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Faces in the crowd: Montgomery County artist shows how to make old books new again

September 30, 2018

About 20 women settled into a room at the South County Community Center Thursday evening; some brought stacks of books, already read and ready to be repurposed.

Montgomery County Artist Terri Sanders was teaching a workshop to The Woodlands Art League members on her “altered book” art: she uses photographs, paint and collaged materials to remodel bound books — and sometimes even just torn-out pages.

In addition to creating at her home studio, she spends her days teaching art to high school students at the Conroe ISD Hauke Academic Alternative campus.

Sanders started teaching her students the same process when she realized that librarians were recycling some hard-copy books in favor of going digital.

“I would see the librarian take carts of books and throw them in the recycling bin, and the next day it would rain and all the books would be gone,” Sanders said. “I asked if we could have those books, so we started doing our art in those books instead of buying sketchbooks.”

This art form — crafting something new onto already printed pages — isn’t a recent venture for Sanders.

Since she was young, she remembers using exorbitant amounts of color in coloring books and doing artsy things. She also saw her grandmother write all throughout her Bible, a tradition Sanders continued and even expanded on.

In a way, this is her second career. Sanders said she got married and had children at a young age, so she was busy with the responsibilities that come with being a mother.

“I didn’t start really working on art myself until I was 40. It was mom’s turn to be creative,” Sanders said.

At that age, she decided to finish her undergraduate degree in advertising and graphic design. That’s when the school district reached out to her in need of an art teacher.

“I thought I’d do it for a year or two, but here I am almost 20 years later, and I’m teaching at-risk kids. It’s a blessing to see these kids be able to express themselves through art,” Sanders said.

Now, she’s a member of the Conroe Art League, as well as a Master Artist with The Woodlands Arts Council. She has displayed her work throughout the county and around the state.

While she already has a master’s degree in education, Sanders was recently accepted to pursue her master’s degree in fine arts, focusing on studio art and mixed media, at the Maine College of Art in Portland, Maine.

Sanders plans to merge her altered book work with what she calls her “photopainting,” which involves using mediums such as watercolor and gouache to paint on the black and white and infrared film photographs she has taken.

She’ll continue to teach at Hauke while she pursues the degree, spending only summers and a month in the winter at the college while she does hours of studio work and online classes to earn credits.

Back in the classroom at her “altered book” demonstration, she advised that everyone can be an artist.

“Find what interests you and make it your own. Don’t be afraid to cross over and try some of everything. Even if you’re not skilled in a certain area, take a workshop and just try it,” Sanders said. “It will make you a better artist in other areas.”

jane.stueckemann@chron.com

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