Altered Books

After several years of wanting to work on altered books, I’ve finally had the opportunity to create one!

I made my first altered book last spring as a part of an exhibition at the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center. A staff person there, who is also a part of one of the art groups I belong to, came to a meeting and asked if we would consider contributing to the exhibition. Many of the women in the group had 6 or 7 altered books that had been completed over the years, but I hadn’t any. I thought that this would be a great opportunity to at least try an altered book so I enthusiastically signed up for the project.

I really enjoyed the process of working on the book, and really felt proud to have my book displayed alongside my much more experienced artist friends.


I used an old Reader’s Digest condensed reader book and titled the project “Water”. I then gathered lots of vintage illustrations and filled the glued down pages with all sorts of ocean creatures. I added a pet store treasure chest in the cut out part of the book, glued down sand for the ocean floor and used some real shells to finish it off.


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When I get more time, Id like to do more altered books, perhaps an “Earth” and a “Wind” to go with the “Water”.

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Back in Business Again

I think I can safely say that 2013 was a very trying year for me. Even blogging was an effort so without really meaning to, I ended up taking a year off from writing and took fewer photos. Now we have a new year to look forward to, and I’m ready to start again.

Let’s start the New Year off with a box that I’ve just completed. I bought the box from Hobby Lobby a year ago. It had an interesting design and an asian look to it, reminding me of a cricket cage.

I hung onto it until this August. One of the art groups I belonged to decided to get together and try a project using chalk paint. It seemed the ideal time to try the new paint and cover the box. I did not like the end result at all. The color selection was limited so I chose a sky blue and a dark wax to cover and age the piece. Blue was the wrong choice. I kept thinking of it as Chinese looking box and that it should be a dark red, not sky blue.

The box sat on a shelf until November when I discovered Inka Gold. It is a creamy type paint with bits of mica for shine and is applied with a clean rag or your fingers. You just buff it after applying to create a sheen. No wax, no varnish – and it comes in several colors, including a bright red. It smells a bit like shoe polish, but is much softer.


After I sanded off the wax from my previous attempt, I applied the red. Loved it! The slats in the box really took a long time but well worth it. I replaced the cheap clasp closing the lid with a nicer one, added some legs and corner bits from Tim Holz and lined the inside with some Graphic 45 paper.





Now I wish that I had taken some before shots, to compare with the end result and final piece. I guess I hated my first attempt so much that I just couldn’t take a picture.

Side note: I just started taking an online class called Creative Jumpstart( ) and as part of the class, we were asked to show and tell something from one of the Luminarte products. I already loved their twinkling h20s and silks, but had no idea they also produced Inka Gold as well. Guess I can add that to my list of favorite products.

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A Charm-ing Valentine’s Day

 One of my goals for this year is to not just pin craft ideas on Pinterest, but to actually use them as inspiration and create my own crafty things based on the pins. Almost immediately after I made this resolution,  one of the art groups I belong to, came up with a similar challenge to make something inspired by something found on Pinterest. It sounded like a good time to start working towards the goal.

The original Pinterest pin, from , made from paperclay, painted, aged and made into jewelry.

My hearts were also from paperclay, but ornament rather than jewelry sized. I painted and aged them, but didn’t really like how they looked, so I rubbed a little gold ink over them as an accent.



A variety of stamps and stencils created the impressions in the clay, and I painted them in luscious watermelon and raspberry wine colors of Luminarte Silks acrylic paint. 

I was also participating in a valentine charm swap, and since I’m not very adept at working with beads and wire, came up with 3 fairly simple charms. 



I bought the components at the local craft store, glued in a bit from an old book page and added a hand-painted heart using the Luminarte Silks painted on tissue paper. There is mica in the pots of color, creating a shimmer to whatever you paint.

After the first simple charms were made, it gave me the confidence to make some little heart charms from my stash of paperclay. I painted them purple with a slash of Celadon green then decided I wanted to add a dangle bead at the bottom. I was willing to make the dangle myself, but found some cute ones at the craft store in the perfect color so I decided to use them instead.



I do think that the purple came out too garish, and I would have re-done them if I could, but these were to be mailed out and I was beginning to run out of time.

Two charms were the limit, then I read an article in one of my craft magazines about using a die cut machine to cut aluminum, such as soda cans. I really wanted to try out this technique and made a third charm to mail out with the other 2.



I cut out off the top and bottom of a couple of diet coke cans and used the smallest die I happened to have: butterflies. The die cut machine did a great job, leaving a slight bevel in the metal so the edges were not sharp. I added another little dangle and even though they were too big for the actual charm swap, I included them as an added bonus.

I tend to worry too much about wrapping wire for jewelry, and because it’s not something I do very often, it takes me hours to complete a project. Because most of the wiring was already done, I could enjoy the creative process and try out some new techniques.

addendum: I’m currently taking an online class called Creative Jumpstart at and they are doing a show and tell with Luminarte products so I’ve decided to show off my Luminarte Silks charms. My favorite go-to paints is either the twinkling H20s or the Silks. I love the zing that the mica in the paints give.

Posted in crafts, goals, hearts, holiday, jewelry, ornaments, swaps | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Secret Garden


This autumn, I completed the largest mixed-media piece I had ever worked on. The altered book art group that I belonged to had committed to an exhibition at the local library. We were to choose a favorite book and interpret it within a frame. I knew immediately that my book choice would be The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I also knew that I wanted a gate that could be opened to a garden inside of a shadow box.

First, I found the frame. It was a really hot day in July and I had decided to drive in my little Honda hatchback (no air conditioning) over to South Haven, about a 40 minute drive. There are lots of dusty old antique shops over that way and I thought they might have what I wanted at a bargain price. After stopping at 2 other places, I finally found what I wanted at the Junque Shop. It was a window frame rather than a picture frame and really big, much bigger than I needed, but it had this old neglected look and a beautiful arched shape which I felt would echo the arched shape of the gate in the story.


Finding the perfect shadow box was much more difficult. I wanted a shallow box with a side hinged cover. I found several but none seemed the right size for the frame. Time was beginning to get a little tight. Even after finding the right box, I couldn’t figure out how to reproduce the arch of the gate and make it work. I tried experimenting with papier-mache but it just didn’t look right.

I finally decided to use a large shrine that I bought earlier that spring, not for any reason except for the low price. It was not a shadow box in any sense of the word, plus it was a triptych – two smaller arches that opened up to a larger arch. It had no depth and I knew I wasn’t going to get it to lay flat, but I pretty much had run out of time and couldn’t quibble.


I created a double gate, used thin strips of poster board covered with bits and pieces of pages torn from the book. I glued a lock in the door and spent a huge amount of time trying to get a small key to fit into it, but when that proved an impossible task, I finally gave up. In case the audience wasn’t sure what book it was, I added a sign to announce it. Then I painted the outside with acrylic paint and a brown sharpie pen.

The inside was a lot more fun. I had seen a tree on pinterest, made out of a brown paper bag and decided to duplicate it for the half-dead tree in the garden. In retrospect, I wish I had added leaves to the tree, but didn’t think of it at that time.  I used several copies of old pictures of Gertrude Jekyll’s garden taken in the early 1900’s and cut up different elements to create a layered dimensional collage of an English walled garden in full bloom – just how I imagined the garden in the book. There was even a little robin in the picture. I glued a sky into the background and added some more 3-D interest by adding sphagnum moss spilling over the wall.




with the door open

I was still working on the interior when I decided that I wasn’t going to finish in time for the show. I was only able to work on it weekends and that was only sporadically.

So, I emailed our contact person and let her know that I wasn’t able to complete the project. She asked me how much time I needed. I thought about a week. She told she would look into it to try to get me that week. She did get permission to let me turn it in late, but by then, the 7 days had dwindled down to 3. I managed to get the main piece done and had also decorated the outside frame with iconic images from the book.


Mary’s hat and jump rope


The robin and the ivy that hid the gate.


It was Friday morning and I was trying to figure out how to “float” the shrine in the middle of the window frame, when I slipped down a couple a steps and fell into the frame.  The big toe on my left foot was seriously hurting and the whole outside of my right foot was swelling and turning a lovely shade of purple. However, the only thing I could think of at that moment was the frame, caught before any damage was done.

I was in considerable pain and had this feeling that I wouldn’t be able to make it to the library that day as I had promised, so I immediately called our contact and managed to postpone the picture hanging until Monday, then called my friend at work. I had been scheduled to come in the next day, but at this point I could barely walk. She told me to not worry about work and get to the doctor right away. So I did.

Somehow I managed to drive my standard Honda hatchback (the foot clutch was practically impossible) to the immediate care center where they x-rayed both feet. My big toe was fractured right up into the “knuckle” joint, the other foot badly bruised. The nurse showed me how to tape the toe up, told me to stay off my feet as much as possible and sent me home.


Broken toe – you can’t really tell, but it is pretty swollen. The right foot was worse.

Since both feet were swollen and very sore, I pretty much stayed in bed for the next 2 days. Finally, on the 3rd day I managed to hobble downstairs to finish up the frame. I promised to get the art work in so it could be hung and I couldn’t put it off again.

I was still taking sick time from work but I thought that if I could drive over to the library and deliver the piece, I could probably handle going back the following day. Driving was very difficult, but I did get there, got the picture hung along the entrance hallway, drove back home and fell back into bed. Made it!


on display

I didn’t really get a chance to view the piece until a month later when we had a reception for the displayed artwork; This, however, will need to wait until next time as this post has gone on much too long.

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Weekly Drawing Challenge 3

I’ve been participating in a weekly drawing challenge, along with one of my art group friends Joanne, and her friend Jeanie. We take turns making up themes, drawing our interpretations then emailing the results to each other. This batch of sketches takes us up to mid-December.

I hope to improve my drawing skills but some drawings are good, some not so and the quality of the drawings seem to see-saw back and forth, rather than any consistant improvement. It’s kind of discouraging.

Here is a rundown of the current batch and my notes for each.

Am I Blue

I did this one quite some time ago, but I forgot it in the last post. Most of my drawings were roughly sketched out in pencil, outlined in a fine point Pitt pen, then colored in with Tombow markers. For this picture, I added some colored pencil shading and a bit of colored spray over a stencil to create a background.

Self Portrait

I really didn’t like how this one turned out. Cheap paper does make a difference in your work. Always go for the better paper. I had some real difficulties getting the tombows to blend properly when I painted with them. I had this picture in my head of what I wanted to do, it was a good idea but I just could not get it down on paper properly. I ended up cutting off a good bit of the bottom,then, finding the background boring sprintzed some of my water color spray which spattered in the wrong spot. I’ll try this one again at some future date and see if I can do a better job.


Self Portrait, Grateful, Flight and Winter is Coming were all done on the same afternoon. Where I really didn’t like how the Self Portrait turned out, I really loved doing Grateful (I forgot the theme and called it Gratitude.) I had a lot of fun figuring out how to stack the books, how to color and shade them, even in deciding what the titles would be. And even though I used the same paper as the self portrait, the tombows behaved and I was able to spread the color nicely with my water brush. Then I got over zealous with the spray again and spritzed too much black water spray. I wanted a light mist, what I got was heavy splatter. I ended up with a picture difficult to see, but if you can see past the spray, it looks pretty good.


I like the drawing minus the birds. The birds didn’t turn out as I had pictured them, but I liked the autumn grass in the forground and the big autumn sun hanging in the sky. However, I didn’t sketch out the birds in advance and it might have made a difference if I had. By this time, I had figured out the sprays and this is a nice orange color that blends in as a part of the background.

Winter is Coming

Another fun one done on the same afternoon. I know winter is coming when I dig out my thermal knit shirts and leggings, my warm scarves, mittens and boots. The shapes were simple, but it worked for me, I liked the colors and shading and thought it addressed the theme with some humor.

I’ll have another batch of drawings in a few weeks.

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Weekly Drawing Challenge

Continuing with my weekly drawing challenge, the three of us participating emailed our results to each other. Even though I’m usually a week or 2 behind, I feel that the more I continue drawing, the more confident and comfortable I will become with this medium.

My contributions to the trio include:

2 drawings for the chocolate themed week. I wasn’t happy with the colored pencil drawing of the hot chocolate, so I did the 2nd as a water-color of the chocolate mint plant in my garden.

The next week had to do with our animal friends so I took a photo that I had of my cat Sammi and worked a drawing of her using my Pitt pen.

Autumn – my favorite time of year. I love the colors, the clear crisp days and the stiff breeze that tries to blow all the leaves off the trees. I used the metallic faber castell gellato sticks as a kind of water-color. They left a glittery look to the leaves and wind, but you can’t really see it in the photo.

At this point, it was pretty close to Halloween, so I wanted to do a large Barn Owl done in white on black paper. It ended up evolving into a whole Trick or Treat scene. I used black gesso and a white water-color crayon. The crayon gave me a lot of problems and I couldn’t do much in the way of detail. I’ve got to work with white on black some more.

I do believe that this is my favorite drawing. The theme was I (heart) it, and Joanne had done a lovely zentangle piece. I had recently gone to see Peter Kageyama, author of “For the Love of Cities”and it got me thinking about how much I really love my home town and state of Michigan – despite all its’ problems. I decided to zentangle a drawing to honor my love for where I live. I like this well enough that I want to actually draw it again (to fix up the lettering) and perhaps do something with it. I used my Tombow water-color markers and Pitt pen.

I’m almost caught up. The last theme for this posting was a household object. I decided to do a drawing of my camera. It’s a good quality point-and-shoot Olympus and I rarely leave home without it. I did an ink drawing using my trusty Pitt pen in a composition book. It did come out a little lopsided but I’m satisfied with the attempt.

Some things I’m discovering about my drawings. I like watercolor (or the Tombow markers worked as watercolor) best; I tend to sketch the drawing out in pencil than outlining my work in a permanent ink pen before adding color; I’m better at drawing the imaginary than the realistic and my favorite drawings tend to have a kind of cartoony style. I also think that I’m okay with that.

I want to get better at this and in order to get better, I’ve got to keep working at it.

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Weekly Drawing Challenge

I’ve joined a weekly drawing challenge. I like working with paints and markers but don’t feel very comfortable drawing. I thought that by joining my friend Joanne and her friend Jeanie in their drawing challenge, it would give me the incentive to quit thinking about drawing and actually do it. I missed the first couple of weeks but came in to draw on the 3rd; the theme being mismatched.

I don’t do a lot of collecting, (except maybe art supplies and fabric) but I cannot pass by a feather, a seed pod or a beautiful leaf without picking it up. I decided that some different sorts of seed pods would work for the mismatched theme. I think they came out pretty good.

This last week, the theme was “someplace else” so I decided to draw my dream house in the woods, next to a secluded lake. It’s based on a little cottage I stayed at in Grand Junction at Saddlebag Lake. It had been overcast and cool all day, but the sun finally came out just as it was setting, across the lake. My girlfriend and I had been hiking along the Kal-Haven trail all day, and it was a great end to a long day.

I realize that I cut off my little cabin on the right side of the picture when I took the photo so here is an earlier, less finished photo that shows the whole thing.

I originally thought it would take a short time to complete each challenge, but it usually takes me a lot longer, which means I have to plan more time in order to get things done.

The challenge this week is “am I blue?” I figure that it could be interpreted in different ways.

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