Altered Book Project

One of the encyclopedias given to each student.    Like many artists, I teach 8 months a year so that I may make art the other 4 months (along with eating and keeping the heat on).  I teach at West Liberty State College in West Virginia, and one of the classes I am responsible for is Crafts (I & II.) I decided to begin the spring semester with an altered book project. Several years ago I presented a similar  project when I was teaching at the West Virginia Governor’s School of the Arts. I had collected a variety of old books and let each student pick one. This time the process was just a wee bit different.

    I had recently rescued a set of 1970’s German encyclopedias which were on their way to the dumpster. This time I was going to see how far the creative limits were stretched when each student had basically the same text. As it ended up, 15 students each got one of the German encyclopedias, while two students got an outdated American encyclopedia. I presented the students with the following objective: To transform a discarded book into a  creative art work of art that encompasses a theme and may utilize any variety of media and techniques.  The book may be rebound, painted, cut, burned, folded, added to, deconstructed, collaged in, gold-leafed, rubber stamped, drilled or otherwise adorned.

     I also explained to the students that regardless what they did to the books, it should still be identifiable as book. In other words, I want the viewers of the finished works to see what these were in their “previous life”. Here are just a few of the 17 books:


"Literary Explosion" by Amanda Carney

"Literary Explosion" by Amanda Carney


    While I did not require that the altered books be given a title, Amanda referred to hers as a Literary Explosion. Amanda deconstructed and reconstructed the pages and text to create a mushroom cloud rising out of the open book.

Telephone Book/ back side

Telephone Book/ front

   Joshua Hoffman created a two-sided “telephone book”, one side becoming an early wall phone, and the other side a more up-to-date pay phone. 


Cutaway icon by Amanda Kiger

Cutaway icon by Amanda Kiger

    Cutaway Icon is not Amanda’s title, but just a way for me to refer to her book. Amanda inserted an image of the Madonna and Child and then carefully removed parts of pages in order to achieve a kind of 3D look to her text.


John Madden's book is just a bit creepy!

John Madden's book is just a bit creepy!

    John shows his love of horror and sci-fi topics through the creation of this “monstrous” text. John also partially filled the book with his own hand-drawn illustrations. As a bonus, John deconstructed a talking greeting card, and put the sound chip into the cover of his book. When you pull the dangling tongue, you are treated to the words, “Let’s put a smile on that face!”. 

    This is only a sampling of the finished project, showing how these outdated textbooks were given a new life. Perhaps I will present additional examples in a future post.






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