I altered a book to use as an art journal recently. I love altering books for this — it upcycles the book and saves our environment by having one less thing tossed in the trash, you can find some really interesting books to use as altered art journals at second hand book stores, and most books used as altered journals are very sturdy and hold up to all the wet media and techniques you can throw at it.
How I altered the book:
The most important thing to do when selecting a book to use as an altered journal is to ensure that the book is stitch bound. Glue bound books will not hold up to all of the wet media that will be used on the pages and will fall apart. Ensure the book you are selecting is stitch bound by 1) going to the center of the book and ensuring that you see the threading used to stitch the book together, and/or 2) by looking for the striped fabric at the spine — usually red/white — which also indicates a stitch bound book. This fabric is used in the binding process and is always there on stitch bound books.
Books are created using “signatures” — sets of pages that have been grouped together and folded evenly. The signatures are then stitched together to form the book. Each signature will have visible stitching at it’s center.
- Locate the center of the book. The stitching for that signature should be visible.
- Carefully pull out several pages from the book, starting at the center, ensuring that you are not too rough which will loosen the stitches and cause the book to fall apart. Pages that you pull out should be a few pages from each other in the book — do not pull out pages that are next to each other.
- Repeat Step 2 from the center of the book to the end, then again from the center of the book to the front.
- Be careful not to pull out too many pages, as the pages that are left will be too loose and fall out easily if you remove too many pages. 3 pages or so from each signature should suffice, depending on the number of pages in each signature.
- Save the pages you pull out! You can upcycle them later by using them as ephemera for your journal pages that will be created.
That’s basically it! Depending on the strength of your pages, you may either want to glue two pages together throughout the book to give the pages more thickness and make them sturdier and/or you may want to gesso your pages (or some pages) which will also help give the pages strength for the journaling that will soon ensue. I glued two pages together throughout my entire book just because I want to ensure that none of the pages tear as I am creating. I also initially was going to gesso all of the pages so that they would be ready for me to create on once I got to that page, then I realized that I may want some of the page’s text to be part of the background so I stopped gesso’ing. I will gesso pages going forward only if I decide I want that page gesso’d.
Now grab a book, get it altered and ready, and join me on this altered art journal journey! Here’s a picture of my cover in progress: