Cool Discover: Break/Cut Open the Book!

On Sunday I facilited a workshop on altered books and art therapy. at the Expressive Therapies Summit: Here is the descri ption:

“In this half-day workshop, illustrated by case examples, we will explore how the medium of the altered book is uniquely placed to function as a bridge in integrating all parts of the self on the path to individuation. The therapeutic process connects to the metaphor of altering and destroying a book to create a new “Self” and play with a new narrative of the self with the rebuilding of the book. The idea of “radical self-acceptance” will be defined and related to the book’s innate ability to hold different aspects of the self on different pages, and through the juxtaposition of left and right sides. Specific materials and directives to invite this kind of “parts” exploration will also be discussed. Participants will begin their own altered book in the workshop and focus on discovering parts of their shadow and other cut-off or blocked aspects of themselves through the artmaking, then dialogue with these parts within their book. Time will be allotted for sharing and processing.”

The workshop was a great experience for me and, I hope, for the participants. I got inspired at the last minute to present the goals of the workshop in a very simple way, so I wrote them down on the board as: “1. Destroy/Create 2. Play/Have fun and 3. Be Here Now/Accept Yourself” It was great to see what people managed to do with their books in only 3 hours. My bibliography for the workshop is two books: an adult book I discovered in grad school called “Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art” and a children’s pop up book called “Beautiful Oops”.

The big break through I had happened the next day. So on the next day, Monday the 10th I was working on an altered book in session with a patient. She got the idea to cut open her book at the spine of the book because it was sticking out like an accordion and she wanted to give the book more space to be able to hold all her altered pages. Usually people at the beginning of the process or later on rip out a lot of pages in the book to have more room and avoid the “accordion” look of the book spreading out way beyond it’s original distance between the two covers. You would think with all the altered books I have started and made (at least 13-15 by now) that I would have figured out this idea of making room for the altered book instead of fitting it in the original book as a big part of altering books involves making it “bigger” and “more” than the original book. However, I was not surprised as I had even told the people in the workshop that I get lots of inventive great ideas from my patients, which could be the topic of another post (copying my patients’ creative ideas and passing them to other patients!) It’s amazing, the process of taking an exacto knife and cutting down the spin of the book. You get to see the insides of the binding and really see how this particular book was actually put together. The other unexpected part of it is that suddenly you have two books. My patient considered this option but decided to keep it as one book and add cardboard to the spine to make more room for her book, so she kept it as a whole. The pictures below are from two of my books that I have split in half.

The first book I opened up and created a new spine for in my session with my patient. The one with the doll in it I did later that day on my own. It was a great feeling of inspiration to cut it open and then create a new spine out of the cardboard from a sketchbook. I ended up adding the rest of the sketchbook cover and back with the wireboand right into the book. Then there was so much room left in the book I had the inspiration to glue in my doll, which I had made on Saturday during one of the workshops I attended. Later in the week, I worked more on that book and it came apart, so right now it is two books and I’m thinking of keeping it that way rather than gluing it back together to make one!

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