Book Page Wreaths

Book lovers, avert your eyes. I’m about to rip up books (again) and turn them into something else. But first, a note to all of us for whom books are sacred and for whom the thought of damaging one is tantamount to a violent act: the books used in these wreaths are books that are headed for the shredder. Having them serve in an act of beauty is much better, at least in my studio.

So, book page wreaths. Three styles built on three different backgrounds. You’ll need to gather some materials:

  • Wreath base, straw or styrofoam
  • Scissors
  • One or two inexpensive, small paperbacks. I like to use romance novels because the paper is porous and ages quickly.
  • White glue
  • Stapler
  • Ink stain in a dauber bottle. Tim Holz Distress Stain is a common brand.
  • Spray ink with shine or glitter. Tattered Angels Glimmer Mist is a common brand.
  • Straight pins, plain or with colored heads.
  • Selection of colored papers
  • Spray bottle (plain water)
  • paper clip or clothes pin (optional)
  • gold stamp pad (optional)

Choose the size of wreath you want. The bigger the wreath form, the more pages you need. The size depends if you want to use the wreath to hang on a door, lie on a table, or from a mantel.

wreath21. Ruffled page wreath on straw base. A straw base is wonderful because you do not have to cover it or paint it to hide the “raw” look. Most of these wreaths come wrapped in plastic, which you can leave on. It stops shedding.


Straw wreath with plastic removed. You can leave it on to avoid shedding.

Take a paperback and hold it closed. Rub the ink dauber along the closed pages, on all three sides of the book. (The spine side is where the cover is attached, do not remove the cover).

Be generous with the ink. Cheaper paperbacks work well for this, the ink will soak into the paper nicely. The pages also look aged quickly. Allow the book edge to dry completely. Don’t use paint–use ink. Paint will glue the pages together.

Pages have been partially painted with ink to show method.

Pages have been partially painted with ink to show method.

Open the book and fold back the cover to the first page completely covered with type. Rip out pages, one at a time. Keep them intact–if a small corner rips off, fine, but if a big chunk rips off, discard it.

Crumple the page as if you were going to throw it away. Squeeze it hard enough to leave wrinkles that stay.

Find the center point of the crumple, pinch it between your fingers to form a “stem” and insert a pin through the open center (not the piece you are pinching).

Push the pin into the straw wreath. Repeat until the wreath is generously covered.  Add enough to have it look fluffy and full.

Cut thin pieces of colored paper to match the season. I’ve used orange for Autumn. Spray the paper with plain water and clip it with a clothes pin or paper clip. Allow to dry. It will be curly when you release it. You can also use ribbon for this step. Pin the ribbon ends to the wreath and wind the long end into a pleasing shape.

2. Tailored wreath on styrofoam base. This wreath works well flat as well as hanging on a door or window.  The wreath base is white, 8-inch styrofoam:


Dye the edges of the book as in the wreath above. If you want a gold edge, use a stamp pad and rub it against the edges of the book.

Wreath1Tear out pages and fold the page so the two short ends meet. Do not crease. Fold the colored edges back on both sides so the page looks like a Z.

fold2Staple the bottom. For the first row around the back of the wreath, press the folds closer together. Do not crease sharply. Place the pieces of paper so no spaces show between them.


Wreath, back view. On this model, a blue and white hanging string is already attached.

Turn the wreath over. Press it flat. Repeat the folding and pinning on the front of the wreath. Allow the fold to be a bit uneven, and this time allow them to be open and fuller.

wreath3When the wreath is covered all the way, make sure the pins are secure. Take about six more pages and roll them into a cone. Staple the bottom and pin it around the inside of the wreath. Glue the top to the existing page beneath it.

Spray lightly with Glimmer Mist. You can also spray lightly with a spray glue and sprinkle glitter on the wreath.

In the photo above, look at the 3-o’clock position and you will see a page added after the wreath was completed. If you decide to add pages, make sure you tuck them under both the existing pages and the row of cones.

3. Leaf wreath on green  3-D styrofoam ring. The advantage of the ring over the circle is that you have more space and depth. If you use long pins, they will poke through the circle.

Wreath back was photographed when the front was complete.

Wreath back was photographed when the front was complete.

If you don’t want the color of the ring to show through, paint it first. You can also cover it with burlap strips or foil.

You do not need to edge the pages for this project. Tear the pages out of the book carefully. Cut ovals the length of the page using scissors. You really don’t need to make a leaf template. Make sure at least one end comes to a point.

The leaves will look better if they are not all the same size.

WreathleafTake an oval, pinch the bottom together to help the leaf form a cupped shape. Staple. Take a pin and starting at the top, with the leaf facing down, pin the leaf to the frame. Repeat from the 12 o’clock position to the 6 o’clock position on the right side. Then repeat on the left.

Once the big leaves are in, tear more pages out of the paperback. Fold the page in half, short end to short end. Cut out two smaller leaves, making sure they are not connected. Fold, staple, tuck and pin the shorter leaves in with the large ones. This gives the wreath fullness and visual interest.  You can also cover the sides and back for a really full wreath to hang in a window.

Use construction paper or scrapbook paper, or just about any kind of colored paper to make the wreath look holiday-appropriate. You can also make the wreath entirely of construction paper, but use 2/3 in one color and 1/3 in another. If you use even numbers of leaves, the wreath will look unbalanced.

Common-sense warning: Keep candles, incense, lighters, and anything else that burns away from these wreathes. They are paper and will burn.

—Quinn McDonald is a recycler of books. And just about anything else she gets her hands on.



Saturday Link Love

Andrew Hayes has two great loves–pulp books (or at least their pages) and smooth, cool metal. He chose to combine them into sculptures that contrast hard and soft, permanent and easily destroyed.

© Andrew Hayes

© Andrew Hayes

23The ease and almost weightless grace make these very pleasing to look at. I’ve love to touch them.

The sculptures are sensual and curved and quite beautiful. It combines altering books with metal sculpture.

Stencils and spray paint are the medium of the artist Above, who creates street art. Above works with shadows and electrical lines and integrates artwork into the surroundings.

© Above

© Above

The image above shows a long line of people, defeated and waiting. It’s outside an unemployment office in Spain, a country that has a high rate of unemployment.

© above

© above

Here, Above painted white paint over a wall defaced with graffiti, then added the figures to make it an unhappy school day.

The artist Mossi is interested in mark making–that sounds startlingly undefined.



But the marks are made with colored pens, meticulously used. The resulting mask-like figures are built on layers of lines and varying colors, which blend into each other and overlap each other.

© Mossi

© Mossi

At first I thought the lines were words, but it is all graphic. And the lack of words is also interesting, detailing smooth lines and connecting shades of meaning.

Have a creatively magical weekend!

-Quinn McDonald is a writer and artist. She loves knowing what other people think when they make their art.

Books as Art

When a plumber or electrician comes into my house, they often stop in their tracks in the living room. They stare at the 20-year-old TV that takes up the center portion of a big book case. The book case has deep shelves, and on each shelf is two rows of books. The former dining area is my office. My desk is surrounded by a row of book cases. Almost always the repair person asks, “Are you, a librarian?” or “Have you read all of these?” No, and yes.

I love books. I decorate with them, I make them, I use old ones and re-purpose them. Books are so much more than reading material to me. They are art.

(c) Vladimir Kush's Atlas of Wander

(c) Vladimir Kush's Atlas of Wander

Vadimir Kush is a painter. His remarkable transformation of a tree into a book is Atlas of Wander. (Shown small, at left). It represents both the power of books, as well as the tree from which most of their paper comes from. To say nothing of the transformative nature of reading.

At the Website Dark Roasted Blend, there’s a two-parter about altered books. Part I was interesting; I was especially interested in the code-like writing in one of the books. In Part II, she shares some amazing images of cut-up, re-shaped books. If you cringe at altering books, this site will amaze you. Jacqueline Rush Lee is turning books back into magical apparations, I swear!

Cara Barer poses books to look like new life, then photograph them so we can enjoy that new life. These airy, curvey, sculptures make you glad you own books.

Because, quite frankly, there are times I feel like the last person on earth to love books for their own sake.

Georgia Russel is an artist who uses a scalpel the way most artists wield a brush or pencil. Her constructions take books, photographs

Le Voleur de Souffle, (c) Georgia Russell

Le Voleur de Souffle, (c) Georgia Russell

and musical scores, as well as maps and currency, and makes them into something so different, so structurally aesthetic, it takes your breath away. To the right is Le Voleur de Souffle, (Translation: The Thief of Breath), a cut book jacket in an acrylic case, 14 x 9 x 4 inches.

There are days I hate the whole world of technology and all the evil things it has spawned that don’t work, disappear, have to be rebooted. Today was not one of those days. Today, technology brought the world of art books into my grasp, and I am grateful.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. Her book, Raw Art Journaling will be published in July of 2011.

Journal Pages That Button Up

Lots of people in my journaling classes worry about keeping secrets in their journals. There are all sorts of replies–but the bottom line is that if you don’t feel safe in your own journal, you can’t feel safe anywhere. In my book, I have a whole chapter on how to journal your secrets–from hiding to codes. This afternoon I had another idea.

Starting with the idea “button your mouth,” I played around with the idea of buttoning up your journal pages. This is a journal made from an old book cover from which I removed the page block and sewed in signatures made of different kind of paper. I also went over the embossing with a gold pen and bound the edges with copper tape used by stained glass artists.

Button strip on right page.

First I prepped the two pages I wanted to close–the two pages that faced each other and the other side of the top page. I sewed three small mother-of-pearl buttons on a ribbon. Sewing them on a ribbon gives them a firmer hold than if I had sewn them on the page itself. The ribbon also gives them some flexibility. That keeps the buttoned on page more secure.

The brown piece in the middle is a short stub made from an original page of the book.

Next, I glued the ribbon onto the right hand page to allow the overleaf to have holes in it and button. I pressed a bone folder hard over the buttons, outlining the buttons on the page.

Overleaf with buttonholes cut and decorated.

Then I cut vertical ovals in the gold page–not just slits, like you would to make a buttonhole in cloth. The holes need to be a bit bigger than a cloth buttonhole.

Buttoned up and secure!

After you’ve sized and cut the holes, see if the button passes through. If it does, decorate the edges of the holes so they aren’t noticeable as holes once they are buttoned.

Then, write what you need to write and button up!

–Quinn McDonald is a raw-art journaler and creativity coach. She teaches what she knows.

The Rescue Journal: Diana Trout Class

At Journalfest last week,  (Oct. 28-30, 2010) I took a journal-making class from Diana Trout. If you know her book, Journal Spilling, you’ll want to take a class from her. She loves books. She loves journaling. She loves painting, and it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes–in fact, in our class, she said there were no mistakes, just things to change. Her easy manner and depth of knowledge made exploring possibilities wonderful. There were many possibilities–new book spines, endpapers, bookmarks, ways of closing the book.

Old embossed book cover spruced up with Sakura metallic gel pens.

We made rescue journals–using the covers from old abandoned books and putting new pages in them. Each person created an entirely different book.The book I brought was in German with a very tired cover. Using a gold Sakura gel pen, I gave the worn-out embossing on the cover a new look.

Monsoon paper page with circle cut outs. Notice cut on edge.

We used pages of various papers and sizes. Here, monsoon papers make a return into the journal. I could use the papers even though I had cut two circles out of them because I could fold the paper, creating a surprise.

Washi paper tape, original pages from the book, wallpaper strips are all fair game in the book

Diana had brought washi paper tape for us to use. Here I combined the original end paper from the book with similarly-colored washi tape. The paper closest to the spine of the book is lifted up to show the space for private journaling.

Wallpaper on the left, monsoon papers on the right add variety.

I loved the soft neutral tones of wallpaper on the left, contrasting with brighter monsoon papers on the right. The middle page will be great for journaling and maybe a watercolor sketch.

Thanks, Diana, for a great class!

-Quinn McDonald is a writer, creativity coach and artist. She’s just beginning to get a start on making more journals!

Altered Book: Fahrenheit 451

The Big Read is an idea sponsored by the Valley’s libraries. Each year a book is chosen and libraries sponsor events to encourage people to read that book. One of the events involves artists–I was one of the artists chosen to alter the book for a display at one of the libraries. This year’s book is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

What makes the book interesting is that the 1953-written book has elements of  current reality–a society obsessed by television and celebrities, a fear of intellectual discussions at social functions, a minority kicking up a fuss about books, which are subsequently banned from libraries, and my favorite, a love of wearing earbuds and being plugged in to programmed music.

In my approach to altering the book, I chose the idea from the final scene of the book, in which people become living books. Readers live in books, so I created a row-house made of books. In the image below, the central house is Fahrenheit 451, surrounded by other book houses.The pages of the central book are stuffed with message tags.

Altered book, Fahrenheit 451. © Quinn McDonald, 2009

Altered book, Fahrenheit 451. © Quinn McDonald, 2009

Each house represents a genre: mystery, science fiction, art and poetry. Because love of nature was banned in the story, the two houses on the left represent winter and spring, and the two books on the left represent summer and fall.

Altered book detail, left side © Quinn McDonald, 2009

Altered book detail, left side © Quinn McDonald, 2009

Altered book right-side detail. © Quinn McDonald, 2009

Altered book right-side detail. © Quinn McDonald, 2009

The tags are all quotes about books, all  from famous people. Ray Bradbury’s own quote, “You don’t have to burn books to destory a culture, Just get people to tstop reading them,”  is there, as well as Salman Rushdie’s quote, “A book is a version of the world. If you do not like it, ignore it or offer your own version in return.”

Detail of book tags, © Quinn McDonald, 2009

Detail of book tags, © Quinn McDonald, 2009

In the heart of the book (I chose page 98 deliberately, as 98.6 Fahrenheit is the normal temperature of the human body), there are flames on one side and a matchbook on the other. The matchbook has a burning match on the cover, and the inside “matches” are the spines of books that have been banned in the past.

Right side detail, matchbook © Quinn McDonald, 2009

Right side detail, matchbook © Quinn McDonald, 2009

The matchbook itself is surrounded by paper flames that have already consumed the page of the book.

The tags are removable for easy reading, and can be used as bookmarks. I hope the book is displayed in a way that allows people to touch it and play with it.

Banned books as matches, detail of altered book, © Quinn McDonald, 2009

Banned books as matches, detail of altered book, © Quinn McDonald, 2009

I read the book when I was about 10 and just discovering science fiction. My first big literary shock was discovering that Bradbury had made a mistake, paper bursts into flame at 451 Celsius, not Fahrenheit. Yes, I stuck a piece of paper in the oven to see it burst into flame.

It took me a long while to accept altered books. The thought of ruining a book was overwhelming. But the lure of transforming a book that was scheduled for the shredder into a piece of art won me over.

The satisfaction of planning out a concept and carrying it through was really satisfying. I am honored to have been chosen for this project. And yes, I do custom altered books to honor a special event or person.

–—Quinn McDonald is a life- and certified creativity coach. She teaches people how to write and give presentations. She also teaches people who can’t draw how to keep an art journal.

Another Idea About Slow Art

Slow Art: (noun) the visible or auditory result of creativity; the original work of art created by a person without assembling kits through instructions. Kit parts or kits assembled in a way not originally intended (the kind of re-assembly that violates warranties) count as slow art. Used first by Quinn McDonald, who took the idea of Slow Food (the opposite of fast food, and meant to apply to food grown locally, cooked in simple ways that are both nourishing and enjoyable) into the creative world of the imagination.

I’ve written about the value of slow art before. More than once. The idea has moved beyond art and into general creativity. Inspired by Do-It-Yourself channels, the imagination has taken creativity into the most interesting corners.

Perhaps the digital world is not as satisfying as we hoped. In the 1960s, visions of the future included lives with computers that did all the work, while people enjoyed far more leisure. But we don’t have leisure anymore. The 40-hour work week is non-existent; we stay at the office longer and longer to prove our “passion” for our work. When we leave, we beg to have our lives interrupted via phones, beepers, Blackberries, and computer cameras. We love being available at work.

And a certain contingent is rebelling against the organization that everything is virtual. The artists who delight in Slow Art want independence from digital compliance. So they hack and mock their way into a new world of creativity. defines itself as the “world’s biggest show and tell.” You can learn how to draw (analog or digital), bake bread, get a tree planted on your block in San Francisco, or create a spill-proof tray for your Honda Odyssey. This is original work by people who want to let others know an easier, better, or more interesting way to live their life.

If you are a bit geekier, you can go over to, which will show you how to make a Minthesizer– is a low voltage, low power, analog synthesizer. If you are a low-level geek, there is an article for a foolproof way to open a bottle of wine. My favorite is the crossover from PDA to altered art–a hardback book turned into a “laptop PDA” by a combination of art and hack.

Hackzine reclaims the word hacker for the good guys by bringing the technorati together in the blogosphere to improve technological devices. Sure you can run Linnux apps in Windows, but I’m really interested in drawing holograms by hand.

My mood is lifting. Art and the imagination are not dead. It’s simply moved into the streets as a pick-up game of mental play, where mixed media gets a whole new meaning and anything original can be improved on. It’s a wonderful next step into the magical realm of Slow Art where originality counts more than price, and sharing information is part of the joy.

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach and artist who values Slow Art. See her work at

Book Art and Color Thesaurus

There is so much information on the Web, it’s amazing we can sort out the useful from the dregs. I depend on others who find wonderful things to send them to me; I post them so you can add them to your bookmarks. Pete Harbeson and Paul Lagasse are major sources of wonderful and obscure links. Today, it’s Pete’s turn.

He knows I’m an artist, so he sends me art links. He sent me this great thesaurus for color names. After all, who knows the difference between bluebell and azure? The Color Thesaurus does!

And if all that color needs to go into a sketchbook, here is one that is both horizontal and vertical.

Brian Dettmer’s workYou may be familiar with the work of Brian Dettmer, particularly if you are attracted to altered books. (That’s an example of his work on the left.) This site shows Brian’s work, but it is not Brian’s site. However, this site, Centripital Notion, will also treat you to a film of a sphere being turned inside out.

Go get inspired!

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach and a writer. See her work at Image: Brian Dettmer’s work on Centripital Notion.

Make Your Own Journal Cover

Links to useful places about journals:

Here’s a great video showing how to make a gusseted pocket on the inside cover of your journal.

Want help on writing on that blank first page?

My  other website, Raw-Art-Journals, is for journal keepers who can’t draw.

You can create your own custom-made journals and covers with a little ingenuity and almost no money. If you already enjoy collage, scrapbook, or other paper arts, you have all the materials you need.

3 journal coversIf not, all you need to get started is a pair of scissors, some good glue (I like Golden’s Matte Medium), a 1-inch paint brush (the kind you get at a paint store, not an art store) and some interesting papers–you can use old maps, pages from abandoned books, even cut-outs from magazines.

journal coverWhat makes these journals easy is the Circa rings.  You will need a special punch.  The portable one is about $30; the tabletop one is about $60. Or, simply use a regular hole punch and use the smallest binder rings available.

Warning: Rollabind also makes those disks, but I can’t recommend them after reading the horror stories about non-delivery and non-communication. Even the BBB rates them with an F and has an alert out about them. The Ripoff report has a steady stream of complaints that go back several years and are added too almost weekly.

I first made the journal by cutting a rectangle of light cardboard 1/8-inch larger than the sheet of paper I wanted to use. (In this case, the paper is pre-punched and from Levenger’s. It’s nice paper stock and you can write on it with markers, felt-tips, and fountain pens.)

Before I punched the holes, I covered the covers with papers. On the front cover, I used pages from antique doll-house books I found at a yard sale. Coat the entire cover with matte medium, lay the pages on it, and as you put down each page, paint over with more MM. Once I had them all down, I painted several layers of Matte Medium over the completed piece, allowing it to dry between each coat. Three coats should do it.journal, inside cover

On the inside, I used art paper, marbled with inks. Simply coat the entire inside cover, place a piece of marbled paper over it and trim to fit. Easy-peasy. If you want to finish the edge of the cardboard nicely, use a chisel-end marker and run it over the edge of the paper.

I added an old library due-date-card holder, again, I found it at a yard sale, although you can now purchase new ones at teachers supply stores. I have the real library card in it, and use it as a bookmark, although you can easily store some punched index cards for notetaking.

Don’t have a Rollabind punch? Here is a link for making covers without any punch at all: Mutant Journals are journal covers made from unlikely, but not uncommon item.

Another Mutant Journal is made with wildly inked and resist watercolor paper. I even give you the name of the poem, so you can enjoy that, too!

You can make these covers from a variety of papers to suit your mood. The papers are expensive, so I made a protective coat for my journal. In addition to being waterproof, it protects the journal cover when I toss it in my bag.

Tyvek journal coverTake a used Tyvek envelope (Fed-Ex or Priority Mail envelopes) and place the journal so the edge with the rings lines up with the short, unopened end of the journal.

Mark where you want to cut the envelope, using the journal as a template. While the journal is in place, mark where the rings are, so you can punch them to match the existing journal.

I put a tab on it, so it would fold over the journal if I’m carrying it in the rain or writing outside on just-washed coffee-house tables, or one that has ice-tea rings on it.

Cut out the shape. Cut open the bottom if it was part of the edge of the envelope, but do not cut open the back. Leave it joined and punch the holes. Doing this creates a spine that is more protective than two separate tyvek cover

I sewed a button on the cover side, and cut a slit in the flap. Now the journal shuts and I can toss it in my bag. It’s not beautiful, but I don’t need it to be. I need it to protect the journal cover, and it does a wonderful job.

Want more articles on journaling? Visit this page, you’ll find a list of links.

–Quinn McDonald is an artist, writer and creativity coach. See her work at All images, Quinn McDonald. (c) 2007 All rights reserved.

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