Making Journals from Thrift Store Art

Three books I made recently. Left-book cloth and eco-print paper; center-book cloth and acrylic on canvas painting; right Kave paper binding.

Bookbinding is one of several hobbies I’ve pursued over the years. It’s the one I’m the most versed in and the one I spend the most time on. I’m thinking about making enough to sell at the local holiday craft faire this year and donating the proceeds to charity. We’ll see about that. I may not be able to make enough books until spring.

A few months before I retired one of my students gave me a little painting she made for me. While I immediately hung it on the wall next to my desk, my honest reaction to it was this would make an excellent journal cover. So, I took it with me when I packed my classroom. I didn’t take much. Even after 31 years in the field, I just had a couple of bankers boxes full.

The original student painting that inspired all of these covers.

Her art became the cover for the first book I made in retirement. My intention is to use this book for my next reading journal once I finish with my current one. The artwork is packed with symbols and words related to reading and books so it’s perfect for a reading journal.

Once this book was finished the hunt for more artwork to cut up into book covers began.

Not that I needed an excuse to visit thrift shops.

Made from a painting I bought for a dollar outside a local thrift store.

Finding suitable artwork turned out be more challenging than I expected. I’m looking for colorful artwork with lots of very clear shapes. Large enough to cut up into several covers preferred. The original image does not have to be clear in the resulting covers. In fact, I think most of them look better as books once you lose sight of the original image.

And I’m looking for artwork priced at five dollars or less. I can go up to ten or fifteen if the painting can yield three or four covers. For reference, one yard of book cloth tends to run $22-$28. One yard of book cloth will produce eight to fifteen books depending on their size and style.

Finding paintings has not been easy.

Four books I made from a single large painting.

Thrift stores are not the bargain they once were. Locally, they’ve begun pricing artwork fairly high. Works on canvas, which are what I need, can run up to $150, even higher for larger pieces. A typical run through the four local thrift stores might yield a cool shirt or two along with a random kitchen item I didn’t know I needed, but cheap artwork has been hard to find.

What I really need is a connection with a local art teacher who can send me the canvases the students don’t take home with them. I’d be willing to pay…

I’ve included pictures of the books I have made so far, but, as of this article, I am currently out of thrift store artwork. This has led me to try my hand at paint-by-numbers. You can get some very advanced paint-by-numbers kits these days, either on boards or on canvas. And it turns out they are both much more difficult and a lot more fun that you would expect.

The most recent books I made. This artwork was probably machine painted, perfect for a small motel.

So, I’m just about finished with my first one and can say that it is suitable for cutting up into book covers. I should be able to get three decent covers out of the one canvas. I’ll post the results here in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, if you see a book here that you might like to have, let me know. I’ll be happy to mail one to you in exchange for a donation to your favorite charity.

2 thoughts on “Making Journals from Thrift Store Art

    1. I have tried using wallpaper. It did not work out. Wallpaper is not meant to be folded or bent on a regular basis the way a book cover is opened and closed all the time. After a couple of weeks, the wallpaper started to split which ruined the book.

Comments are closed.