My Year By Design

The journey to living by design.

Art Assignment 26 Customize It


Take a look at my list of traits below and see if you can guess what item I’ll be customizing:

Looks square, rectangular, wordy, typefaced, white, cream,  yellowed, black, grey, shiny, matte, distinctive, impressive.

Sounds rustling, thudding, deeply silent.

Feels smooth, soft, hard, comforting.

Smells sweet, musty, unidentifiably perfect.

Tastes papery, delicate, aged.

Ok, so if you saw my post on Art Assignment 25, you can probably guess I am going to customize a book.Last time I justified my destroying/transforming an astronomy book that was out of date. However, this time I decided to choose a new book. Like many book nerds, I was raised to view bound texts as sacred objects. Even the thought of folding a page or *shudder* cracking the spine of a book seems unsettling to me. So when I decided to customize a book, I knew I would struggle a bit. In trying to change the essential nature of this book, I decided to introduce two things that are known destroyers of libraries; water and fire. As dramatic as that sounds, I actually used my bathroom sink and then my oven to accomplish my task. I have included some photos of my process below.

When I first put the hardbound book into the sink I expected it to sink, (pun intended,) but it floated like a little raft. I had to push it under the water and stood amazed at all the bubbles of air that poured from between the pages. I would have photographed that part but I had to use both hands to hold onto the edges of the book. Books do not take kindly to getting wet!

Once my book was sufficiently soggy, I put it on a towel and began to sculpt. I chose the word ‘sculpt’ here because the pages were like thick stacks of papier-mache. I could twist, turn and fold them as much as I liked but I did have to be careful not to rip them as they were very delicate.

I left the sculpted book on its towel for a few hours and although I was glad to see it holding its shape, it wasn’t really drying out. It was time to bake my sculpture in the oven. I set my over to 190 and put the towel and the book onto a cookie tray. I baked the sculpture in one hour increments, giving it some time to cool in between. This took me the better part of a lazy Sunday, (probably about six hours total.) I was trying to get the edges of the paper to look a bit singed without setting my house on fire. I also wanted the book to be dry enough that it wouldn’t mold or rot. I think I accomplished both and I managed to make my whole house smell like warm paper; it’s a strangely comforting smell.

I really took Sarah’s critiques to heart and tried to play with the lighting in my photographs of the final product. Between the late afternoon sun in our back bedroom and a lamp, I was able to create a bit of an unusual glowing quality to my transformed object.

I love the fragments of text left behind by the folds in the paper. Here are a few of my favourites:

You haven’t

Not yet

I’m Levi



I laugh


The fox

Pandora hits

there, the

miss out on

I hear.


When the wounds have come

on his palm to make sure.


Pandora crashes

dark, I spot



The horizon

pinks. It’s so beautiful

of happiness after

only ten days.


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