Thursday, June 3, 2010

"Altered Books" - recycling project part 1

I've known most of my 6th graders since kindergarten, but next year they will no longer be mine :-(
So, I like to give them something special and personal for their final art project with me. This year, the project was 'altered books'. I gathered old textbooks that were going to be discarded, mostly because of obsolete info or changes in the state curriculum. They were not in bad condition and I didn't like to see them just get dumped. We're not all done yet, but these pics mostly show works-in-progress. I've got a little further explanation below.

So, the assignment was to select a book and alter it by either:

  • rhythmically folding the book to make a sculptural piece (spray painted when complete),

  • or cutting, gluing, collaging, and painting the book based on a theme (the student's choice). For these books, we found that we could effectively seal pages together with ModPodge, using wax paper to keep the pages from sticking where they weren't supposed to stick, and then putting heavy weight on top of the book to dry. One boy even glued together a whole big phone book and cut out a rectangle inside for a treasure box. Very cool.
Most of the kids selected the second choice, but those a little timid about utility knives or stencil knives chose folding. In the end, only one kid cut himself, and it wasn't too bad. (He was trying to cut a hole in the cover of a hardcover book, and it was foolish.) The folded books were done more quickly, but we're still working on the theme books. The kids absolutely LOVED transforming these books and rapidly got over any intimidation. They are merrily painting, cutting windows, collaging, and coming up with fabulous ideas on the spot. Many have made secret treasure boxes, some have cut windows in the shapes of sun rays, waves, eyeballs, etc, and each is totally unique in style.

Here's a couple of pages from my (unfinished) sample book (with a woodland theme):

When the students are all done with their books (still another week or so) I'll post a few more pics. I plan to do this project again next year, but in the fall instead, so we can be more open-ended with our timing. I've thought about a lot of ideas for themes - songs (I'm planning to make one myself, based on the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" which is filled with fabulous visual imagery), famous artists/styles, dreams, events or people in history, family trees, etc. And by starting in the fall, we'll have enough time to add latches, ribbons, lacing, glitter-glue, metallic rubs, clay figurines, and more, more, MORE!!! So much fun...............


  1. Wow, what an interesting curriculum you must teach. I just cannot imagine how on earth you teach all those grades!!! I love where you teach though. That would certainly make it all worth it! jan

  2. Oh, you comments both actually showed up. I have "comment moderation" so they don't appear until I approve them. It's kind of a pain in the neck, so I'll probably go back to the letter verification thing like you have. jan

  3. Thanks Jan, please feel free to delete one of those comments! and Yes, I teach in a spectacularly beautiful part of our country.

  4. Awesome! Can't wait to see your 'Lucy in the sky..' themed book.

  5. I plan to work on the "Lucy" book over the summer. Will post it when done!