Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Rrrrip-roaring fun: Make an altered book

I love how creative ideas can bounce unexpectedly out of random conversations. One minute I was chatting to a friend about the pros and cons of being a perfectionist, the next minute me and my daughter were immersed in a pile of paper, paint and masking tape and having a whole lot of fun.

My friend had been telling me about how her daughter had done her Year 9 Spanish project with so much care – and flair – that it had made her teacher cry. Instead of handing in a few A4 sheets like the other students, she had created this, an 'altered book'...
Turning an old book into a 'new' book, beautifully designed and crafted...
It even had a box-shaped space carved out of the last pages... put in the cassette of the oral part of her project.

I couldn’t wait to have a go at making ‘altered books’ ourselves.

Not that it’s an easy process. Emotionally, that is. Because the first step is to rip pages out of a book. Yep. Rip pages out of a bookThere is something about this that feels instinctively, intensely, insanely wrong. “Are you sure it’s okay to do this?” asked my daughter, tentatively tugging at a page. 

I guess, without registering it, we are brought up with some kind of deep reverence for books. I mean, a friend of mine recently told me that a book cries when you turn down the corner of a page to mark your place. 

“Let’s think of it as rescuing them, rather than ruining them,” I said. After all, they were second-hand books that I’d seen sitting unwanted on the charity donation table in our local supermarket for at least a week. Big gulp of air. Rrrrrrrrrip...

So, onto the practical bit:

Step one: Take an old hardback book. 
Step two: Go through the book ripping several consecutive pages out together at even intervals e.g. turn over 3 pages, rip out 3 pages, turn over 3 pages, rip out 3... 
Step three: Take two to four pages at a time and bandage them up together in masking tape, covering all the text, to create lovely, thick, satisfying-to-turn, blank pages, with the text peeping through the tape in a very appealing way.
Step four: Now think of a theme or story and write, draw, paint, collage on the pages as you wish to create a 'new' book. (You can cut out and stick on words from the pages you ripped out if you like.)

My daughter had a very clear idea that she wanted to do a treasure hunt story. After a couple of totally-absorbed hours, humming away to herself, she produced this.
Who knew she’d squirrelled away these gold chocolate coin wrappers since Christmas?!

I decided I’d make mine a present for my sister’s upcoming birthday. It took more than a couple of hours, that's for sure, but I got it posted off just in time. I won't show you the whole story but here are just a few of the pages.

On the morning of her birthday, I received this email.

Flippin' Nora. I have only just finished crying. The best present I have ever had in my life!!!!

Seems I'd created a tear-jerker too, just like the Spanish project – the creator of which, now 20, is a perfectly superb cook with her own perfectly enticing food blog. Check it out here for a different kind of inspiration. 


  1. What a lovely idea. I've squirreled it away for future reference. Thanks for sharing, I can quite see why they brought tears.

  2. Thanks Happy Hooker! Have fun when you get round to it...