Handcrafted and Alternative Albums

Generally speaking album cover design is reserved for special projects other than our regular scrapbooks which contain our every day happenings and are usually housed in scrapbook albums with a cloth or leather binding and post-bound or D-Ring internal hardware. Special Project albums tend to have very specific subjects or themes that they focus on and therefore a unique reference point from which to begin your design concept. As discussed in my last post about pre-made albums this may mean you consider a specific shaped design for your project and work within its parameters, or perhaps as we will discuss here, you decide to craft something entirely from scratch and let your imagination run wild with the possibilities of a handcrafted or alternative DIY album.20150527_1HancraftedandAlternativeAlbumsThere is a lot more that goes into the design of a handcrafted album cover before you even get to designing the ‘pretty’ part of you cover. To begin with you need to consider the size, shape and depth of your album and the kind of construction you will use to keep it together. This includes the materials you will use to construct it, the type of tools you will use on those materials, the type of binding you are going to use and whether you need an allowance for seams, holes, or margins. Typical materials for construction of your cover are cardboard, grungeboard and chipboard but often you can find examples that use cardstock, thick patterned paper, fabric, wood and sometimes even plastic metal or other materials. Some seam binding options include glued, ribbon binding, stitched binding, ring bound, accordion fold, post bound or using a specialist binding tool like a Bind-it-all or Cinch to make coil bound items. External and internal hardware need to be considered as well – what type of closure are you going to use, if any, and what are the limitations of the internal fittings including the dimensions of rings or spiral binding? As you can see with such a wide range of options it helps to know what you are constructing your album for.20150527_2HancraftedandAlternativeAlbumsYou will note that in my examples here I have chosen various methods of construction for my album covers. My ‘All About Me Album’ has a cover and pages made from corrugated cardboard and bound with my most frequent method of binding – hinged rings. My little ‘Passion’ album uses a coil bound structure on a printed high quality semi-gloss cardstock. Whilst my Calving 2014 album is constructed from heavy weight cardboard with a glue bound spine and covered in scrap paper. The Bible Study Crew Album (the blue one) is made of layers of regular cardboard from cardboard boxes and covered with a blue curtain fabric then bound together with posts like you’d find in a post bound album. Patterned scrapbook paper forms the endpapers and cut-outs have been included on the inside of the cover to house small mini albums which are covered in the same fabric. Whilst my 2014 December Daily cover is bound with hinged rings but has an external cover that is attached with endpapers only on the back cover. The cover design for this album makes it wrap around the entire album unlike the two separate pieces used for most of the other covers. As you can see methods of construction are many and varied and these are only the tip of the iceberg. You enjoy the challenge of figuring it out yourself and simply wing it, as I tend to most of time, coming up with a cover strategy to fit your unique project. There are many tutorials out there in blog land or on Youtube that can give you pointers on exactly what is involved in creating an album and cover style of your choice if you need a starting point including this great resource on traditional bookbinding methods if you want to try something outside the norm of techniques often associated with crafting your own albums.20150527_3HancraftedandAlternativeAlbumsYou may choose not to house your album in a traditional square or rectangular shaped cardboard style album and instead make an Alternative Album or Off the Page project instead where your cover design will likely be dictated by the form and function of the materials you choose to construct it from. Basically the sky’s the limit when it comes to materials for an alternative album there are many examples of altered books, like Maggie Holmes Happy Little Moments album for her class at BPC or you can use supplies that may be non-traditional in nature like mint tins, boxes, or leftover product packaging. I’ve attempted albums in a small CD case and CD pocket wallet before or you could go for a DVD case. If you can think it up likely you could make an Alternative Album out of just about anything.20150527_5HancraftedandAlternativeAlbums 20150527_6HancraftedandAlternativeAlbumsOnce you’ve settled on the mechanics of your album you can then get into the fun stuff and have a play with the materials and media you want to create your cover. As I said in the intro most albums we make are for special projects so this may mean gathering just the basics – cardboard, patterned papers, fabric etc or gathering a collection of other product like, themed items for say a Holiday or December Daily album if your aim is to make it rather decorative. These don’t have to be your regular manufactured items either on my 2014 December Daily cover I used a cross-stitch piece I’d done and some shaped buttons, raffia, a book-page rosette and a print out of some Christmas music I found online. Things to consider when assembling your decorative elements and basic structure of your cover are the type of binding; hardware you’ll use as a closure or internal structure; seam allowance for wrapping fabric or paper around the edge of your album; or the size/shape of the spine of the cover. These need to be accommodated when your still in the planning stage so you don’t put part of your design where that will impact on the use of the album and so they can also be integrated in your decorative design where necessary. Pre-construction of the album you might also like to do some mixed media work before assembling it, such as some kind of embossing detail on the cover, painting, misting or adding a texture medium all of which can benefit from having a bit more freedom of movement before you assemble the album. It also comes in handy because if you mess up somehow a cover up is easier to do when it’s not already part of you project. Like if you punch holes for your album in the wrong place (not speaking from experience or anything, cos I’ve never done that before…) you can cover with patterned paper or adjust your design to change their location.20150527_8HancraftedandAlternativeAlbums 20150527_10HancraftedandAlternativeAlbums 20150527_9HancraftedandAlternativeAlbumsWhat sort of an Alternative Album have you tackled in the past, got any ideas for one you’d like to work on in the future? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.


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