Monday, September 11, 2006

Project Information

Library patrons
destroying books

Public invited to help

POTTSVILLE – It’s a sight to see. Book pages are being bent, torn, glued and painted. To top it all off, the library approves.

The Pottsville Free Public Library, Friends of the Library and Allied Artists of Schuylkill County are collaborating to produce a community arts project for county artists and crafters.

In announcing “Outside the Margins: Making Altered Books,” Nancy J. Smink, library director, explained that the project, which gets under way this month and continue through National Library Week 2007, will involve workshops for people interested in learning to make an altered book and displays of final projects in public places and businesses.

The library will offer its facilities for workshops and oversee the project as it evolves. Friends of the Library, led by Fran Lorenz, will provide the discarded books that participants can alter. Local artists, members of Allied Artists of Schuylkill County, will conduct two workshops to help participants work on their books.

Pottsville Artist Helen Mills, vice president of Allied Artists, said in making an altered book, artists transform a text that is no longer fit for circulation or sale into a work of visual art. Words and images from the book might be retained; however, often the book in its original format is entirely obscured or changed structurally. Some altered books end up as sculptures.

“We agreed that an altered books project is a great way to provide a new use for discarded books and to showcase the skills of local professionals, hobbyists and students,” Smink said. “We are hoping to involve area art teachers, students, scrapbookers and others who have experience with altered art or want to learn how to make an altered book.”

According to the International Society of Altered Book Artists (ISABA), altered books are an old way of recycling. In the 11th Century, Italian monks recycled old manuscripts written on vellum by scraping off the ink and adding new text and illustrations on top of the old. This is known as "palimpsest."

In the late 19th century, people transformed used, old books into scrapbooks. They pasted ephemera such as magazine images, personal recipes and family pictures into the pages of the books. This is called “Grangerism,” a Victorian practice of illustrating a book with embellishments and other items torn from other books.

Today’s altered books often combine palimpsest, Grangerism and fine art. Altered books, in fact, altered art, whereby artists and artisans alter clothing, tins, cigar boxes, old board games and many other items, is gaining widespread popularity.
Thanks in part to digital convergence, artists are re-exploring the form and substance of print books, said Christine Goldbeck, Shenandoah Heights, who pitched the project to Smink. Tom Phillips' “The Humament” is one of the first contemporary examples of altered book art, she said. But, it’s just one example of many styles and forms of altered books. Goldbeck is an interdisplinary author/artist who enjoys making both artist’s books and altered books whereby she uses her painting, photographing and bookmaking skills to transform discarded books or to create books from scratch.

Smink and Lorenz said that during National Library Week -- April 15-21, 2007 – the books will be on display in area businesses and public venues that choose to showcase one or several objects. The books will be available for purchase and artists will choose whether to keep the profit, turn it over to the library or split the sale price with the library.

Anyone interested in participating in the project by making an altered book is asked to attend a November 9th workshop at the library, beginning at 6 p.m. At this time, participants will be able to acquire a discarded book and to begin working with page folds and preparing the substrate (or pages) for altering. There will be an opportunity for participants to view books that local artists have completed or are in process of making.
A follow-up workshop is scheduled for Dec. 7th, also at 6 p.m. in the library. Participants are asked to bring archival quality glue and a glue brush(es) with them to the Nov. 9th meeting.

Participants must complete their book or books and bring it to the library no later than Feb 28th, 2007. Businesses and public venues interested in displaying completed altered books are asked to contact Denise Miller at the library.

Allied Artists are asked to bring archival glue and applicators to the group’s Sept. 19th meeting/workshop. A selection of discarded books will be available.

This is the project blog. Visitors and participants are welcome to post comments, suggestions or questions.