Shoe-string Publishing.

You have heard of shoe-string budgeting? Well now there is shoe-string publishing! That is when you publish in an appealing way, for minimal costs.

Perhaps one of the most rewarding things for me this year (2004) has been seeing the altered books that the Grade 3, through to Year 12, students have made in each of the schools I have been working in.

I took along a bag of altered books and showed them what students of mine had done. The challenge was to guess what each book had been in another lifetime. Even I had not realized that the gold sprayed book, that looked like a glamorous album, had once been a standard desk diary. The book that the kids really loved was made by Angeli - one of my Year 7 students. She had taken a business directory and meticulously covered every page as only an artist could. The pages were seamless. She had glued pages, in six page lots, together and then covered them with pages from glossy magazines. It blew everyone's mind away when they saw what she had done and the teachers and children were fascinated with the transformative element of the project.

Upon my return children screamed with delight and tripped over one another in the rush to show me how they were transforming books that would have gone to the paper recycle place. I was gob-smacked as I looked at how enthusiastically the kids had taken up my suggestion. These books will be treasured instead of being discarded. They are being filled with responses to exercises that I have presented, personal photographs, incredibly moving pieces of writing, symbols, images of their favorite things, dreams and hopes. That warmed my soul. It felt like a sauna embrace.

I call this Shoe String Publishing because you can literally publish at little or not expense.

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Breathe life into old books!
Make an altered book for a friend and keep one for yourself as well.


Lauren enjoyed experimenting and she created this double spread to represent what she would ask if the Genie granted her a wish.

About making Altered Books

For years now I have showed students how to transform old, long outdated, hard covered books, magazines and diaries into scrapbooks. I have learned that when I combine the visual arts and writing magic happens in any classroom, be it Grade Two or Year 12.

I provide prompts to generate ideas. Student begin by tackling them in their workbooks. The publishing process begins much later as students transfer their work into their altered books. As they complete pages they inspire one another with innovative presentations and that is when the magical shift takes place. Suddenly they are transformed into artists.

Students use pages from a diverse range of magazines and coloured paper to completely cover the pages of their chosen books. One girl painstakingly covered a business directory. Six pages were glued together and she used paper from Sunday magazines to cover the directory pages. Others have experimented with all sorts of textiles to decorate their pages. Lauren, whose work you see here has used a lot of felt and hessian. I like to use old wallpapers for some pages.

Students beg to work on their albums and spend months happily gluing, pasting and publishing. Their scapbooks are treasured and are destined to be passed down to family members. They will not be thrown into the dumpmaster as they walk out of school on the last day of term.

This year's calendar will be filled with activities that can be undertaken by people of any age. Many of these activities could be presented in an altered book but there will be lots of quirky things to do. Keep an eye out for the activity which involves using old covers of vinyl records.

This month you may well find that you have many projects on the go. The truth is that it may take you well into next year to complete the tasks suggested here.

To begin simply look for a solid book that has become redundant and is yearning for new life. 

Gather together a basket of supplies. You will need scissors, glue, p.v.glue, old magazines, coloured paper, old books from charity shops, paints, a variety of fabrics and papers, buttons, glitter, crayons and lots of imagination. Be prepared to experiment but do not spend a lot of money. Remember that this is Shoe String Publishing - the publishing you do on a Shoe String.

Today

Make some colourful hats and set some goals for yourself. My Year 12's had a wonderful time setting personal, educational, career and fitness goals but why limit yourself to these? Milicia's goals are listed behind the hats.