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What Is Altered Art?

Are you saying to yourself, what in the heck is altered art? In the simplest terms, it is a recycling craft. More precisely, it is the art of taking an ordinary household object, sometimes an unwanted object, and decorating and embellishing it to create a work of art. The focus of this art form usually comes in the items used for embellishing. The items used to embellish the project are usually referred to as ephemera and "found objects".

Technically, ephemera refers to printed matter that is usually read or used and discarded, such as ticket stubs, postcards, posters, greeting cards, etc. Some people, including me, also use this term to refer to other found objects used in altered art such as charms, buttons, beads, and ribbon. Some of the more popular ephemera objects can be found in your own closets and junk drawers at home, these include but are not limited to costume jewelry, orphaned puzzle pieces, keys, and abandoned game pieces.

One of my favorite things to alter are old, hardcover books. You can embellish every page of a book, attach a few pages together and decorate, or even glue all the pages together and add a window to hold large objects. You can cover entire pages with decorative paper or you can use the words on the page as part of your art. You can use the cover art the book already has, enhance it, or cover it completely and design your own book cover. There are many options, which means you have more ways you can personalize your projects.

Don't limit your altered art to books; you can alter just about anything. To get you started, try picking an item from this list to alter:
  • Books
  • Paper Mache Boxes
  • Notebooks and Journals
  • Shoe Boxes, Jewelry Boxes, Etc.
  • Frames
  • CDs
  • Candy or Cookie Tins
  • Cigar Boxes
  • Overnight Cases
  • Match Boxes
  • Envelopes
  • Knick-knacks

Of course, you can alter pretty much anything. As you go about your daily life, make it a point to look at everything you touch and think how you might be able to turn it into a work of art. You will be surprised at how many creative possibilities you will discover.

Next time you are cleaning out your junk drawer, sorting through your game closet, or strolling through a rummage sale, keep your eye open for ephemera or found objects. You can use found objects or even parts of found objects; for example, if you come across a sweater with irresistible buttons, buy the sweater and cut off the buttons. You could also use swatches cut from the sweater, or the tags inside the sweater. Once you start thinking creatively, you will be amazed at what can be used as art materials.

Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:
  • Costume Jewelry
  • Puzzle Pieces
  • Game Pieces (For Example, Dominoes and Scrabble Tiles)
  • Wire
  • Shells
  • Feathers
  • Keys
  • Nuts, Bolts, Washers, and Other Hardware
  • Stickers
  • Magazine Pictures
  • Postcards
  • Greeting Cards
  • Wallpaper Samples
  • Charms
  • Beads
  • Buttons
  • Ribbon and Lace
  • Marbles
  • Bottle Caps
  • Used Postage Stamps
  • Vintage Pictures, Advertisements, or Product Information

Well, you get the idea... You can virtually use anything that will fit the theme you choose and the item to be altered. The main thing to remember when it comes to altered art is that anything goes.

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