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Artistic + Inspiring: Altered Books

I was flattered and honored when Holly asked me to be a guest blogger on decor8 for a few days while she settles into her new apartment and part-time life in Germany. I just want to say what a great resource and friendly voice you are here in the design blogosphere Holly. I don’t know how you do it really, every day there are a whole bunch of great new finds with informative, casual blog posts. You’re an inspiration – you make me a better blogger – and I’m sure many of us have nicer homes and studios because of the encouragement we find on decor8. I don’t know how you do it really, but thank you for doing your decor8 thing! [Holly – don’t remove this! : ) ]

Holly asked me to introduce myself: I’m Jason Thompson, father of two, blogger, bookbinder and the founder of Rag & Bone Bindery, a small bookbinding studio based in Providence, Rhode Island. Rag & Bone has been designing & manufacturing handcrafted Albums, Guestbooks, Journals and other books for 18 years now [where does the time go?] and you can find our Albums through retailers across the U.S. and Canada.

decor8 readers can save 20% on all Albums & Books at the Rag & Bone Bindery boutique, simply enter this discount code during checkout [good through Friday, 08/22/08, enter code: decor8].

As a bookbinder, I love books, paper, bookbinding, book arts, paper craft, origami, altered books and art made with books as objects. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by books all day, but sometimes I forget how beautiful they are, which is one reason I’m drawn to book art and artists’ books. I’m inspired by the different interpretations artists find with their art, whether it still retains its “bookish-ness” or is inspired simply by the book form. Here are a few of my favorite artists and journalers who use books as muse and/or medium.

Sabrina Ward Harrison
Artist and journaler Sabrina Ward Harrison published her first book at the age of 23, “Spilling Open; The Art of Becoming Yourself”. This was one of the first published journals I discovered [together with Dan Eldon’s, The Journey Is The Destination] that inspired me to journal myself. What is it about journals and journaling that encourages such self reflection? Sabina’s confessional journal pages are visual treats and a reminder of how fragile, inspired, confused, creative and individual we all are. Sabrina’s art has since moved off her journal pages to encompass photography, collage, installations and performances. She recently spent two years living in a former one-room schoolhouse.

If you’re in the Southern California area on September 20th & 21st, you can join a two day creative workshop with Sabrina at Carol Park’s studio. You can view more photos of her workshop here.

Teesha Moore
I first met Issaquah, Washington artist Teesha Moore while writing my first book and was blown away [I still am…] by her textured, layered and colorful journals. I was fortunate to have three of them to myself for a few weeks for photography and have to admit, I was inspired and a little intimidated. They’re so complex and dense. Teesha runs Artfest and Artfiberfest every year, two retreats with one-of-a-kind, unique art classes and events focusing on handmade art, book art and journals. Teesha also publishes “Art & Life” and “Play” ‘zines. She’s an inspiration to book artists and journalers and her love for art shows in everything she does. I’ve only met Teesha once, we’re on opposite sides of the country, and she’s just as lovely and generous in person. Check out her colorful art studio…

Artfest 2008 took place in April, however the 2009 schedule is in progress and dates are yet to be announced. Visit her website to stay up to date and join the artfest mailing list.

Lisa Kokin
San Francisco Bay area artist Lisa Kokin has her feet firmly planted in the world of fine art but her book work is approachable and playful. Her altered books maintain the book form, creation through destruction, and have a unified look and feel. She maintains a visual continuity throughout her work but finds new life in old books by reshaping them, shredding pages and even sewing books inside-out. In addition to altered books, Lisa also uses buttons as medium for her unique collages.

Georgia Russell [Georgia doesn’t seem to have her own website, but is represented by England Gallery]
Scottish Artist Georgia Russell uses a scalpel [and obsessive patience] to create altered books which have been cut, very meticulously, into strips and shreds and carefully arranged into beautiful compositions. This kind of work gets me excited to create myself. There’s just something about particular types of art that sparks the, “I can do that!” feeling which inspires me to create something too. Though frankly, there’s no way I could make something as beautiful as this no matter how sharp the scalpel and how many band-aids I have on hand. Georgia is continually refining her art, creating new and unusual book forms.

Su Blackwell
UK artist Su Blackwell creates enchanting book art by externalizing the pages of books into three dimensional representations of their content. Sue says, “These works can be seen as metaphors for language. I use non traditional art materials such as books and clothes to create work which evokes a sense of dreamy melancholy or magical enchantment”. Dreamy and enchanting indeed! If books have dreams they would look like this!

Tracey Bush
[Tracey doesn’t have a website, but is represented by Art*Star]

These collaged, paper-cut dioramas by UK artist Tracey Bush combine entomology and lepidoptera with traditional letter writing and mail art. Each butterfly is sewn together from layers of paper using a bookbinders pamphlet stitch and secured into Museum boxes with entomological pins. Each is an actual species presented life size and created with an allusion to its name or habitat, IE: the Scotch Argus butterfly shows a Scottish Loch on its wing, etc. Beautiful!

Stay tuned for Part Two of this post. I’ll return to share some of my favorite paper artists with you on Wednesday.

(images linked to sources above, text by jason thompson)

Posted by decor8 in Books + Magazines on August 18, 2008

Your comments...

  1. elisa commented
    August 18th, 2008 at 9:33am

    Your blog is a TREASURE

  2. Staciela commented
    August 18th, 2008 at 10:13am

    I knew it was only a matter of time until Sabrina Ward Harrison was on this blog! I love her work!

    Stacielas last blog post:

  3. Jason Thompson commented
    August 18th, 2008 at 10:14am


    I just realized the actual discount code didn’t make it into my post! When ordering from the Rag & Bone Bindery boutique just enter “decor8″ when checking out to receive the 20% discount.


    Jason Thompsons last blog post: Rag & Bone News!

  4. Carrie S. commented
    August 18th, 2008 at 10:34am

    Hi Jason,

    Great to see you here! I’ve been in love with Su Blackwell’s work for quite some time, and I’m glad we share the love. :)

    Hope you and the family are having a lovely summer!

    Carrie S.s last blog post: Pony Picks: Dutch Door Press

  5. Melissa de la Fuente commented
    August 18th, 2008 at 11:07am

    I have been a fan of Rag & Bone for years now…my first daughter’s memory book is from your company Jason and it is so beautiful. All of the artists here are SO inspiring. Wow….the layered journals, the inspiring studio, the amazing paper/book art of these artists. I am inspired and captivated. Thank you so much for this Jason! I look forward to part 2. :)

    Melissa de la Fuentes last blog post: hope II

  6. Rivka commented
    August 18th, 2008 at 11:09am

    Hello Decor8,

    Luv your website, a true inspiration.

    When I saw this article I had to react. I know a dutch artist who also makes butterfly cutouts but in her case it’s out of bottles.
    Her name is Manon van Kouswijk and the project is called Lepidoptera Domestica.

    It is nice to see how different and the same products can be.


  7. Jamie Watson commented
    August 18th, 2008 at 11:21am

    Really liked this post – the books and artists are fascinating! Thank you.

    Jamie Watsons last blog post: Surf Fridays!

  8. Elizabeth commented
    August 18th, 2008 at 12:51pm

    There is no end to the inspiration in this post. Thank you!

    Elizabeths last blog post: Bad Sad Brownie

  9. Andy Mathis commented
    August 18th, 2008 at 1:00pm

    these are all great.
    But those books/sculpture pieces by Su Blackwell are fantastic.

    Andy Mathiss last blog post: Pocket Mirrors!!!

  10. san smith commented
    August 18th, 2008 at 1:50pm

    Oh my gosh – this is all fantastic! Sabrina Ward Harrison’s journals are beautiful, and the butterflies by Su Blackwell are amazing – I’d love to have some for my home.

    This has definitely inspired me on new ways to approach my journaling!

    san smiths last blog post: Sleepy Saturday

  11. carolyn commented
    August 18th, 2008 at 2:22pm

    fab job! looks great!

  12. ChrysRT commented
    August 18th, 2008 at 7:32pm


    What a delightful post! I was in need of some artistic inspiration for my soul! Thank you for sharing all this beauty with us, I am really looking for Post no 2.

  13. ruth commented
    August 18th, 2008 at 10:46pm

    Su Blackwell is amazing! Thanks for sharing! I can’t wait for part II!

    Items from Rag & Bone are filling up my X’mas wishlist to Santa!

    ruths last blog post: TGIF

  14. Kim Wallace commented
    August 19th, 2008 at 4:47am

    Some extraordinary and inspiring works you have posted about Jason, thank you! I just wrote a post about the current exhibition being held at the State Library of Qld, Australia, which explores the variety of forms that artists’ books take and the ways their content is presented. If you are interested, some of the works can be viewed online at

    Your post makes for the perfect addition and you feature some very talented artists! Can’t wait for part 2…

  15. Amy commented
    August 19th, 2008 at 10:22am


    So pleased to have met you yesterday at the gift show, wonderful post as usual. Like everyone else, looking forward to part 2.

  16. chelsea commented
    August 19th, 2008 at 3:59pm

    This is the best post I’ve seen here! I have spent hours exploring these artists and will spend many more. Thank you!

  17. Pr?t ? Voyager commented
    August 19th, 2008 at 5:09pm

    Given the topic of altered books, thought this was an interesting/beautiful debate:


  18. paperNstitch commented
    August 19th, 2008 at 5:43pm

    This is just what I needed. I was thinking about having my art students create some altered books, but was still on the fence. Now I am sure. Thanks for the post.

    paperNstitchs last blog post: Bag ReForm

  19. Shuangshuang commented
    August 20th, 2008 at 9:07am

    Hello Holly and everyone work for this website,

    It ‘s so wonderful website…beyond wonderful…… I found it 2 weeks ago, and it is so so many inspirations!!! Give me energy of my life, power of keep working with my inside love. Every time, I look at the things on decor8 , I just feel refreshed. I tell myself I must stick on what I like to do. that’s where the happiness come from, and the meaning of my life.

    I just want to sincerely say: Thank you so much!

    Please keep this website working forever.

  20. Seth commented
    August 30th, 2008 at 7:12pm

    Fantastic post. So interesting to see the work of both familiar artists and those new to me! Thank you!

  21. Lucy commented
    September 1st, 2008 at 4:25am

    Hi there,

    Wow these are beautiful… I love the Lisa Kokin ones…

    Thought you might also like to know about Australian Artist Nicholas Jones who makes incredible sculptures from books… I interviewed him a while ago and posted lots of images of his stunning work here –

    Love your blog by the way :) thanks for all your incredible work x

    Lucys last blog post: Nicholas Building Open House

  22. canvas art commented
    December 1st, 2009 at 5:59pm

    great post, very informative, thank you for sharing!

  23. margaret commented
    November 8th, 2010 at 4:41pm

    Tracey Bush now has a website –
    margaret´s last blog post ..More studio progress

  24. Carleigh Williamson commented
    November 23rd, 2010 at 4:47pm

    i cant find what im looking for?:(

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