Today we welcome back a dear friend of the Library as Incubator Project, multimedia and collage artist (and library gallery curator) Melissa Kolstad! Today Mel tells us about a project-based class she led recently that’s all about personal connection to libraries – and includes the how-to in case you’re game to try this out yourself. Read on! ~ Laura

by Melissa Kolstad

In the last two years, I’ve done more work with our library (the Fond du Lac Public Library) than ever before – I became a member of the Board of Trustees (and I’m currently vice president); taught a “Crafternoon” using book spines in collage; served on the library’s creative space advisory committee (their new maker space called the Idea Studio, set to open later this year); became a trustee on the board of the Winnefox Library System, which serves 30 libraries in Fond du Lac’s five surrounding counties; and – probably most in my wheelhouse – became the volunteer curator of the Langdon Divers Gallery, which is housed right in the library.  But more on that commission in later posts!

Because I love serving the library which has given me so much, I devised a project-based class where students can show their love for the library of their choice – I call it Homage to Libraries.  I debuted this class at Black-Eyed Press in Racine, Wisconsin, which owner Samira Gdsis also paired with an artist talk at the Racine Public Library (she set this up for me!).  I catered my talk to show how the library has factored in to so much of the art I’ve created, and it also set the tone for the class later in the day.

Mel presenting her artist talk.

Mel presenting her artist talk.

We had a full house for this class, which was part of Black-Eyed Press’ Artist of the Book series and financed in part by a grant from ArtSeed, which is the Racine Arts Council’s grant program.   And everyone had a wonderful time paying tribute to their own favorite libraries – because who among us doesn’t have one of those?  😀

Here’s what you’ll need for this project:

A book with an interesting or meaningful cover (I used Readers Digest Condensed Books)

  • PDF glue (or watered-down Elmer’s)
  • Hake brush or similar, for spreading glue
  • Binder clips or clamps
  • Ruler
  • Box cutter
  • X-Acto knife
  • Shrink plastic (preferably for inkjet printers, unless you’re sketching)
  • Parchment paper
  • Cookie sheet
  • Bits of paper (for collaging your “shadow box”)
  • Pens and markers (preferably water resistant, like Microns)
  • Glue dots
  • Sandpaper
  • Book cover shreds (if desired), for border


  1. Create your shrink plastic piece.  Begin with a photo or a sketch.   Since the shrink plastic decreases in size 40-60%, you’ll want to figure out how large to print or create your image.  My library image was 5” long to start; it decreased by 60%, leaving it 2” long.  Therefore, I based my “shadow box” on the finished size.  Be sure to follow the instructions for preparing the shrink plastic for your oven or toaster oven.  You also may want to enhance your piece with colored pencils or Micron pens NOW, before it shrinks, because it’s much easier to work with at this point.  When finished “baking”, set aside.
  2. Take your book and hold it in your non-dominant hand, near the pages.
  3. Dilute one part glue and 1/2 part water, and spread mixture all over the exposed pages of the book and back cover, but not the front cover, while holding.
  4. When you feel the pages have been adequately covered, take your binder clips and secure the pages together.  Let the glue dry as much as possible; this process can be hastened with a blow-dryer.
  5. Using your box cutter, carefully begin carving your book cover to its desired size (I did a 2”X2” square for mine).   A sharp blade is key.  You can then use this window as a gauge for your inside pages.  Also, you may notice that there are some unsightly edges you may want to fix – you can paint them, color them with markers, or use graphic or rainbow tape to cover them up.  (I used tape.)
  6. When the pages are dry (or close), measure the size of “window” you’d like for your interior pages, slightly larger than your cover opening. Begin carving with your craft knife. I carved about 4-5 pages away on my book.
  7. Once the inside pages have been carved to the desired depth, spread a layer of glue onto the inside front page and the inside front cover.  Glue them together.  Re-clamp using binder clips.
  8. While your book is drying, this is a great time to start finding bits of paper for your collaged interior.  I used tiny, tiny pieces of white, blue and green Japanese papers for the sky, clouds and grass.  You can create whatever tableau you’d like!  🙂
  9. Your book is dry!  You can start your tiny collage or embellishing!  😀
  10. When you’re finished with this part, use a glue dot to secure your shrink plastic piece to the “shadow box”.

VOILA!!  You’ve created your very own homage to your favorite library!  😀

Learn more about Melissa and her work at her website,



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