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Don't judge a book by its cover - Old book, new tricks

January 17th 2021

Who doesn’t love the crisp white pages of a new note book? That start of Term feeling you get from a pristine cover and the clean empty pages - my hand writing was always beautifully neat for the first few days of school, not that it lasted long mind! And whilst I still love a new book, as I have, let’s say matured, I have grown to love the look and feel of a well thumbed, lived a little, used book.

Last year I found an old A4 lined book that must have floated around my parents home for years. Sprinkled amongst the empty pages it contains my teenage scribbles, my brother’s attempts at 1980’s graffiti and my mother’s budget jottings. The pages are slightly yellowed and with a faint musty smell they conjure nostalgia, one of my favourite indulgences.

So I have used this book for my daily musings and am a little sad that its is almost full and ready to be turned into collage material. Somehow a new book won’t add that little extra to my journalling like this old one has. It's the sense of history that I will miss.

Its this previous life that I have been enjoying in my ‘new' sketch book - an old library book which I have been converting page by page into my most recent collection of thumbnails and sketches. (By the way, this book was a charity shop find, I’m no tea leaf!) The loan stamps and a kiddie’s doodles inside the covers are a bonus and hint at the story of the book itself. I’ve often thought that if I wrote a book I’d write it from the perspective of a book, over the generations, being passed from one reader to another - but I digress!

Until recently I didn't know that in altering the pages of a book, I am subscribing to a genre of book art, creating an Altered Book. Who knew? At the end of a painting session I randomly spread paint onto a few pages with no thought or design. I do a few pages at a time, make sure they don’t stick together and then the book sits beside me in an evening waiting for inspiration to strike. I use pencils, ink pens, charcoal, soft and oil pastels to try out compositions, or just doodle and mark make, capturing ideas for the next studio session.

Interestingly I’ve found that the printed background and the fact its not a ‘proper’ sketch book with untouched pages, has freed me up to be a little bolder with my markmaking and to try out new things. It’s been a way of experimenting and overcoming the preciousness I can sometimes feel when faced with a blank page. If you’re interested YouTube and Instagram are filled with tutorials on all kinds of altered book techniques.

It can also be fun to make your own sketch or note books and there are loads of online ideas to help guide you. Last year I did a short course in book making under the excellent tutorage of Anna Yevtukh-Squire, and got an insight into the amazing creations that can be achieved with some basic tools and a little instruction. Anna has a great Facebook page with free videos on how to make simple and more complex folded books.

If book making is your thing, I can highly recommend The Art of the Fold by the amazing Hedi Kyle, who revolutionised book art. It’s comprehensive and quite technical in places but don’t be put off, with a little time you can make some amazing creations quite easily. Another good book is Bound by Rachel Hazell, who can also be found on instagram @thetravellingbookbinder. I love Rachel's posts and her newsletter has some great creative hints & tips.

Of course Pinterest is a great source of inspiration and the work of one artist that has caught my eye is Kimberly Kersey-Asbury, who combines painting and book making in her beautiful Landscape Books and Pages.

The world of book art is broad, inspiring and happily for me a creative rabbit hole that I can get lost in on a rainy afternoon. I’d love to hear from anyone who has a love of book making and wants to share any tips and techniques on creating these bespoke treasures.

Such fun 🤗

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