So. Many. Words.

These last few months have really caught me off guard. Going from creating my altered books on the side as gifts and occasionally a commission or two, to being featured in articles and having my inbox overwhelmed with questions and requests, isn’t something I ever predicted. As someone who has been shy about sharing work in the past, I feel incredibly grateful for the amount of support you guys continue to show. Yet with that, there are always those who don’t agree with my use of the books. Which, I hate to admit, has had me feeling a little down.

I have tried to make a point of the fact that the books I use are never valuable and found in poor condition, but I also realize that I haven’t ever fully explained my process or materials, or anything much about myself and my influences at all (due in part, to the fact that I am terrible with words and avoid having to say more than I feel I need to). So here I am. All set up with my coffee, playing Agent Orange, ready to throw some more words at you. And pictures, I have those too.
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In 2012 I came across a box of hardback novels by a dumpster in Seattle. Being an avid reader, it pained me to see these books being tossed, destined for a life in a landfill somewhere. I flipped through them briefly and found that most were damaged and falling apart. I thought, “if I don’t read these, I will find a use for them”. My love for the natural environment and the issues it faces are a great concern for me as a person, and using discarded materials for my projects is super important. I guess in a way, I feel like it’s doing my part as a ‘maker of things’. I find excitement in giving a second chance to something thrown away. Previously, I had been re-purposing torn, wrinkled paper for drawings, and using these books was no different. I set out on a mission to incorporate them into my art practice somehow, and now I’m here.
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I hate to pin-point this one circumstance, and also hate to admit it has been bothering me all week, but I recently received a message that simply said: “Please stop destroying books. Some of us do still like to read them.” I can’t deny how much it pained me to read that and I wish I could pass it off. Though, I have come to appreciate the message now that it has given me the push to write this. Either way, I know I can’t possibly make everyone happy and that isn’t what I’m trying to do. I just want you to know I love books too, and that love is what has driven me to make these.
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That aside, I do often get asked about my ideas for the books. When it comes to talking about what inspires me, or what each piece represents, I stumble. Hard. The thing is, I’m not exactly certain. Of course there is the obvious – I love fairy-tales and nature, and the use of re-purposed materials is my nod to that adoration. But in all honesty, the images I come up with are mostly dreams and scenes I can’t get out of my head unless I channel them into something tangible. Each person interprets an image or object in different ways, and although my pieces absolutely do have significance to me as an individual, attaching my own words to your perception of them seems like an imposition. Hence my lack of titles and explanations on my work around here (sorry about that).
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I enjoy making the altered books more than I ever thought I would, especially considering how long they take and how hard they are on my hands. I don’t have a fancy studio or anything, just a tiny desk in the corner of my bedroom by the window. Yet I sit here and let my mind wander, not wanting to be anywhere else. I work a full-time job, come home, then spend the rest of my night carving or doodling up new ideas for larger drawings. I plaster the walls with pictures by people I admire and love, play music, read in between drawing to give my hands a rest…It’s my ideal thinking/creating space. Can’t beat that.
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With all that said (and I know I’ve written a lot, I almost don’t believe it), I hope you have a better idea of the person who makes these weird altered books. Thanks again to those of you who keep being so supportive – you rule! Forever and always.
Best wishes,
Isobelle
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13 Comments on “So. Many. Words.

  1. Isobel, just because print on pieces of paper happens to be bound into a book does make it worth keeping for all of eternity. Often books are amazing life changing vehicles. Some people can string words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs but that does not make them wise or their ideas worth reading. In the publishing world, more often than not, books exist to make a few people a boatload of money, by latching on to the hot trend of the moment, and are not worth the paper they are printed on. I trust that you can tell the difference between wisdom and crap. Please continue to take things that probably deserve to be in landfills and recycle them into beautiful objects of art. And f**k that sanctimonious jerk who had the audacity to criticize the beauty that you bring to the world.

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