A "star book" reflects the new craft trend of "altering" books -- dismantling or adding to pages to create decorative works.

Books rebound

Crafters consider their
"altered" books to be art pieces,
though some oppose the practice


Nancy Arcayna

While growing up we learned that writing in or damaging a book was a no-no. But now, crafters are embracing the current trend of "altered books," which transforms unwanted books into artists' canvases.

Existing books are being altered through use of glue, decorative materials and rubber stamps or being cut, torn or inserted with new pages. The book's title, chapter headings, words or sentences can help inspire the art. A sentence or even a few words on a page can be isolated on a page, and the rest can be covered with a collage and paint. Sometimes whole chunks of pages are removed to make room for the stuff added to the altered pages.

The Rubber Stamp Plantation hosts an altered-book workshop from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. each Thursday. Attendees pay $20 for the use of books and materials. Attendees consider the books they create a means of self-expression, a piece of art or a conversation piece.

Pat Banning, of Bookends in Kailua, feels quite differently. "I'm horrified and appalled. ... As far as I'm concerned, I just couldn't do it," she said. "People who do this type of art have no sense of a book being an important property. Books are cultural icons.

The pages of a tiny "angel book" are hand-colored and decorated. The remade book may be used as a journal.

"We are like the humane society of books -- looking for good homes for our books. If I thought someone was going to do this to one of our books, I probably wouldn't sell it to them," Banning said.

Making altered books sees like defacement -- almost sacrilegious, she said.

Jim Long, a librarian at the Hawaii State Library, said: "Once a book is altered, all value is lost. Collectors expect the book to be in pristine condition."

The library is not allowed to directly throw books away, Long explained.

Books discarded from the library shelves are donated to the Friends of the Library to be used at book sales. "Some books at the sale are considered collector's items," Long said, "but books that are old or not unusable are thrown away."

He added, "I've seen people go through the Dumpster in the back of the library looking for books."

Yet altering is not a new concept. Examples exist from the early 1900s, and many are on display at the Getty Center for the History of Arts and the Humanities in New York, said Debbie West, an art instructor at Rubber Stamp Plantation.


The artists don't look at the alterations as ruining a book, but just the opposite. Considering the thousands of unsold books that are destroyed by publishers each year, they feel that altering a book saves it from destruction and gives it a new life. Those who do not believe in destroying books, however, can start with a blank journal, West said.

Carol Peringer, one of the attendees, makes her own journals and altered books. "I just love making a mess," she said. "It's a personal expression, and you just can't do it wrong."

Her most recent altered book reflects "girls' things." The original title of the book that she chose to alter is "Love's Enchantment," and her pages reflect aspects of love. The page she was working on was entitled "Bitch Lounge" and featured Lady Clare (the title of the chapter), an elegant, nude woman who "likes money and shiny things," according to Peringer.

"Getting started is the hardest part. It really challenges a person to think outside the box," she said.

"I'm an artist and came to class in order to try something new," Michelle Yamaguma said as she threaded ribbons through holes she had punched in the pages of her book.

Above, Michelle Yamaguma, left, Kyle Ino and Carol Peringer work on their "altered books" at Rubber Stamp Plantation.

Peringer holds her "angel book."

Darrell West was altering his book by coloring black-and-white illustrations with eye shadow, explaining that they work very well as an artistic medium. He chose not to cover any of the words or folklore in the book, but thought the pages could be brightened.

Dee Radcliffe attends the workshops and also participates in swaps through an online club. An altered-book swap involves passing a book around a group. Each person embellishes about six pages before it goes back to the original owner, Radcliffe said.

"It's nice because some people are better at certain techniques, and they can do what works best for them," she said. The project she is working on is an altered-calendar book. Normally, a calendar is thrown out at the end of a year, but altering it turns it into a keepsake work of art, Radcliffe said.

Those who are interested in learning to make altered books don't need to rush out and purchase lots of supplies. One thing needed is a ton of glue and lots of double-stick tape, West said. "Many things found in the household can be used."

Magazine cutouts, aluminum foil, old game pieces, dried flowers, glitter, beads, jewels, stickers, rubber stamps, three-dimensional embellishments -- just about anything, she added. "Just take a look in your craft cabinets."


A "darling doll" is decorated with rubber stamps.

Get crafty with classes
that teach the basics

The Rubber Stamp Plantation will host an open house, 2 to 6 p.m. Feb. 16, at 746 Ilaniwai St. Here are other classes offered at the shop. Fees listed include supplies. Call 591-2122.

Piano-hinge journals: Make a personal photo album or scrapbook. Learn to construct the journal, and gain ideas about what to include inside. Select from miniature or full-size versions. 9 to 11 a.m. Friday; $20.

Valentine cards: Learn to make one-of-a-kind cards. 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday; $20.

Explosion books: Choose a heart or square shape, and embellish it with rubber stamps, paper and fibers. 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11; $20.

Perfect pearls: Techniques for new effects in this liquid medium (20 colors provided). 9 to 11 a.m. Feb. 14; $20.

Stamping basics: Covers different inks, difference between heat- and dry-embossing and more. 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 18; $20.

Rain stick: Used for centuries by South American tribes to entice the gods to send rain, this simple instrument can be re-created out of common recycled materials. 9 to 11 a.m. Feb. 21; $20.

Marvelous masks: Choose from a full-faced Mardi Gras mask or a half-mask on a stick. Embellish with paint, ink, rubber stamps, beads, feathers, fibers and more. 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 22; $25.

Exploring embellishments: Learn the differences between adhesives and what works best with different trims. 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25; $20.

Cigar boxes: Decorate boxes using stamps, paint, embellishments and more. 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 28; $20.

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