05 Feb

Altered Book: The Alchemy of Existence

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Those tiny bottles I started working with a few weeks ago have all been filled with things and have at last made their way into an altered book. I raided the spice rack for the bulk of the filler, selecting herbs and spices based on colour and texture. One of the bottles is filled with tiny seeds from Yuuki‘s food. I decided to fill the brown bottles with random inedible items and have something sticking out the top of each because they are too opaque to see inside.

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When I first envisioned the bottles in a book I thought I would put them in orderly rows as if they were on shelves, but as I started to create the composition it seemed more interesting to stack them and have the rows overlap. I had to decide exactly how they would be arranged before I could start cutting into the book, and I had to maintain the same arrangement in order to make them fit back in.

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The bottles inspired thoughts about alchemy, potion mixing and magic so I used this as the jumping off point as I chose the finishing touches for the composition. The book is lined with sewing pattern paper with lines and symbols that make me think of star charts, and the colour of the paper seems old and yellowed. Every other object I chose is metallic – various coins, a locking mechanism and a key – to tie into the transmutation of metals often associated with the art of alchemy. The copper coil in the center of the book was made by winding wire around a skewer. I added the same copper wire to the seven brown bottles because they looked too plain as they were.

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Materials used: book, sewing pattern paper, locking mechanism, coins, rusty key, glass bottles, copper wire, dried flowers, metal chain, pencil crayon, bamboo stick, map fragment, book page fragment, feathers, bird seed, and various herbs and spices.

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5 comments

  1. Absolutely fantastic! I’ve done a few AB spreads on alchemy, but yours is so creative and visually interesting. Love the commentary on the transmutation of metals!

    Is the book meant to open only to that spread, like a sculpture? Very cool. Need one of those ornate old wooden lecterns from a library or church to display it on, like it’s in some wizard’s den. 😀

  2. The altered books are an interesting medium. When I first saw you working with them (in your photostream) I thought you might continue to work and practice with them, and indeed so you have! The detail of the wire on the bottles is very elegant, with the spiral necktie being my favourite.

  3. Thank you for your comments everyone. This felt like the most complicated altered book I’ve created so far.

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© Rachael Ashe