Artistic + Inspiring: Altered Books

I was flattered and honored when Holly asked me to be a guest blogger on decor8 for a few days while she settles into her new apartment and part-time life in Germany. I just want to say what a great resource and friendly voice you are here in the design blogosphere Holly. I don't know how you do it really, every day there are a whole bunch of great new finds with informative, casual blog posts. You're an inspiration - you make me a better blogger - and I'm sure many of us have nicer homes and studios because of the encouragement we find on decor8. I don't know how you do it really, but thank you for doing your decor8 thing! [Holly - don't remove this! : ) ] Holly asked me to introduce myself: I'm Jason Thompson, father of two, blogger, bookbinder and the founder of Rag & Bone Bindery, a small bookbinding studio based in Providence, Rhode Island. Rag & Bone has been designing & manufacturing handcrafted Albums, Guestbooks, Journals and other books for 18 years now [where does the time go?] and you can find our Albums through retailers across the U.S. and Canada.

decor8 readers can save 20% on all Albums & Books at the Rag & Bone Bindery boutique, simply enter this discount code during checkout [good through Friday, 08/22/08, enter code: decor8].

As a bookbinder, I love books, paper, bookbinding, book arts, paper craft, origami, altered books and art made with books as objects. I'm fortunate to be surrounded by books all day, but sometimes I forget how beautiful they are, which is one reason I'm drawn to book art and artists' books. I'm inspired by the different interpretations artists find with their art, whether it still retains its "bookish-ness" or is inspired simply by the book form. Here are a few of my favorite artists and journalers who use books as muse and/or medium.

Sabrina Ward Harrison Artist and journaler Sabrina Ward Harrison published her first book at the age of 23, "Spilling Open; The Art of Becoming Yourself". This was one of the first published journals I discovered [together with Dan Eldon's, The Journey Is The Destination] that inspired me to journal myself. What is it about journals and journaling that encourages such self reflection? Sabina's confessional journal pages are visual treats and a reminder of how fragile, inspired, confused, creative and individual we all are. Sabrina's art has since moved off her journal pages to encompass photography, collage, installations and performances. She recently spent two years living in a former one-room schoolhouse.

If you're in the Southern California area on September 20th & 21st, you can join a two day creative workshop with Sabrina at Carol Park's studio. You can view more photos of her workshop here.

Teesha Moore I first met Issaquah, Washington artist Teesha Moore while writing my first book and was blown away [I still am...] by her textured, layered and colorful journals. I was fortunate to have three of them to myself for a few weeks for photography and have to admit, I was inspired and a little intimidated. They're so complex and dense. Teesha runs Artfest and Artfiberfest every year, two retreats with one-of-a-kind, unique art classes and events focusing on handmade art, book art and journals. Teesha also publishes "Art & Life" and "Play" 'zines. She's an inspiration to book artists and journalers and her love for art shows in everything she does. I've only met Teesha once, we're on opposite sides of the country, and she's just as lovely and generous in person. Check out her colorful art studio...

Artfest 2008 took place in April, however the 2009 schedule is in progress and dates are yet to be announced. Visit her website to stay up to date and join the artfest mailing list.

Lisa Kokin San Francisco Bay area artist Lisa Kokin has her feet firmly planted in the world of fine art but her book work is approachable and playful. Her altered books maintain the book form, creation through destruction, and have a unified look and feel. She maintains a visual continuity throughout her work but finds new life in old books by reshaping them, shredding pages and even sewing books inside-out. In addition to altered books, Lisa also uses buttons as medium for her unique collages.

Georgia Russell [Georgia doesn't seem to have her own website, but is represented by England Gallery] Scottish Artist Georgia Russell uses a scalpel [and obsessive patience] to create altered books which have been cut, very meticulously, into strips and shreds and carefully arranged into beautiful compositions. This kind of work gets me excited to create myself. There's just something about particular types of art that sparks the, "I can do that!" feeling which inspires me to create something too. Though frankly, there's no way I could make something as beautiful as this no matter how sharp the scalpel and how many band-aids I have on hand. Georgia is continually refining her art, creating new and unusual book forms.

Su Blackwell UK artist Su Blackwell creates enchanting book art by externalizing the pages of books into three dimensional representations of their content. Sue says, "These works can be seen as metaphors for language. I use non traditional art materials such as books and clothes to create work which evokes a sense of dreamy melancholy or magical enchantment". Dreamy and enchanting indeed! If books have dreams they would look like this!

Tracey Bush [Tracey doesn't have a website, but is represented by Art*Star]

These collaged, paper-cut dioramas by UK artist Tracey Bush combine entomology and lepidoptera with traditional letter writing and mail art. Each butterfly is sewn together from layers of paper using a bookbinders pamphlet stitch and secured into Museum boxes with entomological pins. Each is an actual species presented life size and created with an allusion to its name or habitat, IE: the Scotch Argus butterfly shows a Scottish Loch on its wing, etc. Beautiful!

Stay tuned for Part Two of this post. I'll return to share some of my favorite paper artists with you on Wednesday.

(images linked to sources above, text by jason thompson)