What it Takes to Alter a Book

An altered book is a mixed media sort of art where an artist takes a book and changes it from its original form into something different. The artist alters the book’s appearance and its meaning. Altered books can be simple, like adding a drawing or words to a page–or quite complex, like creating a sculpture out of the book. (Just Google “altered book” and take a look at the image results if you’d like to see the variety of altered book creativity out there.)

I enjoy mixed media art, and I love books, so when I found out about this art form, I wanted to try it. I’ve created several pieces over the past few years.

When I alter a book, I like to work with children’s board books. I generally paint over the pages, glue things onto the pages. But here’s the thing with board books: the pages have a slick finish to them. A coating that makes them more toddler drool-proof and easier to clean. Which is great for little kids. Not so great for an artist. Because paint doesn’t stick to that surface well at all. It dries and then peels right off.

So, before I even start to create a new altered book, I take sandpaper to the board book and sand that slick surface off the pages.  Get rid of the coating, take off some of the words and colors that are already there. Sometimes, I glue pages together. Sometimes, when I know I want to add a three-dimensional object into my book, so I’ll cut out pieces of the book to make room.


Only then–only after all that preparation–do I start adding my stuff to the book. Because now I know it’ll stick. I can paint and the paint will stay. I can glue and know that the pictures and objects will stay anchored.







I think that’s the way it works with us and God, too. Imagine this. God has a story he wants to write in my life. Truth about my identity that he wants to write on the pages of my heart. But there’s already been another story written on many of the pages. And there’s a slick protective coating over those words. And it can keep the truth of what God says from sticking.

Sometimes it isn’t just that we need to hear the truth of what God says about us.

Sometimes, maybe it’s this: that we need to work with God to take sandpaper–or in some cases a sand blaster–to the pages of our lives where there are lies. Where we’ve been lied to about our identity. Or where we ourselves have lied about who we are. Where the wrong story has been written. Where our book needs desperately to be altered.

Scrape away the old stories, and the slick coating that protects them. And then. And then God’s true story can be written. And it will stick.

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