Thursday, August 2, 2012

My Book House - Altering Books for Art Journals

I was at the library last night, turning in my overdue books and paying off my fines.  My library has a "Friends of the Library" area, where people donate books, and then the Friends sell them, to help support the library.  And lookie what I found!

They're called "My Book House", and from my Google learnings, I have found that this is 11 volumes of a 12 volume set.  I didn't see Volume 12 at the library, but I'm going to go back and look, in case it's been misplaced.  They were edited by Olive Beaupre Miller, and each book contains children's stories, poems and illustrations.  As you go through each book, the stories become progressively more challenging, to track a child's reading development.  They are gorgeously illustrated.

The first thing I saw, when I saw this set, was the beautiful pastel colors of the covers, and my first thought was to have them sitting on my shelf, each one altered into an art journal.  An 11 volume art journal, if you will.

However, then I went and looked them up on Google.  I always do this with old books, just to make sure I'm not altering some rare, one-of-a-kind book that people want for ridiculous sums of money.  

Sigh - and what did I find?  That these books are worth something.  Not a lot - these are reprints of the first "My Book House" 6-Volume set that was originally published in 1920.  But a 12-volume set of this 1971 reprint, in good condition, goes for about $75 on

This put me in a quandary.  Usually, I pick up old books because I like the cover, or the title is clever, or the paper inside is thick and a little bit toothy.  But they never turn out to be rare, or worth anything, other than maybe $2 at Alibris.  So, I alter them with zero guilt - no one else wants the book, so what's wrong with me altering it?

And this is the argument I use with people that freak out over people altering books - what's wrong with re-purposing a book that no one else wants, into something the artist will enjoy and use?  I don't think books are sacred, unless again, we're talking about rare first editions and such.  They are meant to be enjoyed, in whatever format that happens to be, reading and/or altering.

But in this case, these books turn out to be beloved by many, and are worth something to other people, as they are.

So, I've had to make a choice here.  They are worth something to me, as alterable books, and I want to use them as art journals.  I want to see them on my shelf, and know they contain my journey as a person and artist.  But, they are also worth something to others, as nostalgic reminders of childhood stories, or as something to be given to their children and grandchildren to enjoy.  And I've decided that what they are worth to me, as an artist, is more important than what they are worth to a stranger who may pay that $75 for what I've got.   I've decided that being worried about their monetary value to someone else is pretty materialistic, and I'm choosing the aesthetic route.

As an art journaler, what would you do?  Would you sell the books to someone else, just because someone might be willing to pay something for them?  Or would you do as I'm going to do, and alter them to your heart's content, because you want to?


Zura said...

Firstly, I'm not the lover of books and reading and libraries that I know you to be. But, that aside, I have to say that money value really skews perceptions. Our society says if something has a certain value in dollars then that changes everything.

Well, there are all kinds of value. I.E., peace of mind, sanity, fun, recreation, relaxation and many more. So, who is to say that 75 pieces of paper is more important than YOUR peace of mind, etc that you gain from using the books in your artistic/personal growth practice.

Rip 'em up, girl!

Anonymous said...

I love that you went with your gut on this one,I think that's the best that anyone can do in this situation. The idea of them as art journals marking your progression is really,really fantastic.

tlccreates said...

I am in a similar quandary. I have an old crumbling Bible that was headed to the garbage. I have chosen to use the pages of that Bible in my artwork. I know some would cringe at the thought of ripping up and collating those pages but I see it as bringing that Bible back to use. My artwork contains Scripture so in the end the old pages are background for art that states God's Word. But some may be uncomfortable with the projects.

Kristina W said...

Thank you so much for the vote of confidence, y'all! I've ripped into Book 1 ("Into The Nursery") and am thoroughly enjoying working in it.

tlccreates, I can understand your quandary. Personally, I don't see a problem with upcycling an old Bible, but I can understand where you might run into people who might. It's a spiritual practice for you, and that's what really matters.

iHanna said...

They are beautiful, and you own them, they're not very rare and you should do what ever you want with them! If you don't need that money, go alter!

Kristina W said...

Thank you for the comment, iHanna! I'm a big fan of your work, so I actually did a little happy dance when I saw that you'd commented. :)

They are well on their way to being made into art journals. I even gave the pages I'd ripped out of the first book to a friend, to use the illustrations to make cards. Lots of happy recycling going on over here.