Wednesday, 4 August 2010


I like the idea of altering books, it is  actually recycling old ones and transforming them into entirely new books with works of art on every page possible.  These old books which would otherwise  have been thrown away have been saved and then altered to become an object of beauty and desire.  Isn't that wonderful?

To my understanding, altered book is a very new art form and there are numerous definitions as what constitutes an altered book.  To many artists in the craft world, it simply means to transform existing old books into works of art, using the book as a substrate/support for new ideas, techniques, images and  to communicate messages.

Old books are altered by adding pictures, cards, etc..., removing pages, tearing, cutting, stitching, painting pages and so forth...They can be created to serve as journals, scrapbooks, keepsakes etc... We can do what we like because we are creating an altered book!

This old book with a hardback was given to me to alter.  What intrigued me is the shape - already cut to the shape of a 'body form'.  My my....rather challenging to work on this book!!  But I love it..  What other better theme can I develop for this book than ' Vintage Fashion' which is rather interesting.

In this age of designer awareness, it's easy to get lost in the sea of sameness.  It is only thru vintage clothings that we can step apart from the crowd and be noticed. Hear hear, there is a trend now to wear vintage. We can wear originals or reproductions or mix vintage style with modern and look gorgeous. The possibilities are unlimited really and its nice to make your own style and it can be fun.

Here you are, take a sneak peek at my vintage ensembles and at the same time wish to share with you the various techniques created for expression of my art work.

How old is vintage?   People normally reckon anything older than 25 to 30 years old. Vintage now probably dates back 1980's and before. 

Collage/pattern papers are abundant nowadays. I  adore papers and must admit an impulse buyer. Got this piece of  red  floral paper from a craft store in Kensington High Street.  It certainly resembled  a piece of  stunning material for the body form.  I rubber stamped some images and had some journaling done. The string of seaquins placed along the spine is added as an ascent to the spread.
The resurgence of interest in vintage clothings  is partly due to the fact that  they have been worn by celebrities. There has also been an interest in environmental concern, so reusing, recycling and repairing rather than throwing things away is something we all should be doing.

I covered the whole spread  with a  beautiful red napkin tissue. The effect is stylish.. Did some rubber stamping and embellished with  black lace as though it is a waist band. A layer of wax is ironed on the images to evoke vintage or old feeling.

Retro from the word retrospective usually refers to clothing that imitates the style of a previous era.
If you take a look at the images on your right, I am sure you will agree that these styles are retro,  particularly the flare skirt which is popular almost every summer. There may be some modifications to the length or type of fabric used but the style remains.

I have covered part of the pages with  pretty pink floral tissue while the rest of the areas have been dabbed with Versamark teardrop ink pad in soft hues of pink and yellow. Embellished with a fabric tape measure and  creamy lace at the spine of the pages.

Recently there was an exhibit of the works of Bill Travilla, ' the man who dressed Hollywood' at Harods.  He was an Academy Award winning fashion and costume designer and became a Hollywood star because he dressed many top celebrities and one of his most premier client was the late Marilyn Monroe.  Her most famous costume was the white dress from the film ' The Seven year Itch'. This vintage dress was hung up for everyone to view while his other designs were depicted on cards which were for sale.  I was attracted to one, the glamorous  dress designed for a renowned singer.

To draw your attention to this fabulous dress, I  created  a window for you to look through. Making a window is fun as your view is immediate and you can see thru both sides.  These 2 pages were painted with silver metallic acrylic paint  and I dabbled some pinkish paint around the sides of window to highlight the focal point.
Well well...what do you think of the dress, isn't it elegant?  And this vintage design was for Connie Francis.  Oh yes, I think I do have a dress something like that hanging in my wardrobe as well. What about you?

I love to experiment with new inks and paints because it keeps the style and look of my book fresh.
Here I used a new found acrylic product called Lumiere paint,  the range has very nice colours particularly the Halo ones.  Ever so eager to try new stuff, I covered the pages with Halo Burgundy then rubber stamped  with metallic silver paint.  Wow!! the effect is stunning, like a piece of rich fabric!

 This was a typical Malaysian Wedding of my Mom & Dad back in the 1940's.  Everything from bridal gown to wedding suit to bridal bouquet, hairdo and even the car are considered vintage now.
The look of some of our modern wedding gowns are more or less similar as before, they must be vintage inspired!

The background  pasted with a pretty floral napkin tissue.  The beige lace is vintage, picked up from Portobello flea market.  More embellishments added on to make the page look good.

My parent's dressing style back in the 1940's and 50's were rather simple. Dad was always  in white shirt while Mom after marriage kept to wearing pants and a Chinese top. I like her vintage blouse with a small mandarin collar and some smocking at the front, pretty sweet.

Collaged  floral napkin tissue only on certain parts of the pages with the intention to allow some of the text to show.  Embellished  the page with tags, charms, beads and vintage lace.

Shoes, shoes and more shoes.  Vintage shoes are unique and one of a kind. Unless they are of good quality and made with the intention to pass on to other family members these old shoes can be saved for recycling.  Most of the time the vintage fashion shoes that are sold now are retro style.

Another effective way to add dimension is to fold the pages.  I have folded 2 pages vertically on each side to form pockets to hold embellishments like tags, an altered CD fan and a whole altered CD. This is an interesting way to make the page look attractive.
The folded pages are painted with acrylic paint while the rest are covered with tissue napkin printed with  images of vintage shoes. The top and bottom of the pockets are secured with a ribbon weaved through and knots tied at each end.

The above 1950's fashion  are so elegant and glamorous .  We can wear them today and still look exclusive or you combine the then with the now and look a million dollar.

To cover the pages more fully I used acrylic paint for the base and gesso on top using a stipple brush to create the texture.  Then I rubber stamped with black Brilliance ink.
Transferring images from a photocopy to cellophane tape give a transparent feel. and provides a wonderful layering effect on the pages.
3 dimensional embellishments like the black buttons gave  a contrast to the flat image while the fibres and the beads in the center added texture and interest to the altered book.

Oh no oh no! even my fashion style in the 1980's are considered vintage now.

Here again I folded the top end of both pages to form pockets for holding embellished tags.  I dabbed the spread with ink pad and then rubber stamped  the pages using two colour tones, black and brown.  To create a dress look I lined the sides of the pocket with black lace making it very feminine indeed.

Look how fabulous the style was back in the 40's and 50's. Imagine the aura that dressing in such vintage clothings and jewelry can create.

Glazes are amazing for altered books because glazes are translucent and allows text and images underneath  to show through. After glazing the pages with red and blue I used bubble wrap to move the glazes around forming a pattern, giving a subtle effect. Next I folded the pages and did stitching to sew the edges of the pockets shut using fibres, adding an interest to the altered book. However there are still 2  small side pockets left open  to enclose a tag or some other thing.

There are various ways of folding pages and they are fun to play with.  Here I experimented with vertical folding.  It  may looked complicated but not really so.

Prior to folding, I glued a few pages together to make it thicker otherwise the papers are too flimsy. Next I pasted floral tissue over the first 2 pages. Covered the underneath of the top spread with old sewing paper, painted the top with a coat of purplish acrylic paint and stamped with black ink pad to add some design.
To hold the 2 small vintage images, 2 pop-ups are created. The center spread are folded vertically and  embellished with purple lace at the sides.

Adding pop-ups to highlight the vintage swimwear gave a different meaning to this page. I like pop-ups, it surprises the viewer as the book opens to reveal something interesting.

I coloured the spread direct from ink pad in different tones and stamped along the sides.
The card is folded to form creases before they are positioned and glued.
I really love the colour combination of the spread and the pop-up pictures including the fabric tape measure which all portrayed a warm sunny afternoon by the pool/beach back in the good old days!

My mom again and look how she wore her Chinese mandarin collar blouse with a white overall on top, quite stylish indeed during her younger days.  That reminded me of a few precious pieces of  vintage nyonya tops with beautiful works of embroidery, on fine cotton fabric, passed down to me, one from my mom and a few from my deceased aunty.  Those are really priceless hand-downs, they are one of a kind and evokes lots of memories whenever I wear them, a feeling of nostalgia and a story to tell. The styles that are coming back are what our parents wore.  Its retro styles and its the in trend.

Used an oriental napkin tissue to cover the whole spread.  Altered a square slide holder, had it wrapped with pattern paper and stamped before using it as a frame for my face to highlight a focal point.
Other embellishments to add ascent to the pages.

Are you curious what is on the other side of the window?   Well, my intention is to excite you by creating a peek-a-boo layout, looking through a string of 'webs' !

Tore the pages to make an irregular window, had the whole spread glazed in golden orangy colour, next had it textured by moving wax paper on the glaze.
Stamped some images and weaved an orange organza ribbon on top and bottom for some pretty effect. The black and white image behind the window contrasts with the bright colour of the spread in front.

 Now you can see me clearly, my teen fashion style and my shades, very vain indeed.  Yearned to wear shades so ended up pretty maids in a row, all blinded, LOL.

Here I covered the pages  with a beautiful piece of oriental tissue that matched well with the black and white photo.  To give a softer edge to the look I tore the collage papers before layering and scratched parts of the image, making it even more vintage.

A 'spider web' is created by threading some beads and stitched criss-cross around the window creating an inviting page.

I have chosen to collage a symbolic picture inside to illustrate the 'moments' in the olden days, everything vintage.

There are a few variations of adding folded pages to the book giving  excitement to the viewer.
The one above has dual techniques, folding pages and cutting a window to look inside.
A pattern paper in the shape of  the book cut out and folded. A hole in the shape of a heart is cut out from the center.  The image is collaged  prior to adhering the pattern paper on top.

 Victorian vintage fashion  images on a pull-out tag embellished with vintage lace and German scrap.
Painted the pages with a coat of Lumiere paint with the text showing through, making the spread so artistic.
To add the final touch, I rubber stamped directly on the page adding some interesting elements.

Why do women love perfume?
I posted this question on  Facebook and received 2 interesting and sensible answers.  Wanna know what the 2 replies are, go on reading....
I quote "it smells nice, makes me feel 'dressed up' and the bottles are so pretty."
2nd reply "to attract opposite sex !"  And " smell is a character, it tells one's personality and mood.."
Thank you and well said ladies!!

Yes it has been proven by many scientific studies - women wear perfume 'to attract men', LOL.  There is no doubt that scents attract people.  Catching a whiff of a woman's perfume should turn heads and its true.
I believe a woman that wears beautiful clothes, pretty makeup and smelling good will feel better and more confident. 

I covered the spread with musical pattern paper and collaged on top with another small piece of black & white floral paper. Pasted images of exquisite vintage perfume bottles and added words to supplement the pages.

I am now a keen collector of  old perfume and perfume bottles, preferably vintage.  I found 2 beautiful ones from Portobello flea market.  Old perfume bottles are so pretty, decorative and some embellished with precious stones.  They are true authentic antique collectibles like jewelery.  The style of bottle is  normally consistent with the era.

Love to share with you one of my favourite piece, its an art deco style vintage bottle by Cacheral.
I have kept it in the shadowbox created on this book.  Its hand painted on the front and back and the cap is rounded and made of some kind of  semi precious stone.
Wanna have a sneak peak, just pull..... the string attached and Viola!!  now you colourful collectible!
Shadowboxes in altered books are a wonderful place to put souvenirs and collectibles. To create a shadowbox, I made a deep cut into the block of pages which have been glued together. Then I cut a door to close the niche which holds my vintage bottle. Adore this, so lovely!

 Its amazing to add drawers to a book. This is not only a fun way to add embellishments and to hold some charms etc.... but they really do add a new dimension to the altered book.
This technique involves a lot of cutting and here I used a match box.  Like it??

There are no rules to say that the book cover has to be altered but if you feel like doing it, leave the cover to the last. Luckily, I was given a hardback book because it seemed sturdier and able to stand up to the altering process. There are many ways of altering book covers but here I chose to paint it  with acrylic paint pre-mixed with gel medium and did a resist using vaseline.  Next I stitched a skirt to the fabric body form to bring into prominence the theme of my altered book - VINTAGE FASHION

Though I said I have finished altering but yet I have a few more pages still not done.  The good thing is, not every page needs to be altered and as at when I feel  inspired, I can always revisit and add something more.

If you have never tried to alter a book before, I hope this book of mine inspires your entry to a whole new form of art.



Susie Jefferson said...

I have got to say that you have done a phenomenal job - the book is lovely, and big congratulations on finishing it. I know how busy you are!

The post itself is excellent - great photos, the artwork is beautifully featured and the explanations are clear and concise. This has to be one of my favourite posts of all time! I'm definitely bookmarking this one.

Totally WONDERFUL, Toh Ee!

Toh Ee said...

Thank you so much, happy to receive this wonderful praise and for selecting this altered book as your fave posts. Feeling very flattered indeed, esp when it comes from you Susie, one of the top craft designers in UK! Hurray !!

naddy said...

TohEe, saw this book in real life and it's drop dead gorgeous.... So beautifully done.... Love all the little details tht goes into the book... GORGEOUS!

Toh Ee said...

Terima Kasih Nad, I lurved this altered book too. Created with lots of patience and excitement. Intend to alter another one soon. Thx for dropping by. <3