"What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible
parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and
you're inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of
years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your
head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding
together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books
break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working
~ Carl Sagan, Cosmos
Does the thought of writing in a bound book scandalize you? Do you faithfully use
bookmarks and gawk in horror at fellow readers who turn down the corner? Can you
even imagine tearing a page out of a book without feeling a little faint?
There is a sacredness in a book. The ability to feel the size and weight of a story in
your hands, to smell that fantastic book smell, to enjoy the crisp edge of the page,
relishing that small sound of paper as it turns.
I also believe that books can tell more than one story. By using the external structure
of someone else's creation, we are sometimes able to go deeper into our own work
than we thought possible. If I can enjoy the craftsmanship of a well made book, take
its pages as building blocks for sculpture or canvas, use or move the words printed
on page to tell a story of my own, then I am honoring both the writer who came before
me and my own voice. Altered books are a collaboration of two artists across time.
One of the biggest challenges of creating an object d'art is the rules of physics-will this
hold together, or do I need more duct tape? Altered books are already designed to
be sturdy, so we can focus our energies on our own artistic notions rather than
worrying about more prosaic concerns like gravity. This provides a great opportunity
for people who are new to multimedia projects: you can play and invent and
experiment with a high chance of success, low risk, and incredible flexibility.
During my Altered Books workshop coming up this fall, I am looking forward to
meeting people and helping them tell their story in a book. Altered books gives us so
many options! Three-dimensional sculpture, found objects, painting, moving words
and letters to create your own poetry, crayon... if it fits in the book (even if it doesn't!),
we can try to make it happen. I know we're going to have a lot of fun.