Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

Strange Costumes: Chapter 2

I have been working away at my altered book project. I’m doing more writing now than illustrating, but it will all come eventually.

Chapter 2: Draped In Strange Feathers

           I like this new overcoat, close against my body. Raindrops flow and I am safe. Fluff and snuggle, we dress up for courting season.

          I no longer lie down. I wear black velvet like a crown, carried high. Rich in red with blossoms of emerald, all the gifts of paradise draped delicately across my breast. Baby soft in my gleaming brightness, I take care so no water seeps in.

          Without bare skin, I forget how to swim. My glide is gone and I miss the taste of sea worms. Tiny toes get tired, grasping at the tall reeds of late summer. Worn out, I shed my secrets.

          In the cold, moonlit nights, I am alone. My cry, my song, grows quiet. All of my dreams — turquoise treasures, plumes of plum, circus parasols, dazzling white against a yellow fan — all of my tiny wants in a drop of dew, a grain of sand.

          I wait for my days of fluff and grace. Open and shut, open and shut; we hide in strange costumes.

by Shelley


February 4, 2009 - Posted by | books, Cafe Literati, Shelley's Altered Book, writing |


  1. Hi Shelley!
    This is again a great piece, and I can’t wait to see (hear!) Kevin working at it with you.
    I believe these pieces have something very special, Shelley, your words are powerful and create such a mysterious mystical but also real and poetical story … somehow sounding like the story of evolution, but in an anti spacetime…

    Comment by Miki | February 4, 2009

  2. Yay! Chapter 2! I’ve already begun working on some Rhythms for this one, Shelley, so the seed is sown…

    Comment by kevmoore | February 4, 2009

  3. This is lovely; made me think of lyre birds, birds of paradise, Mandarin ducks and various others.
    It feels like a sort of vision too.
    thank you.

    Comment by viv66 | February 4, 2009

  4. I’m really enjoying your book project Shelley and so excited for you about the collaboration work with Kev and Miki. I just saw the latest video and was very moved. I share your interest in bird life and so many of your word picture images speak to me. CAn you direct me to where you talk more about this altered book project (an overview). I think I missed the beginning part.

    Comment by Susan Cornelis | February 4, 2009

  5. Hi Susan!
    Oh no, I am not involved in this project! well, I am deeply involved, but obly in the sense that I love it and that I extremely proud of Shelley and Kevin!

    Comment by Miki | February 4, 2009

  6. Hi Susan! I’m not sure I gave a good overview at any point, but you can find all my posts on this project here:
    I have been fascinated with altered books for several years. What is an altered book? The International Society of Altered Book Artists has this definition at their website, along with some beautiful examples:
    “It is any book, old or new that has been recycled by creative means into a work of art. They can be … rebound, painted, cut, burned, folded, added to, collaged in, gold-leafed, rubber stamped, drilled or otherwise adorned … and yes! It is legal!”
    My original goal with this project was to create my own writing to go behind my illustrations, rather than use someone else’s book. By now the project has morphed far beyond my original intentions into something more wonderful than I could have imagined!

    Comment by shelleymhouse | February 4, 2009

  7. Yes if by definition you have,”morphed far beyond my original intentions into something more wonderful than I could have imagined!”

    Comment by Michael Pokocky | February 8, 2009

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