the book has it’s own chapter title page, so that’s where I started. I used some chalk to color over the title “Winter.” Then I cut a piece of tulle and used double stick tape to tack it onto the page.
I took a piece of while cardstock, and using a scrapbooking template, cut out a rectangle to fit around the title. I covered the card stock with clear crystalline paper which I painted sparkle white. I cut an X in the paper over the window opening, wrapped the paper around the edges of the card stock and glued them on the back. I tore the border off a paper napkin and glued that along the bottom of the two pages. Click here to read tips on how to tear a napkin.
Next I used gel medium to glue the card stock onto the book. I had folded the card stock in half before I started working on it, and I pushed this folded edge into the gutter of the book. I put wax paper between the double page spread, closed the book, and weighted it down with a box of kosher salt and my pasta machine.
After the pages had dried, I took some silver-tipped matchsticks and wrapped silver wire around them. I used gel medium to glue these around the title window.
- Don’t touch the napkin while it’s still tacky. I did this and accidentally lifted a portion of the napkin off the page.
- Don’t press the book closed without putting wax paper or something else between the crystalline papers. They stick together badly. I brushed the pages with macro pearl PearlEx, which I think will help.
Winter ~ Page 2
This page is not the way I envisioned it. Originally I wanted to have paint squares all across the page, but I didn’t have enough of them. I wanted to express the idea of all the different shades of white, which is one of the colors I associate with winter.
When I created the found poem from the book’s text, I zeroed in in the phrase “and the farm at a distance was a smutted circle.” You know how that is when the grayness of the day just seems to dissolve the edges of everything? That’s the feeling I wanted to give but without using the explicit image of a farm in the distance. The muted gray circles take this idea to the extreme.
Outside the house
a busy downfall of flakes
across acres of old snow.
Drifts piled up
over the sills.
Fence posts were hidden
and the farm
at a distance
was a smutted circle
the afternoon sky.
One day when I was in Home Depot with my husband, I loitered by the Ralph Lauren paint chips display and sampled every shade of white I could find. It’s really quite amazing how many different colors of white there are. I used a square punch to punch out the chips. After I organized the words to the poem, I glued them on the chips and set them aside.
I covered both pages with Pearl Lumiere. I used my heating tool to speed up the drying process. Next I gathered up a bunch of round objects from around the house that I could use to stamp with: a wine cork, a little medicine cup, an Exacto cap, a plastic water bottle cap, and the top of a little paper clip holder.
I mixed up shades of gray paint and started stamping. I filled up a page with one type of circle, let it dry a bit, and then went around the page with another type of circle. When I was done, I liked the looks of the circle, but not the background color; it was too shiny white. So I mixed up some white paint with Golden’s Acrylic Glazing Liquid in a ratio of about 1:3. I painted this all over the circles and it muted the grays and silvers and gave the page a softer look.
Next I glued down the silver and white Mizhuki cords and arranged the text squares across the pages.
The Mizhuki cord is a challenge to glue down straight. I used the gel medium which worked well and doesn’t show at all even though I glopped it on.
Winter ~ Page 3
I decided to alternate pages of just art and pages with text, just to stretch myself a little. I really feel that my altered books are like artist journals for me where I get to try new things. I think that I might take a break from the book after I’m done with “Winter,” and try a larger scale collage with the Ghost Layers and Color Washes technique.
One day last week I cleaned off the kitchen counter, filled up a shoebox with paints and texture pieces and brushes and all kinds of medium, covered the counter with freezer wrap, and spent the afternoon decorating paper with my 11 year old son.
I used Mead sketch paper to paint on. I’m sure there’s better quality paper for this purpose out there, but that was all I had on hand, and since I was feeling inspired, I used it. I knew I wanted to make a pure collage to go in the “Winter” section of the book, so I only brought out paints that fit my theme: different shades of white, silvers, and black.
I had so much fun, and so did my son. We played for a couple of hours. (Click here for close-up pictures of the papers I created along with directions for how to make them.).
I based the structure of this piece on the quilting book Ghost Layers and Color Washes by Katie Pasquini Masopust. I had originally read about how to adapt this method of quilting to paper in an article written by Rona Chumbook, which appeared in Somerset Studio, Jan./Feb. 2002.
The idea is to make three layers of design: the base, the ghost, and the color wash. These are layered on top of each other and each piece is given a designated shade of fabric to create a very colorful piece that has a lot of movement in it. I feel like I did a pretty good job on my first try, and even though it’s a challenging process, I’m sure the next time will be easier and will look better.
There were some places where my paper didn’t match up exactly right, so I camouflaged those areas with mizhuki cord and silver bric-a-brac.
I collaged onto premium ink jet paper, and when I was finished and the piece had thoroughly dried, I marked the center on the back with pencil, and carefully folded it in half. I put double stick tape on the back and then adhered it into the book, being careful to tuck the center fold into the gutter as far as possible. What you see in the picture at the top of the page is what the collage looked like before being put into the book. I thought it would be easier to scan that way.
Although that one piece of paper in the middle looks tannish, it’s really silver. In addition to the decorated papers I made, there is also an assortment of store bought papers and a napkin that I got in a swap. The papers are all different shades of white, silver, and gray. The scan doesn’t do justice to the shimmer of the metallics and the sparkle of the PearlEx and glitter.
- Make pattern pieces from sturdy poster board not just tracing paper.
- Number and label the pieces carefully to help keep things organized.
- Find a way to temporarily keep pieces in position before gluing.
Winter ~ Page 4
There were a lot of false starts on these pages. I originally painted the book pages a flat gray acrylic, but when I put the transparency over it, it was just too dull. I tore those pages out and used the silver inks instead.
I painted the flower pots what I hoped would look like terra cotta, but they ended up too red. My son liked it, but I just looked at it and said, “yuck.” I used a piece of cheese cloth dipped in water and elbow grease to scrub off the paint.
I wanted the text to go around the outside of the page, but it wouldn’t fit. Then I tried sewing the words together – very creative sounding, huh? Did not work at all. Luckily, the little sewing needle holes on the text strips are barely noticeable.
As I worked past midnight writing my “found” poem, I wondered why I was making all the effort. Every time I have given The Motor Girls to someone to look at, they never read the words, just “oohed” and “ahhed” over the pictures. (Which is of course a wonderful reaction to have!) I keep wanting to say, “Slow down. Read what it says. Those words took as much time as the artwork. Those words are what guided the choices I made for the artwork.”
Anyhow, the bottom line is, I have to remind myself that I’m doing this just for me. Even though I’m sharing my work with others on the Internet, when I’m writing the poem, or scrubbing off the gross colored paint, or cutting out unruly threads, I’m doing it just to make myself happy. Just to do the best I can at that moment. No real disasters for me, just constantly learning.
She sat by a window and peered out.
The windows of the sitting room
were thick with spiraled frost,
and her breath showed on the air.
Winter, she thought, had its back up.
Outside, hills and meadows, pastures and swamps
lay silent under a stiff crust of snow.
Sun glittered along the crust and the moon
hung pale in the east.
Sometimes she thought of spring.
She seemed to smell it in the air
like Flowering Almond blossoms.
The snow whirled between the house and the road
but she did not mind
even if the snow should cover the windows.
She knew things would be different in the spring.
This page was pretty complicated. It’s difficult to see here, but the image of the woman at the window is printed on a transparency. I used Photoshop to scan and alter a piece of clip art that I had. I wanted it to look like we’re looking through a window at the woman who’s looking out the window at the scene from the next page. I am a real novice with Photoshop and it took me quite a long time to figure out how to do this so that it looked the way I wanted. I had to position the window just right, so the edge of it wouldn’t be too close to the gutter. And I didn’t want the woman’s face in the fold either. It was quite a challenge! When I was done, I printed the picture and then had the transparency made at the copy shop.
I used acrylics to paint the back of the transparency in the places where I didn’t want the book text to show through: the woman’s hands, face, collar, and apron. The acrylics dry pretty fast, so you have to blend quickly. Whatever color you lay down first on the film is the one that’s going to show through on the other side, although a cool thing you can do is scratch paint away from the transparency in places.
Since the transparency was going to cross the book gutter, I had to do something to allow it to fold when the book was closed. So I carefully measured and cut down the center of the transparency. I used a piece of scotch tape to tape the two pieces together again and created a flexible hinge that allows the two sides of the transparency to fold together when I close the book. The scotch tape is completely invisible behind the transparency. I hope it holds up okay.
I cut a shallow niche in the space where the smaller window is. I glued several pages together, marked the spot with pencil, and cut the pages out using an Exacto blade.
I painted all over the book pages with silver acrylic ink which is just transparent enough to let some text ghost through.
I went on to do the next page and took a picture of it, which I then scaled down and glued into the window niche. I then glued the transparency onto the book pages using gel medium. I initially tried to adhere it using double stick tape, but I really messed that up. It was very difficult to place the transparency on the page in a way that it would lay flat when open and not buckle up when the book is closed. You can’t tell from the picture, but when the book is open, the transparency doesn’t really lie flat on the page. I’m not sure that I’ll do a transparency across a double page spread again. It’s just too inflexible. I think a Contact paper transfer would be a better choice.
It took me a couple of hours to write the poem that goes with this page. I had cut out some sentences when I first started working on “Winter,” and then I needed to put them together. I used bits and pieces of sentences and phrases and rearranged them and cut and glued and added new words from other pages I’d cut out until I got the poem just the way I wanted it. But then, the text wouldn’t fit around the outside of the page, which is how I intended to place it. It was a little tricky finding a place to put the text that wouldn’t cover up the picture. I considered several different ways of doing it and ended up with this, which I think worked out okay. I used Perfect Paper Adhesive matte for this work because it’s so light and flexible.
Transparencies don’t bend; it’s not easy having them lay across the gutter on a double page spread.
Winter – Page 5
This page was much easier than the last one. It was very similar to the Crystal Bay page I did in the Motor Girls. I was surprised with myself that I had forgotten how to do the overlapping pages for the snow. Since I no longer have the Motor Girls book, I was grateful to look at the web site to refresh my memory of how I did that page.
This is my last “Winter” page. Spring is next, but I’m going to have to do some other projects first. I have some new jewelry ideas, and my dad wants me to make him a BIG collage for his house, and I’ve been collecting stuff for a series of collages I want to try with an Americana theme. Time to take a break from As the Earth Turns!
I cut a piece of scratch paper the same dimensions as this double page spread and planned out the shape of the snow fields.
I then cut out 10 pages from the book. I used these pages to make the layers of snow. I used my outlines from the scratch paper to cut the layers the way I wanted them. I actually made the left and right sides of the spread separately and taped them together in the back after they had been painted.
On my palette I mixed up sparkly white and gunmetal silver acrylics. Into this mixture I added my iridescent glitter. I started very light and painted the larges pieces of snow in the back first. For each additional layer, working forward, I added a little more silver paint so that the snow would appear more shadowed as it came forward. When all ten snow pieces were painted, I painted the book background.
After everything had dried, I began gluing the layers and the trees onto the page. I layered the trees between the snow banks and used thicker trunks in the foreground and thinner trunks towards the back to give the picture some depth.
I smudged some silver oil pastels into the snow for shadow. And that was that.
I also took a picture of this page with my digital camera and used it in the window of page 4.