Getting Away – Altered Book Round Robin

Christmas is in the air so I decided to show off my altered book round robin project with a holiday theme. Chris had decided on her book theme as “Getaway” but when I got her book in December I thought that the one place I would want to be at Christmas is home, with friends and family together. I used my favorite holiday song “Home for the Holidays” and created a little village on the pages of her book.img_20160406_182530.jpg

All the houses are dark except the small blue one. It is bright with warm lights, a decorated tree and a wreath. Over the door it says Home Sweet Home.


The houses were painted, cut out and glued on to the scene; white paint for snow was sponge-dabbed on the ground and roofs of all the houses. I also included some hand-carved snowflake stamps and stickle dots for a bit of shine.


I hadn’t planned it, but when it was completed, I took a look and decided that I must have been inspired by Dr. Seuss’ Whoville from The Grinch who Stole Christmas. Most appropriate for the season.

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Altered Book Round Robin pt 2

Letting Go

Letting go was the theme for Jeme’s book. I did a more literal interpretation and encouraged her to “sail away” from it all. I love the water and waves and wanted to do a watery theme. It was my first try at an altered book and looking back at it now, I can see that it is a little primitive.wpid-img_20151011_113303.jpg


Still, I had a lot of fun creating the page and looked forward to next month’s altered book.

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Altered Book Round Robin pt 1

My art group decided to do an altered book round robin.Each person would pick a theme and find a book for altering, as well as do a 2 page spread as an example in her own book. Then each month we would pass the book we had to the next person in line (in alphabetical order) and do a spread in their book, using the theme they chose. We had ten members interested, so at the end of 10 months we would get our own books back filled with a page from everyone.

My book was actually a Smash Book published by K&Company that my sister gave me a year or 2 previously.  The pages seemed thicker and stronger than the pages of a real book, the better to take the gluing and painting that would be done on it, and the spiral binding was designed to handle the thickness of added materials glued on. Since I knew that I would never use it as it was originally intended, I felt it would work perfectly for the altered book project.

I decided that my theme would be called wishes and dreams. I thought that it was broad enough for all sorts of interpretations and hoped that my art friends could create all sorts of fantastical worlds on the pages.

IMG_20150803_085312217    My cover page (I decided to wait and create the actual cover when I got my finished book back).

The sample spread was a simple collage. I printed and cut out 2 Mucha girls, then glued them back to back on a clear acetate sheet. I then created 1 page with a butterfly theme and the other page using a bird theme along with the proper wings. The acetate page could be flipped to the left and the girl would have butterfly wings – flipped to the right and she had bird wings.


The 2 separated pages showing the acetate on both sides, first on the left, then right so the girl has her wings in place.

IMG_20150803_085617This photo shows the whole spread, with the acetate on the right side, the butterfly wings are alone and waiting.

It wasn’t like anything I had ever done before, but I was excited and looking forward to working in everybody’s book each month, not to mention getting my book back after 10 months with a little piece of art from my friends.

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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.

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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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