Taking Your Art Journaling Out of a Book with Altered Art

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This article is written by Keri Sallee

Art journaling…many of you have heard of it and probably have tons of pins on Pinterest of artist that inspire you and quotes that have you moved. There pages and pages of art, but…what if we chose to take our art journals out of their books and instead made 3-D embodiments of our feelings and thoughts?

For the second year, I was asked to help at a mentor/mentee retreat for an organization called Saving Grace. It is an amazing organization that offers transitional housing and education to girls age 18-23 who have aged out of the foster care system, are homeless or have a home living situation that is dangerous. This year, their retreat theme is “Fight Like a Girl” and I was given a plain paper mache dress form to come up with a project example  for the girls to spend time expressing themselves creatively.

Torn but Treasured Dress Form

I wanted my piece to tell a story…to tell a story that we all struggle with…the desire to be normal and perfect despite our baggage, our history and our scars. The sides  of the dress tell that story:  one is sparkly, pristine and dazzling white, while the other is dingy, tattered and torn. Both sides of the same person.

I originally planned on making this super girly, really pretty piece, but the more I thought about the theme “Fight Like a Girl”, I thought “If I was fighting for my life, would my dress be perfect and immaculate or would it be messed up and stained and torn?” And then I thought a step farther…thought of it through the lenses of my past and thought “Would someone still love me if I showed up in a torn dress?” And the answer is…YES…even though I am torn, I am still treasured.

“Torn but Treasured”

I wanted to be very deliberate in my choices of embellishments and everything has some kind of meaning.  Like in the above title I added the lock because if you treasure something, you protect it.

The “perfect” side of life

This side view shows the “perfect” shiny side that we try to portray, but if you look closely, you can see works like “love” and “Dream on” across the side because even in our striving to be “perfect” and “normal” we all still have dreams that we dare to dream, even if it’s only in our own heads.

The pink bustle in the back shows that, as women, we can be bigger than life, while still being women.

The wings show the desire that everyone has to excel at something.

Tattered Heart

The heart was formed with red Sculpey clay. Before I bake it, etched “stitches” into it. I baked it over a small ball of wax paper to keep the shape curved. Once it was baked and cooled, I applied a layer of black acrylic paint and wiped off the excess. In some ways, we all have scars on our hearts, but  through the love of family and friends we can be stitched back together and be free just like that little bird.

Symbolic Charm necklace

The necklace is very heavy in symbolism: the bird cage (need for freedom), the clock (everything happens in time), the word “be” (BE who you are!), roses (there are seasons for everything), and the word “journey” (we are ALL on a journey.)

You can also see the white “stitches” on one side of the dress form. I made them white for 2 reasons: (1) it would show up better and (2) because so many times we feel like our scars are bright white and everyone can see them, when in actuality, most of us keep them hidden pretty well.

So what do you think? How about we take our thoughts, dreams and desires out of our books and put them on display for all to see and to remember that art can be both beautiful and healing.

For more information on Saving Grace, check them out at www.savinggracenwa.org

Have a Blessed Day.

Keri Sallee


Keri Sallee is a lover of all things creative and believes that everyone has the ability to be creative in some manner. She currently designs for Graphic 45, Marion Smith Designs and The Crafter’s Workshop, as well as occasionally appearing on the blog for The Canvas Corp family of products. She loves to challenge herself and others to think outside of the box. You can find her at her blog, on Facebook and her favorite photo hangout, Instagram




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