how altering books keeps me from burning my canvases

My altered books are a springboard to greater projects.  I don’t know how many books I’m working on at any given time.  I don’t know if/when they are finished.  I just know that they are an essential part of my artistic process.  Art journaling is my unleashing activity, my creative catalyst.

A canvas, however, feels riskier.  It’s on an easel.  It’s white.  Or even if it’s not white, I paid money for it, and it has a certain intimidating stature.  It probably has a deadline attached to it, will require a title and a dreaded artist statement to be written about it, and all that pressure is a certain way to shut down the creative process.

In contrast, the art book was free.  It is not for exhibit, not for sale, not under time constraints, unhindered by theme, and so the work comes entirely from the heart and the creative soul.  It needs no title or artist statement.  I can burn it if I want to.  But usually, the altered books turn out wonderfully, and it is the canvas that I want to burn.

Here are a few recent altered book layouts …

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You are seeing them in-progress, as I will add more color to this one, and a bit of fabric to that one, paint over the top of another, and so on.  Mixed media is an ever-evolving artistic process that wanders and weaves its’ way through.  My job as artist is to keep pushing and challenging myself until I see something wonderful and amazing start to happen.  Half the art is the making; the other half is knowing when to stop.

Now back to those canvases …


fiber art books

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I have never sewed with children before, and I must admit, there is a reason I have chosen many other art projects that do not involve giving needles to children.  However, I’ve been assured repeatedly by enthusiastic and capable colleagues that children as young as 5 can sew.

We used a simple straight stitch to sew the binding.  Most kids got it, although almost everyone (including my high school helper!) needed help tying knots.  Once we got through straightening out the folks who were all tangled up in knots, students started sketching and cutting out their shapes and gluing them into their books.  I recommend Tacky glue, as some other white glue does not want to glue felt to felt.

One helpful trick that my teaching partner Nadine Smith thought of was to prepare some fabrics with pellon, or iron-on fusible web adhesive.   We ironed scraps of fabric onto pellon to give a stiff backing that is easier for kids to cut than flimsy fabrics.  They were able to draw on the paper backing and cut on their lines.  It provides a more colorful and interesting starting point for their shapes than one solid color, and is a great way to use up small scraps.

I just can’t stop cutting and gluing fabrics!  These mixed media books opened up a world of possibilities in my altered book series.  More to come on that later, but here’s a sneak peek …