The therapeutic magic of making: Art Journaling

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After college, I didn’t “make” much. I have a daughter with special needs, and shortly after my 8th year of studies, I had my son. My children are 7 years apart. I definitely had my handful with family and career, and rarely time to take care of myself, let alone do things for pleasure.

But a stark realization hit me about a month ago- I wasn’t taking care of myself, I was merely staying afloat. And to work out how that happened, I decided to start working on a project that I had abandoned, an old altered book that I had started as an art journal.

My daughter, who coincidentally is also dealing with some issues, really enjoys working alongside me, and I thought that it would be a great tool to give her for coping. Since I already had my altered book, I made her this one out of recycled materials. I’ve included the details here, along with photos of both our journals.

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The irony in all of this is that the book is made from old articles from my Holistic Health degree program curriculum. I gathered up around 200 pages, and some old cereal boxes. I traced one page onto the cereal boxes to make two covers. Here’s what I got:

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The articles already had holes in them, but I had to punch holes in the cover as well. You can decide if you’re going to have the graphic facing out or in, covered or not.

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The next step was kind of tricky if you’re not familiar with book binding, but this is a technique that I used with my freshman students. Thread a piece of hemp through the middle hole. You shouldn’t use yarn because it stretches too much- use hemp or waxed string.

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Take the end of the hemp that is on top and thread it down through the top hole.

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Take the end of the hemp on bottom and thread it up through the bottom hole.

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Take the same end that you just threaded up through the bottom hole, and thread it back down into the middle hole.

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Take the thread that is in the top hole of the book and bring it back up through the middle hole.

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Tie them in a knot like you do your shoelaces.

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Now you’re ready to get started! For my daughter, I told her to decorate the cover and then I wrote prompts on about 100 pages, leaving blank ones on the other half of the book. I got some ideas here. I also put in “kids art journaling” on Pinterest and showed her pictures, and talked briefly about some techniques that were used, such as collage, free hand drawing, watercolor, or painting. Here are some pictures of what we have so far:

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“Five of my favorite things”

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“A place I want to travel”

"Cat Hotel"

“Cat Hotel”

My art journal is a little different because it’s an altered book. The difference I think between real altered book making and art journaling like I’ve done here is that most of my images aren’t ones that I’ve created from scratch, but that can certainly be debated. I still use many altered book making techniques, such as washes, using found objects, and mixed media. Here are pictures of my journal:

I never decorate my cover until I'm finished.

I never decorate my cover until I’m finished.

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The right page is actually a clear pocket

The right page is actually a clear pocket

The bottom right is flaps

The bottom right is flaps

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