goldmine of possibilities

Mixed Media Art Journal, Handbound

I recently read a New York Times article about a hidden stash of valuable drawings found in the walls of Idahoan artist James Castle’s home. (James Charles Castle, 1899-1977).  The sketches were difficult to date because Castle would often hold onto his works for long periods of time, but they think they were created between 1930 and 1950.

It made me think of the dozens of papers, sketchbooks and journals I’ve filled and stockpiled away over the years. Not long ago, I unearthed a portfolio brimming with mixed media papers I’d created and was inspired to convert one of my found pieces of art into a journal. Once my first journal was completed, I envisioned all the possibilities for the remaining pieces in the stack – pieces waiting to emerge from their hiding place and be put into practicable use. 

I’m happy to report that many of my “reprocessed art” journals have been sold at local art shows, through my Etsy shop and by word of mouth.  While my works aren’t worth the thousands Castle’s is, the art I brought to light became a rich source of supply for me after returning to it years later.  Besides offering my journals for sale, I’ve come to love creating in them myself rather than in store-bought ones, because I love the look of the custom pages and can make them any size I want to take and create while traveling.

What treasure trove is hidden in your stash?  Now and again, return to your storehouse of color and texture to uncover your own goldmine of possibilities!


1.      From your stash, select the piece of art you want to use as the journal cover as well as the paper you’ll be using for the “signatures” (pages inside the journal).

2.      Decide on the size of your journal, and using a paper cutter, cut both the cover and signatures the same size. I suggest not using more than six pieces of paper (12 pages), as it will make it difficult to push your awl through.

3.      After combining and lining up the cover with the signatures, fold the assemblage in half and run the bone folder firmly over the fold.  With the book open, attach the binder clips to the top of each side of the stack to hold everything in place.

4.      With an awl, poke holes into the center of the assemblage; one approximately a half-inch from the top, another approximately a half-inch from the bottom and one in the center.  This allows the threaded needle to easily slide through.

5.      Thread your needle with a sufficient amount of ribbon or string, but don’t tie a knot in the end of your thread.  Insert your threaded needle into the middle hole, going from the inside of the book to the outside, leaving enough of a tail to tie a knot at the end of the process. Then you’ll go into the top hole from the outside to the inside, the bottom hole from the inside to the outside, and back into the middle hole from the outside to the inside. Tie the two ends together into a knot and trim the ends.


A piece of your artwork you’d like to use as your journal cover.  Choose something sturdy with a lot of texture, but not so thick that you can’t get your needle through it and the signatures.

A collection of various papers and/or fabrics for the signatures.

Paper cutter

Bone folder


Binder clips

Wide-eyed tapestry or finishing needle

Waxed bookbinding or burlap thread, sari ribbon or any type of string that will fit through the eye of the needle

Paints, inks, pens, pencils and ephemera for additional embellishing on your journal cover


Before assembly and binding, embellish your journal cover further by adding machine or hand stitching.  Use paints, inks, pens and pencils to add color and create marks.

Get creative with your signatures!  Think of the variety of papers and fabrics you can find at tag sales.  Get your inspiration from vintage books, interesting magazines, envelopes, greeting cards, wrapping, and packaging.  Shop the book section of thrift stores to find unique items to spark your imagination!

If you don’t want the signatures to be visible outside of the cover, cut them slightly smaller. If you want a jam-packed look, overflowing with ephemera, tags and stitching that will be visible when the journal is closed, cut the signatures slightly bigger than the cover.


Published by Elizabeth Tichvon

WRITER/ARTIST * INSTRUCTOR Elizabeth is a UCLA Paralegal Graduate who worked in the legal field for 35 years before retiring from Chrysler; now you'll find her connecting with the public through her art and writings. Elizabeth's websites may be found at - All writings, artwork and photography are subject to her copyright.

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