The Library of Reclaimed Books – a collaborative project

Altered Book project

Last year SEVEN took a day trip to Turn the Page – the Norwich-based artists’ book event. No sooner had we stepped into The Forum than we were signing ourselves up for a project, The Library of Reclaimed Books. And, March 2019 was the deadline for submitting our entry:

“The Library of Reclaimed Books is a collection of altered ex-library books that started as a personal endeavour to give new lease of life to books that have lost their original use value. The library has now evolved into a social art project, involving different libraries and the public.”

Below you can read the words which accompanied our collaborative entry, an altered book called Découpage, which you can see on The Library of Reclaimed Books website.

And, if you’re thinking “what the heck is an altered book?” check out this post.

Many Hands Make New Work

“This altered book is the collective reimagining of SEVEN, a small group of artists who come together to experiment with creative techniques and idea-generating prompts in sketchbooks and art books. Exploration is our destination. And reclaiming unwanted books is our favourite.

Altered book pages

While some might view this as a sticky end for a lovely little ex-library book, we like to think we’ve breathed new life into its neglected pages, using the photographs, diagrams and words within, plus the work of our fellow SEVEN members, as creative catalysts.

We picked this book on decoupage because its theme spoke to us. Turns out cutting and sticking pictures onto things – usually furniture – was enjoyed by everyone from Marie-Antoinette to mad, bad and dangerous with a pair of scissors Lord Byron. While those arty types Picasso and Matisse dabbled too. Who knew!?

Cutting, composition and color

Never ones to be deterred by big shoes, and suitably armed with paint, glue, cutting tools, and a clutch of everyday materials – think sweet wrappers and nail varnish – we set to work, taking turns to add to the book. A year later and this ex-library book has been transformed into something unplanned, unexpected and unique.


Want to Create Your Own Altered Book?

Intrigued by the idea of altered books? Starting couldn’t be easier. Charity shops are a great source of unwanted books. Our SEVEN tips:

  • Look for books which have been drawn or written in, or which have pages missing – this helps overcome the squeamish feeling some people have when it comes to creating art in ‘proper’ books
  • Slimmish books with hardback covers are ideal – Helen’s first altered book was an encyclopaedia (she never finished it)
  • Choose books with a mixture of images and text
  • Avoid books with glossy pages – matte paper is usually better for this type of work

And you’re away!

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