Altered Book for Marin MOCA

I’ve always wanted to make an altered book and I’ve started a lot of them. Started being the operative word… Many of my students have made incredible altered books and when I see their work I’m tempted to try again. And then I have another “started” altered book.

This time the starting point was a request by Eleanor Murray of Marin MOCA for their Second Annual Altered Book Show/Auction. Eleanor has always been very kind to me and is a good friend of book arts so I quickly said, “yes” without thinking too much about the “how.”

Again I started a new altered book, I began by gluing pages together and cutting out windows and again I got stuck. I finally realized that my way of working was different and that I needed to figure out a way to alter a book that worked for me.

 I’d been making coptic bound books with my students at Palo Alto Art Center and thought that perhaps rebinding  a book was the way I needed to alter it. So I found this book, Better Handwriting for You 3, on a shelf in my studio. As you can see it was barely holding together but I was attracted to the colors and graphic design.


At the same time I found this book, I read an article about how cursive is being dropped from the Core Curriculum of schools all across the U.S. I happen to love handwriting and my mother always encouraged penmanship so I was appalled to see this bit of news. (My husband disagrees and reminded me that he never needs handwriting for his job and can’t even remember how to form a lot of the letters except in his signature.)

I started by taking the book apart. I created new covers by folding the old ones in half and gluing them together and then I created signatures  by choosing the most interesting inside pages and folding them in half.


I researched writing and human communication and decided to include new content and images about hieroglyphics, cuneiform, typing, etc. in the book. I used Adobe Illustrator to layout pages with the same colors and layout as the original book and then added the new content.




Finally, I rebound the book using coptic stitch and there it is, my first (finished!) altered book.






7 responses to “Altered Book for Marin MOCA

  1. What a nice book Ginger. How brilliant of you to come up with a different way of altering. I have several altered books around, too. I’ll have to think about a different approach that would work for me. I also love the idea of including information on other writing systems.

  2. barbara mortkowitz

    And it’s just fabulous !!! So well thought- out and planned beautifully.

  3. Ginger,
    I love what you are doing. The altering of several books and combination of them is a wonderful way to work. The issue of cursive writing is, I think, also important. I suspect I may have a future in becoming an interpreter of family letters for those who did not learn cursive.
    I am also a book artist. I teach book and paper arts to children every summer. This summer we are hiding hidden messages within our books.

  4. Ginger, I’ve so enjoyed looking through your books here. This one is of course very attention-getting for me, and I like what you did with the old writing manual. I too have never been able to wrap my head around altering a book, until I had to alter one of my own to make it look different enough from its mate to stand alone as an “original.” There are so many ways to approach it. I was surprised when I realized I had come to the altered books altar through the back door! 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  5. What a lucky find – to alter a book, Handwriting and YOU. I love visits to the San Francisco Main Library for handmade and art book exhibits, and wherever for a getaway, and June 11 to ProArts Studio of Leah Virsik. Next to take a book art workshop this summer somewhere in the greater SF Bay Area.
    I’m shocked to think that cursive lessons are going to be cut because I remember reading in the NYTimes? an article calling for East Coast Colleges admissions essays to be in cursive – not on a computer where students can use the spell and grammar checks – for students are entering college without basic fundamentals that could have been learned even in middle school. Articles have also mentioned students taking time to learn cursive also gain more in depth knowledge in classes. Could be similar to students making time for violin and piano talents.

    Vimala Rodgers wrote a fascinating book, Your Handwriting Can Change Your Life, c2000. New York: Fireside/Simon and Schuster. Rodgers offered workshops in Palo Alto until a move to Cool CA. Yet it is the theories I found fascinating and worth taking some concern and make a shift in life with cursive practice.
    As a nomadic ‘sub’ teacher k-12, I am sometimes amazed at contortions of some students holding a pen or pencil – and so inefficient from last century time with advanced Gregg shorthand where speed and a good pen were as important as beautiful paper, ink and a calligraphy brush with those special meditative moments to create in the art of calligraphy.
    How can we encourage keeping the importance of cursive in schools and multiple arts education, as we explore original treasures of books into art transitions.
    Can we get a break away from strong emphasis in technology attachments to who we are, and to encourage youth in their deeper personal explorations of learning.

  6. Pingback: Better Handwriting for You 3 | The Space Between Wonder and Why

  7. Pingback: Last Chance: Call for Entries: Marin MOCA’s Annual Altered Book Show | Midnight Musings

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s