On the weekend I got together with my group of Sydney gal pals for one of our sporadically-dated altered book swap meet-ups. We all car-pooled to Tara’s place, had a delightful spring pasta + salad dinner, gave Singstar karaoke a shot, played Rapidough (like Pictionary, but with playdough modelling instead of pencil sketching - fantastic fun), drank tea whilst engaging in girly chatter, and of course, swapped our altered books. The ‘altered book swap’ project has been going for just over a year now, initiated in the middle of last year as a nice, friendly way to bring together a group of new creative friends for some random artistic play, using secondhand books as our canvas. It began with each girl selecting her book, with some kind of concept in mind about how the book will inspire altering, and then the first task was to set the ‘rules’ for the book (this makes more sense when you see the examples). Next was to create some sort of ‘sign-in’ area (where participants could write their name, date of alteration, and maybe a brief description about the ideas behind the alteration) and then finally to alter the book’s first page/spread.
Then the round robin began.
Since then, at the end of each month (or thereabouts) we have met up and the books have been passed sequentially between the participants, so that every month each girl has had a single book to alter, and from month to month the books have rotated between participants (hence the round robin). The plan is that at the conclusion of the project each book will be returned to its initiator who gets to keep it as their own unique piece of collaborative altered book art.
Our Sydney book swap group started with 4 members, and has recently become 5 now that Emma has joined the loop with Tara, Helen, Karen and myself. Each girl’s book is distinctively different from the others, each with its own rules + individual character.
My book contribution is a miniature Spanish/English dictionary that sits in its own little red tobacco tin, amidst a collection of ‘red things’ (a collection which appears to grow as the book gets passed around!). The rules of this book are simple: find a spread with a word or two that you like and base your miniature alteration on this word or words.
^ My first alteration was based on the word 'starboard' (I've always been a big fan of Scrabble)
^ My second alteration responded to the word 'ornament' since I really wanted to do this flying wall duck concept, and apparently 'kitsch', 'tacky' and 'retro' are not prevalent in the Spanish language.
Tara's contribution was a child's board book, 'Daisy can't sleep', craftily metamorphosed into a storybook about sleep + dreaming, and appropriately snuggled into a beautifully handmade and embroidered pillowcase. When you first open the book, it poses the question, 'what did you dream of?' - the idea being that your answer is the basis for your alteration. Here was my response:
^ I dreamt of lots of little things. Rather than painting an underlayer, I instead peeled off the top glossy layer of the pages and drew directly onto the remaining cardboard.
^ Here's a glimpse of the previous alterations by Tara, Helen and Karen (click the link to see more detail in the relevant blog/post).
Beginning with an academic book about the English poet Philip Larkin, Helen's contribution is similar in concept to the famous Book project - each girl takes the next available spread in the book and their alteration must have some small element that continues around to the next page, to be incorporated into the subsequent alteration.
As the book is titled 'Deface Me', Karen's first alteration was subtitled 'chase me' (see Karen's here), a thought I continued by subtitling my following alteration with 'face me':
Clock man is made from a 1930s paper-doll cutout, and the clock hands are from a real clock mechanism. I intended a double meaning behind 'face me' - the obvious interpretation being literally a clock 'face', and the less obvious interpretation about facing the concept of time, clocks and modern society's dependence on both these things (deep, I know).
Underneath the paper-doll man, in the location of his heart, I cut out the words 'tick tock' so that they became the element continued to the next page - an analagous link between our beating hearts and the ticking clock. See here and here how Tara interpreted this so beautifully in her next alteration (you can just make out the 'tick tock' to the left of Tara's clock tower).
Beginning with a fabulous 1960's Home Economics school textbook, it's no wonder that Karen's only rule was 'no rules, just not the cover'..!
When I first received the book, I read it from cover to cover (quite an entertaining read, even if some of the nutritional advice is a little outdated) and my first impulse was to create a tabbing system that made it easy to get to each chapter of the book:
^ Each tab was inspired by a chapter heading. The Kitchen chapter was tabbed with a black and white chequered 'kitchen floor', the Stock & Soups chapter had a tab made from a little round soup bowl complete with miniature spoon, and The Preservation of Foods chapter had a clear tab illustrated with a tiny cutout of a jar of strawberry jam. Etcetera, etcetera. Who doesn't love to combine miniature art with a stationery system?
^ My second and most recent alteration of Karen's book - a small homage to Pantone swatch paper, miniature packaging, and Richard Scarry storybooks - created on pages about designing kitchens, larders, gas cookers, colour finishes and such things.
See Helen's alteration here.
The newest kid on the block.
Emma's book ticks two of my favourite boxes: it's a children's book and it's vintage (over a 100 years old in fact, judging by the inked dedication on the inside cover dating from 1907). From what Emma tells us, Kitty is a tormented girl, even if it is her birthday.
Her rules clearly state:
1. Read me before you alter me
2. Do not mess with the cover (don't do it, ladies)
3. Enjoy altering Kitty because quite frankly, Kitty needs something good to happen to her.
Hmmm, so just having received this book in the latest swap, I now have a month or so to read it through and create something clever to brighten Kitty's life...
I believe the next swap date will involve a spring picnic by the harbour near Helen's house, so Kitty and I both have something to look forward to..!