In 2008, I divorced my second husband and moved, with much assistance from my daughter and my sisters, to Woonsocket, Rhode Island where I was blessed to spend what was, at that time, the most purely happy months of my life. Free to create as much art as I wanted to – because all I had was time – I found a class on Altered Book Making, something I’d never heard of. It sounded fascinating. I signed up and found myself, once again, addressing issues that I thought I’d finished with.
That was not on my mind when I signed up for the class; it came to mind when, at the Salvation Army thrift shop I found a book…
It was the gigantic word, Dodd, that caught my eye, the name of the man I had just left after 24 years of marriage… then there was the whole “Barefoot Princess” thing. One of my father’s nicknames for me had been The Barefoot Contessa and he also referred to me as a Princess. That felt pretty compelling… then I opened the book. The main characters name? Victorine. And the story line, as it turned out, was about her being held captive by some very bad men.
There are many ways to go about creating an altered book, many different techniques that can be utilized. Sometimes our class would have ‘an assignment’ to fulfill, like creating a window-opening by gluing numerous pages together and cutting out an area which then functioned as ‘the window.’ Sometimes the words in the book could be used as part of the page, sometimes they could be ignored completely. You will see all those things – and more – although not particularly skillfully done as I was a mere novice, on the pages that are below.
What was important for me, as it turned out, was not learning how to make an altered book but that I was being given another safe space, this time in the company of other women, in which to explore my history. I would be learning how to address very sensitive issues in a very public place. The value of that would come to light in later years.