What are Altered Books?

Altered books are art.  They are a book transformed from any number of media – paint, collage and rubber stamping are popular – into something new.

Some people, including those who are lovers of books, like me – were taught all their lives never to mark a book.  Never to write in it, never to damage it.  Because of that, altering a book can feel rebellious.  It can be a kind of freedom.ipad2013 246 - Copy

The best part of altered books is that they can be anything you want them to be.  They are great outlet.  Like a journal, you can tell them your secrets.  I like to create little pockets, or notes folded away that contain my writing.  There are many, many secrets in my altered books.

ipad2013 217While I also keep traditional journals, and those sometimes get a bit “arted up” as well, there is something particularly freeing about putting your secrets into your art.  You could show anyone.  Will they find your little note?  Well, probably, if you label it “secret” as I did above – hah!

Sometimes you just want to hide a secret.  Not write a ton about it in a journal, but you need it get it out of your head.  Altered books are great for that.

ipad2013 208Altered books can also be showcases for who you are.  They are like a little time capsule, almost like a scrapbook, that commemorates favourite events, like this layout that contains dozens of movie tickets from date nights with my husband over a number of years.  You can add tickets to games for a team you love, or bits of ephemera from travels, anything that says what you want it to ipad2013 218say.

If you are making a book all about you, you can create montages of the things you love without writing a word.  Pages can be thick and chunky, with bits sticking out here and there and buttons and ribbons adding heft.  Or they can be perfectly flat and utterly well-organized (not mine – but yours could!) because there are no rules.  But a good technique ipad2013 212is to give everything a good going-over with mod podge to make sure all your bits and pieces stay put!

In these pages, which showcase things I love, I’ve included things like a flattened Tim Horton’s coffee cup and bits of lace and buttons that belonged to my late grandmother.  I tend to work mostly in collage, so I am constantly collecting bits and pieces I might use one day.

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Found poetry is one of my favourite parts of altered books.  Sifting through pages that you’ve removed to make room for your art, you’ll find sentences, phrases, single words that speak to you.  Sometimes it’s right there on the page already, and you just have to draw out the words that you want, letting the ones that don’t fit your vision fade away.  If you can’t find the right words to write poetry from a blank page, found poetry might help you harness your voice.

If you can’t tell, I adore altered books.  I used to be shy about showing off my work because I didn’t feel it was up to par with the work I’d seen of altered book artists that I admire.  But the heck with that!  It’s mine, and it’s perfect just the way it is.  Have you ever wanted to try altered book work?  If you have, comment and let me know – or share your own picture of your work in the comments!  Better yet, if it’s still just a thought in your mind, lets get together and play with altered books together, yeah?  I’m always open to working with others and happy to share ideas and supplies!

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2 Comments for “What are Altered Books?”


I’ve always thought your altered books were pretty cool. Mostly the way you collect things from all over and make once cohesive piece of art at the end. It’s really neat to watch, I have no idea how you figure it all our in your head – and it looks even better in person than in pictures.


Awwwww 🙂 I’m not sure I ever really figure it out in my head. I never really know what is going to happen until I’m done. And sometimes I never really realize that I’m done, so go back and add more later.

What did you think?