Teaching-Inspired Altered Book, Part III

Hello all! Happy November! Hope this month is off to a great start for you! Here is another page from my teaching-inspired altered book.


In direct contrast to my last page, which was dedicated to the teachers who’ve found romance with their colleagues in the classroom, this page is for all of the unmarried schoolmarms through history who have devoted their entire lives to the children they teach, eschewing marriage and family life by choice or by circumstance.

In the early days of public education in the United States, female teachers who wished to remain employed in their chosen profession were generally not permitted to get married; once a woman married, she was expected to relinquish her teaching license so that she could exit the workforce and become a ‘proper’ wife and mother, as all supposedly decent women of the era were expected to be (of course, it goes without saying that male teachers were not bound to the same restrictions). I imagine many career-minded individuals who found fulfillment in their work struggled a great deal with the heartbreaking decision of whether to marry. I’m sure there were also others who discovered that the heavy workload of teaching as well as the isolated, rural locations of many schools were inconducive to having an active social life; they likely struggled to find time and opportunities to connect with potential marriage partners. This page is a testament to the passion these women felt for their vocation and the pride they took in helping parents to ‘raise’ multiple generations of children, as well as the difficulties they may have faced in terms of their loneliness, their unrealized dreams, and the questions they undoubtedly had to answer repeatedly from well-meaning family members and friends who didn’t understand.

This page was created with a page from a vintage school textbook, a mathematics flash card, a slide, a graphic clipped from a vintage greeting card, a photograph, a German language flash card, an old punch-out coupon stamp, a Scrabble tile, and text trimmed from old books.

Thanks again for stopping by! Have a great weekend!





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Teaching-Inspired Altered Book, Part II

Hello all! Hope the first half of October has been off to a great start for you! Here are a couple more pages from the teaching-inspired altered book that I recently began creating at a workshop at Shake Rag Alley in Mineral Point, Wisconsin:


The small mini-page on the left, which was inserted into the binding with a strip of distressed muslin, was constructed from an antique greeting card featuring an illustration of summer greenery that has an appealing painterly quality and jumped out at me immediately when I spotted it in the instructor’s box of ephemera. An inkjet copy of a vintage photograph of two young women is adhered to an old piece of yellowed notebook paper, and layered with a distressed piece of lace and words cut from an old book, which read, “petty jealousies had led to bickering and quarrels.” The photo of the women and this phrase came together to embody the theme of this mini-page–the fierce ego wars and ruthless competition that often plays out between teachers in a school, year in and year out. I have experienced it firsthand myself in every school in which I’ve worked, and have found it to be a significant source of stress in my career life. In general, teachers are highly territorial creatures; they want to do things their way in their classrooms with their students–and they don’t want to be told what to do or how to do it by anyone else–even a well-meaning colleague or principal. In my fifteen-year career, I have witnessed and participated in many tense discussions and even the occasional shouting match over contentious issues–and have been aware of countless instances of backstabbing, bullying, exclusion, and terrible gossip. People may assume the business world has a monopoly on vicious workplace environments, but I beg to differ. While I wish I could say it wasn’t true, I hypothesize that much of the trouble is owed to the fact that for most of its history, teaching has been a female-dominated profession. I would estimate that 98% of the worst behaviors I’ve seen have been perpetrated by women against other women; this is the main reason why I’ve gravitated toward and formed alliances with my male colleagues throughout my time in the classroom.

The page on the right serves as an ironic counterpoint to the page on the left. Created with a scrap of vintage wallpaper, a page from an old Gregg’s Shorthand textbook, a distressed game card, a vintage photo of a man and woman standing outside of a school that I found in my grandmother’s scrapbook, a piece of a page torn from a vintage book containing the words “Lovers’ Meetings,” a weathered card from a school-themed board game, and a chipboard piece containing the image of a fountain pen, this page is devoted to the romance that frequently arises between teachers in schools. In every school in which I’ve worked, there have been teachers involved in secret and not-so-secret romances, teachers who have openly dated each other, and even those who have married each other. This particular theme relates to my own life, as I met the guy who would eventually become my husband at the first school where I taught; he happened to be the special education teacher who assisted me in my inclusion English classes. Two of my best friends from college also married men they met in the course of their teaching positions. So…why has romance been such a prevalent phenomenon between employees in schools? As much as teachers want to think they can work their magic independently in the isolated spheres of their classrooms, teaching has always been a team sport–and anytime people work closely together in intense, stressful environments, love connections are bound to develop.

Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to check out this post! Have a wonderful Sunday!



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Teaching-Inspired Altered Book, Part I

A few weeks ago, I paid a visit to one of my favorite places in the world, Shake Rag Alley in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, and took a wonderful altered book workshop led by Lorraine Reynolds.


I’d brought with me an old 1960’s-era library book that had been discarded from the library at the school where I work, and thus it wasn’t too much of a surprise when the book’s theme became apparent to me; this book was going to share the story of the joys and sorrows experienced by schoolteachers, past and present. As a veteran of the teaching profession who was at that moment preparing to start another year in the classroom, this was a topic that I knew intimately–and as I took out bits and pieces of ephemera from my own collection and combined them with items found in Lorraine’s boxes of antique schoolbooks, vintage papers, and imagery, my story (and that of all teachers through the ages) tumbled out with very little difficulty.

Here is the book’s first page. The phrase “Doubts and Considerations” jumped out at me from the book in which it appeared, because I think all of us who teach (and really, all of us in any profession) wonder from time to time if we’re in the right place, doing what we’re meant to be doing.


Below, on the left, is page 2, which is dedicated to the physical school building where teachers work.


The phrase “Comedies, Tragedies, and Histories” sums up the kinds of experiences that occur in those hallowed halls and classrooms on a daily basis, year after year. The background paper is an actual school composition assignment written on yellowed notebook paper from a high school student back in the 1930s. There’s also a vintage photo of a school, a Bingo card, a U.S. history transparency, a scrap of distressed linen, a fortune from a fortune cookie, a piece of broken vintage porcelain that I found earlier this summer on a Lake Michigan beach, and other found words and images trimmed from vintage books. On the right is a mini-page that has been inserted into the book with a piece of linen. It was constructed from an old greeting card someone had sent, expressing condolences to another individual after the death of her mother. This reminded me of my grandfather’s death back in October 2008, when I was teaching in a Milwaukee suburb. The word “distracted” that covers her mouth describes exactly how I felt as I was obligated to teach a full day of classes and conduct an evening of parent/teacher conferences immediately after I’d learned he’d passed away. I remember how excruciatingly difficult it was to pretend in front of the children that nothing was wrong, and I’ve watched my colleagues do the same while grappling with death, divorce, and other profound loss. So often we as teachers continue to work in spite of our personal crises and heartaches, and it requires a tremendous amount of strength to do so.

I am excited to share more of the pages in this teaching-themed altered book in the days and weeks ahead. Thanks for visiting!




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“Long Journeys”

Happy Wednesday! This is another page from my “K.I.S.S.” journal, entitled, “Long Journeys.”


The page was inspired by a vintage photograph of a winding road, and features old book pages, a section cut from a map, magazine images, found text, Washi tape, and rub-ons.

As I was creating the page, I thought about some longtime friendships that I’ve been blessed to have since childhood and college, and about how they’ve endured through the years, despite geographical distance and changing life circumstances.  The individuals involved have been true partners on my life’s journey, and in many ways, they serve as guides to me, to keep me grounded and on the right track. Whenever I’ve felt lost or unsure of where I am in my life or where I’m headed, they’ve reminded me of who I am and of what really matters, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Thanks for visiting, and have a great day!

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“Look Around”

Greetings to all.

Like many other Americans, the tragic events that occurred Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia have impacted me deeply. While the violent protest featuring white supremacists, white nationalists, members of the Ku Klux Klan, and neo-Nazis was indeed a flashpoint that exposed a dark undercurrent of hatred within American society, I unfortunately cannot say that I found it surprising. For me, the extremely divisive rhetoric coming from the far right and from certain politicians during the 2016 election cycle served as prior warning that America was already turning down a dangerous path.

In the last 18 months, my art journal has often been the place in which I’ve gone to express my feelings of fear, sadness, disappointment, and disillusionment in regards to the current political and social climate in the United States. At this particular point in our nation’s history, it’s hard not to feel as though we’re taking huge steps backward instead of progressing forward, especially when it comes to how we as a nation deal with racial, ethnic, and religious diversity. Back in June I created the following page, and it happens to sum up exactly how I’m feeling this week. I’m truly ashamed of the bigoted beliefs held by some of my fellow citizens, and endless questions keep reverberating through my mind and heart, such as, how in the world is America still in this place–in the year 2017? How did we get to the point where hatred is actually tolerated and excused in some corners of our society? What’s happened to the country that I thought I knew?


This journal page was created with patterned paper, magazine images, a piece cut from a paint sample, found text, text generated on a vintage typewriter, and a white gel pen.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. God bless (and help) America.


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“I Miss You”

Hi everyone! Hope your week is going well so far!

This is a page from my “K.I.S.S.” journal, entitled, “I Miss You.” The page was inspired by an image of an empty sofa that I’d clipped from an interior decorating magazine, and addresses the feelings of grief I’ve harbored since losing a beloved pet a few years ago. It is one of several pages on this topic that have appeared in my art journals, and I know they’ve all assisted me in navigating my way through the grieving process.


This page was created with pieces of paper cut/torn from vintage books, scrapbooking papers, a magazine image, a length of ribbon, alphabet stamps, pigment ink, and pens.

Thanks for stopping by! Have a wonderful day!



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“Bring Healing”

Hello to all! Happy belated Canada Day to my Canadian friends, and Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans! I’m enjoying the extended holiday weekend, and I hope you are all doing the same!


On this July 4, I will be grateful not only for the opportunities afforded to me as an American citizen, but for a gradual return to good health after an extended period of illness. Since June 10, I’ve been battling severe bronchitis, likely the result of a virus that invaded my system in the waning days of the school year and then evolved into a bacterial infection. For many people, a bout of bronchitis is a temporary inconvenience, but for an asthma sufferer like me, it can be a significant threat to one’s health. My asthma has indeed been exacerbated during the last 3+ weeks, and the constant coughing and wheezing has been uncomfortable and, at times, downright scary! At one point, I was sure that I’d even fractured a rib from coughing–though fortunately, an x-ray showed it was merely bruised. After the first course of antibiotics, I tried returning to my normal activities, but unfortunately the bronchitis wasn’t through with me yet. It took another course of azithromycin (the “z-pack”), two courses of oral prednisone, countless puffs of albuterol, almost a full bottle of honey (nature’s cough syrup), and many more days of rest and recuperation before I started to feel as though I was finally on the mend. The hardest part for me has been having to take a hiatus from my exercise regimen while my lungs recover. I love to jog and lift weights and have been doing this several days a week throughout the last year, but was told by my doctor that exercise could be counterproductive (and even dangerous) right now. I hope to be able to return to these things soon–but I’ve learned my lesson that rushing things is not the answer in this case.

I created “Bring Healing” in my current journal recently as a way of dealing with the slow process of healing, and used magazine images, old book pages, patterned paper, cardstock, ephemera, pens, and my vintage typewriter. I found that making this page and working on other art projects has brought me great comfort as I’ve struggled with the feelings of sadness and frustration that often accompany illness.

I hope you all have a great weekend! Enjoy the fireworks and other festivities!



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