Updated August 16, 2021.
Gluebooks have been around for a few decades now, but they’ve never really gotten as popular as they should be. They’re a fun, easy way to make a collage, and they can be a good point of entry for the larger art journal scene.
I really love making gluebooks! Making collages using trash from around my house is almost a meditative experience for me, and I like the act of cutting and pasting things into a notebook. Also, I like not having to pull out a bunch of art supplies– I can literally do this anywhere at any time, I just need a gluestick and some stuff to glue.
If you’ve heard of a gluebook but aren’t sure what it is or why you should make one, keep reading:
What is a gluebook?
It’s a book you glue things into. It’s literally that simple.
A gluebook is a bound notebook filled with a collection of paper ephemera, glued onto the page using a gluestick. Glued objects turn into a collage, and so a gluebook is a collection of collages.
Gluebooks can be as junky or as pretty as you’d like, though traditionally they’re more on the junk journal side of things. You don’t need any paint, stamps, ink, or “extra stuff” to make a gluebook, just a couple basic supplies and a collection of paper you want to stick in a collage.
Why make a gluebook?
It’s a quick and easy way to get started making an art journal. Since all you need is some ephemera, a gluestick, and scissors– plus a notebook– it doesn’t take much money or effort to start doing. Artists or any age or skill set can make a gluebook!
Plus, if you use ephemera from around your home, gluebooks can also be memory journals. Each page turns into a little snapshot into what’s happening in your life, and they can be really fun to look back on.
Or if you have a huge stash of vintage photos, scrapbook paper, and printed ephemera, gluebooks can be a great way to use them up and free up some space in your studio.
What do you put in a gluebook?
Anything that can be glued down can be added to a gluebook. It’s a flexible system that really allows for a lot of different ephemera and materials.
You can use paper things from around your house, photos or images you’ve printed from online resources, or even scrapbook paper and professionally-printed ephemera.
- magazine pages or clippings
- vintage ephemera (whether original or printed)
- business and travel brochures
- book illustrations (torn or damaged books are perfect for this)
- newspaper ads or articles
- postage stamps
- letters or handwritten notes
- foreign money
- food packaging or stickers
- junk mail
- drink labels
- movie tickets
- tissue paper
- wrapping paper
- greeting cards
- business cards
- canceled checks
Think of the paper products you regularly use in your day-to-day life– any of that can be glued into a gluebook.
What notebooks should be used for gluebooks?
Pretty much any kind of book or notebook will work for a gluebook, even an old one you’ve already written in. I do recommend something that can lay flat, just to make it easier to work with. My favorite is a composition notebook, like the kind used for school.
Keep in mind that because you’ll be glueing an entire layer of paper to a single page, whatever notebook you use will get VERY chunky. Tearing out every other page before you start adding materials will help, though some styles of notebooks won’t be able to handle that– like composition books, which only have a single stitch binding. I just end up embracing the chunkiness.
What does a gluebook look like?
Here’s some examples of my own gluebook pages from years past (click to enlarge any image):
This is one of my first gluebook spreads I ever made– way back in October 2010! It’s hosted in a desk planner from 1989 which I got from a thrift store for…$1, maybe?
I lived in Albuquerque back then, and I wanted to make a collage themed around ABQ. You can see it’s mostly magazine images, business brochures, and snips from a local newspaper.
Here’s another favorite gluebook spread from around the same time:
This one has magazine images (National Geographic and a lifestyle one, I think), a napkin, a catalog, and some leftover snips from other collages. This one was more about coordinating colors than anything else.
As you can see, I tend to pile a bunch of images together into a chaotic collage, and I love to fill every inch of available space. That’s why I tend to use cheap, no-name composition notebooks or upcycled day planners, because I’m going to just cover all the pages with glued-on stuff anyway. I tend to move fast and loose when I’m making a gluebook page: I don’t want to think too much and ruin my creative flow.
Interested in making your own gluebook? Here’s some more resources which can help you out:
- Gluebook Facebook group
- Discovering Gluebooks: How to Stop Focusing on Products & Start Making More Art by Lisa Vollrath
- #gluebook on Instagramfor inspirational images
- Gluebooks Flickr group (my OG hangout)
I’d love to see any gluebooks you’ve made! Drop a link in the comments.
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