Altered books. We've all seen them in one form or another. There was always that kid who hollowed one out to hide his squirt gun at school. Women's magazines periodically post hints on doing the same for use as a jewelry box or as a clever safe in which to hide valuables on a bookshelf. Then there was the craze of folding Reader's Digest magazines into Christmas trees and resurrecting discarded church hymnals into angels.
My favorite book altering experience took place in the most unlikely of circumstances. It was in my second year of teaching and I was dreading an upcoming in-service day. Another eight hours of boring speakers. But after we signed in, they brought out tons of old Dick and Jane books and reams of construction paper and told us to have at it recycling them into flash cards, games or other visual aids. At the end of the day, we had a little show and tell and then went home with our salvaged -- and sentimental -- treasures. (Sure wish I'd kept mine.)
The Gwinnett County Public Library, always looking for ways to have fun with books, has taken this concept to a higher level. In their Fifth Annual Altered Book Contest, co-sponsored by Hudgens Art Center, artists of any skill level are invited to take an old book and use unlimited imagination and unlimited recyclable materials to turn their book into a work of art. It doesn't have to be useful for anything but capturing the imagination. Participants may submit an "Altered Book" entry to any of the county's 15 branches throughout the month of April.
If you're feeling unsure of what possibilities your book can open up to you, the library and Hudgens will be offering free workshops to introduce altered book art techniques at the Hudgens on Saturday, March 9. Two sessions will be offered, one for youth, (grades 6 through 12), from 10 a.m. to noon and one for adults, (ages 18 and up), from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. To reserve a seat in the workshop, please RSVP by March 6 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Judging will take place in May, and select entries will be exhibited at the Hudgens Center for the Arts from June 8 through Sept. 7. The opening reception for the exhibit will take place on June 14 at 4 p.m.
Last year the Altered Books Contest received over 40 entries. Submissions from 2009-12 can be viewed online at gwinnettpl.org.
This jointly sponsored contest has captured the eye of the entire art community and won Honorable Mention for Arts Partnership by Artworks! Gwinnett for their collaboration on the 2011 Altered Books contest and Pulp Fashion exhibit.
For more information about turning your pages into Altered Books, or other library programs, please visit www.gwinnettpl.orgwww.gwinnettpl.org.
Susan Larson is a writer from Lilburn. E-mail her at email@example.com.