Sooz Weissberg

Maybe twenty years ago, now, I was visiting New Mexico and spotted, in a local bookstore, a large flat, glass display case.  An artist by the name of Juliana Coles was displaying student works of altered, painted books from a class that she had offered.  I was captivated and charmed by the bright acrylic colors, the multiple dimensions and textures, and the creative freedom demonstrated in the pages that lay open.  Truthfully, I wished that I could touch them and longed to hear the layered pages crackle as I turned them over.  I’ve never forgotten that first introduction to altered book art.  When I moved to the San Luis Obispo area and entered semi-retirement, I found both time and space to exercise my latent creativity.  I searched online for other book artists and found Teesha Moore, another source of inspiration.  Following one of her tutorials, I began to work in my first book and was so excited and inspired by the process that for two weeks, I rushed back to my project if I had even ten spare minutes!  Since then I’ve painted, torn, cut, and sewn over thirty books, gifting many of them to family and friends. 

In the rural area that sits between the Arroyo Grande Mesa and highway 101, few people that I’ve spoken to are familiar with what an “altered book” is, although there is a book art community of some note in San Luis Obispo.  In 2012, I teamed up with local artist Meryl Perloff to display a small display of altered books in local libraries from Nipomo to Morro Bay.  I’m delighted to say that I’ve influenced 2-3 friends to try their hand at it.  Altered books as a fine art tend to be limited to the intricate sculpting of books, such as those by the artist Brian Dettmer, but there is a vast community of artists altering books with paint and collage that can be found in social media platforms such as Instagram and YouTube (these are also referred to as one type of art journal

I alter my books, either by thinning out the text block to allow for the added thickness of paint, glue, and ephemera, or I might create my own pages out of various recycled paper materials and then sew the new block of pages into a recycled book cover.  I mostly use acrylics and enjoy an immense and joyful freedom in my creative style.  The individual pages and colors seem to speak to me about what to add, but the viewer is also free to determine whether a “story” exists from their perspective.  I hope at least some of you enjoy viewing my work when you visit catalog #169 studio even half as much as I enjoy creating it.