19 Jul

Altered Book: Circle Away and Return

This is a very photo heavy blog entry because I wanted to document the process of making one of my altered books. I chose this one specifically because it is my first book with movable parts. It was a very involved process and I had a lot of figuring out to do as I went along, but I loved every minute of making it. The idea of making a book with movable parts was motivated by an artist call put out by 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland, which I intend to enter.

The whole process started with selecting the right book for the project, one that was not too thick or heavy, and then I pulled out bits of ephemera to select the visual aspects of the book. I narrowed things down to a set of colourful pasteboard butterflies and started brainstorming ways of how I’d like them to move within the book. I decided the best way to proceed was to make a paper mechanism based on the designs in my book Paper Engineering & Pop-ups for Dummies. Most of the designs were vertical and I needed something to work horizontally, so it meant making a prototype in order to figure out how to make it work for me. Learning by doing is often the only way I can figure things out for myself.

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Pictured here are the pieces of the prototype mechanism I made from cardstock. The next step was figuring out where I wanted to place these in the book and how I could adapt it to my needs.

Altered book - movable parts book

I decided to incorporate two working mechanisms into the design and cut two niches into the book in the lower right and upper left, leaving a layer of pages on either side to hide the mechanisms.

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I made two new mechanisms based on my original prototype but smaller so they would fit within the height of the stacked book pages. I needed to leave a bit of space underneath so the paper rod in the middle had room to move freely without catching on the bottom of the niche.

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I padded the bottom and top edge of the niche with pieces of paper cut from the book itself.

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(I skipped photographing a few steps here). Pictured below is what the book looked like after all of my work with the mechanisms was complete. They were tucked away in working order within the book pages with the middle rod poking through a hole through the top layer of pages. I chose two brass watch parts as the turning knobs. At this point I started figuring out the composition of the book and realized I needed to reconsider the red gears as the platform for the butterflies.

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I chose sewing pattern paper as the first layer on the background because I love the yellow brown colour and warmth of the paper. I knew I would add something more to it as I went along but wasn’t quite sure what that would be.

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At this point I had also decided to make leaves for the butterflies to sit upon, and these would be the pieces that turned. I made the leaves from green paper with magnolia leaf skeletons layered on top to make them look more real. This is my favorite detail of the whole artwork, and I kind of wish I hadn’t hidden so much of them under the butterflies when I attached them.

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The final touches on the book was to add a few more decorative elements to the pages using scraps of Japanese paper and printing a leaf design with a rubber stamp.

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There are eight butterflies all over the book, with five attached to the movable leaves and three in stationary positions on the background pages.

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After all the work I did on this the actual movement within the book is very simple, it allows one to turn the butterfly leaves in a circle. I kept it simple on purpose because this is my very first movable parts book and there is plenty of room to be more ambitious with future projects.

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The finished altered book is lovely to look at and fun to play with. Whether or not this work gets accepted into the juried show at 23 Sandy, it provided me with the opportunity to experiment in new ways and create work I may not have otherwise made.

Altered book - movable parts book

Materials used: book, sewing pattern paper, Japanese paper, rubber stamp & ink, pasteboard butterflies, card stock, brass watch parts, leaf skeletons, lots of gel medium, and lots of glue.

© Rachael Ashe