that time should be
So rich yet fugitive a pageantry.

forsake it then and with us fly
Into the past where nothing now can die:
Where even the young and lovely, old and staid
Live on unchanged - of purest fantasy made.

Prologue - W. de la Mare

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Altered Book

Throughout the past several months I've been working on a little altered book project that I intend to give as a Christmas gift to my cousin. It's been a lot of fun! As the book is quite small, only 7 x 5 inches, it is like working in miniature. Not having to stress out about filling up a 12 x 12 space frees up my mind a bit and relaxes me in a way that making layouts does not! And I get to use up little bitty scraps that I can't seem to throw away.

The theme of this book is the family history, and it is titled "Portraits." Since my cousin and I naturally have the same ancestral family, and she very much enjoys our joint history, I wanted to make something special for her so she could record her thoughts, etc.  I left the "journaling" spaces blank in some cases so that she could write in her own words and handwriting.

I found the most difficult part to be the cover, and I can't say I am entirely happy with it! It was a huge learning experience - lots of pulling things off, wiping ink off, starting over - but at least I got something! It is my first ever book cover! Hopefully I will improve the more I do!

To make the cover I first gessoed the entire book. Then I applied molding paste through a stencil. After this I sprayed the whole cover with inks, many times, building up layers of transparency. I then positioned my title and main floral element (which was first colored with inks) and laid that down over lace scraps. Everything was secured using mat gel medium. Through much trial and error I proceeded to add more ink, spraying on and wiping off, to achieve the look I was after. I must have wasted a ton of spray ink doing this, and have now learned that applying the ink with a brush is the best way to go as I can slowly build up color intensity without wasting a lot of product. I finally secured the buttons and the roman numeral, with gel medium. The button serves as a wrap -around for a piece of twine which secures the book closed.


First entry is our illusive Grandfather, whom we never knew, and our parents did not know him either. He died when his children were very young, and his story is a tragic one, which I will not get into here. The individual pages were first given a coat of gesso, then modeling paste was applied through different stencils. The page was inked and elements glued down, and various touches of spray were applied, along with thread and ribbon.


This page, done in the same manner with gesso, laces and wallpaper is about our Grandmother. It also includes a photo of her tea set, as the page alludes to a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, "A woman never knows how strong she is until she gets into hot water." Our poor Grandmother was in hot water an awful lot, and she was very strong indeed!!

Now we go back to the old country, to this lost place in Poland, and some of my Grandmother's family. The old woman on the blanket is my Grandmother's Mother, and the woman kneeling is one of her sisters. Those are her children alongside her. Again, the same technique, layering strips, gesso, inking through a stencil, applying paper strips and fabrics, some stamping.

Another page featuring Grandmother's family in Poland. I wanted to keep some of these early pages similar in feeling, so I stuck with a neutral, earthy palette, as I felt it suited the place and time.

This page features my cousin's Father as a little boy. He was my Grandmother's 4th son. He and my Mother were very close.

And this is my Mother. She was my Grandmother's 5th daughter, her 9th child.

Here we have my Mother with my cousin's Father, together in their first communion photo. Can you see how close they were?!!

That's it for now, more to come!!


  1. Thank you for sharing your blog link to your journal with me Natalie. This is a masterpiece! I love how you maintained the continuity of your book with the white washed gesso background on each page, and I will definitely be lifting your lacy background idea on the last entry of your book on one of my future projects. Each pages is an eye turner so very well executed and designed. Are you sure you want to give it away to your cousin? :) I don't think I could part with it. I love, love your title "Portraits" and am very impressed with your first cover design. I'm already looking forward to your next book(s). I hope you don't mind that I link your page on my blog for a future post. Hugs, Joyce

  2. Natalie this is such a wonderful piece, I love every bit of it. My friend Joyce gave me your link to look at and I will bookmark it and come back again, it's so beautiful! My favorite is the first page, I love the pale colors and all the lace, you have done an amazing job, this will make a beautiful family heirloom. Very inspiring.....

  3. I got here because Joyce mentioned you and I am so glad she did, - what an amazing creation, I adore what ou did here and I love the fact that the size is so small! Wonderful photos and I love the cover,I think you did a great job on it!!

  4. Wow Natalie! I love it! I wish I was your cousin, lol. Each page of this book you are giving her is a gorgeous work of art.

  5. And I've arrived from Pinterest (trust Astrid to get here before me!!)... beautiful work, and I'm off to have a scroll around to see more.
    Alison x