Awhile back I taught an altered book workshop in my studio here in Oracle. Altered books are books rescued from the sad fate of being relegated to the dumpster and instead, turned into fabulous art work.  Have you ever thought about what libraries do in order to make room on their shelves for newer, more up to date books? Or what used bookstore owners who are weeding out their stock do with their tired old books?  These books often get their last chance on the $1.00 cart or in the annual library book sale. When they’re not sold, well, into the dumpster they go.

All of the above is the justification for rescuing old books, tearing into them and giving them new life as altered books. Destruction and rebirth. The first time you start marking up and tearing out pages, it’s hard. We’re taught from the time we’re tiny tots not to damage books. Hence, I was waiting for the library police to come get me or for lightning to strike me down the first time I took knife in hand and proceeded to carve up a book.

Once the damage is done and there’s no going back, it’s amazing how fun it is to change an old book into something brand new. Altered books can be turned into journals. They can become sculptures. They can be made into political statements. Collaging, stamping, folding, tearing, painting, sewing and gluing, gluing, gluing, are all possibilities for transforming books.

In the recent workshop, participants had a great time.

Altered books workshop in Oracle Arizona

The group is busy finding materials to transform their old books into something new

Each participant had a unique approach to transforming their books. Everybody left the workshop with lots of ideas and a start on several different types of altered books.

Polly returned for another workshop and brought one of her completed altered books for me to see. It started out as one of the old and out-of-date Life Nature Library series books. Grab onto your seat belts and watch a new story unfold.

Polly Reynolds altered book workshop, the Primates

Polly Reynolds transformed this old Life Nature book on primates as you can see on the cover.


I photographed quite a few of the pages. Here are some of my favorites. Note Polly’s great sense of humor shining through, with some added serious notes inserted here and there.

A brand new title page for this altered book about primates

A brand new title page


Note the lipstick in this altered book

What can I say? This is great.


Altered book, a 2 page spread

A two page spread



Clever altered book page


Another altered book page


Another altered page from altered book workshop in Oracle


Altered book page from workshop in Oracle


Another altered book page


altered book workshop page of Polly Reynold's transformation




Page of altered book from workshop in Oracle


Many thanks to Polly Reynolds for giving me permission to use my snapshots of her altered book in this blog. Now it’s time for you to make the trip to a used book store and start your own altered book journey. Still not convinced? I’ll be offering this workshop again next Fall or Spring, or both. It’s really too much fun to miss!