Fresh starts never arrive ahead of time and are usually there for a good reason. It’s an opportunity to sort through the everyday accumulation and pick what you’d like to keep and leave behind the things of little or no value. One of my aspirations is journaling. I like this activity for two reasons. One, it’s interesting and revealing to look back and read my old thoughts and opinions with the knowledge of how it all turned out. I imagine a whole life of journals, detailing daily nuances, recounting memories of special times of joy and those times which caused pain and how I dealt with it. I imagine how this could benefit me into the future. But I know myself and know that I’m more inclined to get on with the present day. So my journal writing has been sporadic but there have been times over the years where I have shown discipline and clarity of vision.

The second reason I like the practice of journaling are the tools. Book making, special papers, writing instruments and making art journals with images, text and graphics combine so many types of creativity. I was completely intrigued with books made by Kari Kruempel (whom I met a couple of years ago when she was an artist at a Bloomington (Minnesota) Center for Arts Gifts in the Gallery). Kari makes art journals out of old books. I was especially taken with a volume titled, Out of the Dark. I could imagine filling the pages with testimony which leads one to an improved life, a higher road and when the pages are filled there would be a certain purpose; fulfilling and true.


An avid writer and journalist, Kari begins each day with a cup of coffee and her journal. She says she journals to wake up, clear her mind, reflect, plan her day and try out designs and techniques.  She regards her journals and those she creates as sacred places of safety, comfort, regeneration, exploration, and revelation. Kari began to do book art because she simply needed more journals for herself. She began by decorating the outsides of notebooks with things she couldn’t quite throw away—the deed to her first car, notes from friends, scraps of ribbon and lace. Kari progressed to gutting discarded books with titles that she finds interesting—The Ruined CityDeath’s Old Sweet SongNeedful Things—and fills them with blank pages. She uses a variety of paper types, folding and grouping them into signatures. She re-sews the pages back into the book but not before it has received the creative touch.

On the first page of the books, Kari pastes an out of context excerpt from its former contents. “A good case could be made for the proposition that 1966 was the year the world began to go mad.” Or in the case of Out of the Dark, the journal begins with “This is how it happened.” What an excellent opportunity to provide one’s own accounting of events! Not only are the books rich in visual interest, but the manner in which they invite you to tell your story is provocative. Snippets of past conversation by the original author are like old thoughts and ideas.  A metaphor for touching your past but letting the new ideas flow through.

The books come from Goodwill, flea markets, library sales; anywhere Kari finds a book with an interesting title. Kari made this book block from hand torn, water stressed paper. The cover flowers are crochet and the inside cover uses a copy of an original pen and watercolor drawing. She gives credit to the authors and publishers on the last page of each book. Each of her books is one of a kind with treatments that embellish the original subject of the book. Kari has also made books out of other recycled materials such as upholstery and wallpaper samples, handkerchiefs, diskettes, CDs, old photographs, and birch bark. While she is working on a book, she’ll often place an in-process project in a readily visible place on her work table until the next steps in their development become apparent.  Not infrequently she’ll revisit projects after their “completion” in a few weeks or months discovering changes or enhancements.

Kari has always loved the art of the written word and as she says, “doggedly pursued” it through raising children, a full time work career and purported constructive criticism. Under the pseudonym, Katharine Snow Kari published stories in Minnesota Monthly, ArchitraveA Woman’s Place, and Gypsy Cab.  Kari has also won local (Minnesota) awards for her writing:  second place in Minnesota Monthly’s first Tamarack competition (short story), second place in the second annual White Bear Arts Council Literary Competition (short story), and Whittier Writers’ Workshop greeting card contest (poetry).

Contact Kari Kruempel