Thursday, 6 October 2011

Experiment wildly. Have fun.

I received in the mail this week *drumroll please* a handwritten letter from the always-fabulous, Lady Demelza. I shall proceed to copy it out word-for-word, so that the world might bask in her words of wisdom. And people interested in the world of Altered Books might benefit.

Lady Demelza’s hints, tips, thoughts, suggestions, ideas for encouraging a child with an Altered Book

(Mostly in general, some are more specifically Littletree-oriented)

  • The most basic tools are scissors and a glue stick. Both are small fiddly things likely to be lost in black holes or become damaged. I find it’s best to have lots of extra spares all over the house. Cheapest, good quality glue sticks are to found in bulk packs at Officeworks.
  • Whenever there is something happening involving an interesting piece of paper or similar glueable object, suggest it could be stuck in The Book.
  • If she’s complaining that she’s bored, or wants ‘something to do’, put the book and/or magazines and/or papers in front of her. Small starting suggestions -
    - find a picture, shape, colour or word you would like in a magazine and cut it out. Can always be saved to continue with At a Later Time…
    - prepare a page by covering it with a blank or patterned piece of paper, or by painting it or colouring it in, for future work.
  • Print out photos for her to include in the Book – favourite pictures, photos of friends and family – to really personalise it. Maybe photos of people cooking or in the kitchen to go with the cook-book theme?…
  • Encourage writing out favourite household recipes into the book. It doesn’t have to be a ‘recipe’ as such, it could be a description of the cooking process more generally. Include accompanying photos??
  • Her science experiments could be documented. Write up the hypothesis or idea, take photos to document her carrying out the experiment, write up the results. Draw a picture of the results.
  • How about a record of the weekend market bakery business? Note recipe used, take photos of finished product or process, record profits. Write down costs of ingredients, etc. to work out accurate profits!
  • Learn about the structure of books. Maybe you’ll find an old hardcover book with a missing spine and let her see the stitches holding the book together and deconstruct it. Discuss types of paper and covers, styles of bookmaking over time. Discuss what makes a book suitable to become and Altered Book; the strength of the spine/ pages, how likely it is to last a long time or fall apart quickly.
    eg – stick pages together to make a heavier base for heavier stuck-in things. Cut a niche in the pages to allow for 3-D stuck-in objects.
    - different kinds of glue and paint used with different kinds of paper – how does the paper or insert hold up?
  • Cut out shapes from scraps of fabric as well as paper. Check how glues hold up with different fabrics. Small bits of fabric usually go well in Altered Books.
  • You may want to find a kind of tray-shaped box or basket that the Book can go in, along with a manageable quantity of materials, to travel around to different parts of the house, be used and tidied away.
  • If she produces a page that she’s not happy with, there are a few options.
    - Continue altering the page until it becomes something different.
    - Remove the page.
    Stick it to the next page to make a stronger, double-thick page for more sturdy embellishments.
    - Stick a piece of plain or patterned paper or a picture over the whole thing.
    This is meant to make it feel safe to experiment wildly.
  • Keep an eye out for second-hand magazines with good colours and visual style in the photography and advertising (if not content!)
    A quick trip to the oppy would quickly provide enough variety to give her something to get going on… you don’t need a big pile of magazines, but a variety of styles is good. New ones coming in now and ten are exciting and inspiring. Throw out the old ones if they’ve been hanging around a while
  • Experiment wildly. Have fun.


  1. ZOMG. I MUST do this with my son! He's 3 and I know he would love it (as would I)!

  2. Aaaww shucks. If I'd known you were going to do that I would have gone through it and made the grammar consistent. But then again, consistent grammar is often not compatible with Wild Experimentation...
    Christy, I am so excited for you and your son. Altered Books really changed my creative life.

  3. "consistent grammar is often not compatible with Wild Experimentation..." Now one of my favourite quotes.

  4. "Experiment wildly. Have fun." Sounds like a good outlook for life not just altered books :)


    She needs to start a blog for her adoring fans to worship her at.


  6. anonymous, we all lurrrrve Lady Demelza. I've been trying to hassle her to start a blog too.

  7. Dear adoring fans,
    I fully intend to start a blog, just as soon as I arrive in the 21st century.
    Seriously, I'm typing to you now on a 1999 iMac, and my camera has a film in it.
    Still living largely analogue,
    Lady Demelza xxx

  8. aw Lady Demelza, we'll get you into the 21stC. it's not that bad up here, honest!

  9. I just wanted to say thanks for this. I showed Audrey some of Littletree's work and she loved the idea, so we've been making altered books too. Lots of fun! xx


Thanks for your lovely words, witty banter and entertaining discussion :)