Handmade Burn Books

I started these Handmade Burn Books in the summer of 2021 in an online class. Ali Manning from Vintage Page Designs led a bookbinding class using a double needle Coptic stitch. I used blank mixed media paper for the signatures, or groups of pages.

I decided early on that I wasn’t keeping these books. 2021 continued in the shadow of 2020, many of us trying to navigate the in wake of everything dredged from our personal and collective lives. I don’t need to tell you that.

One thing that always helps me is writing about what came up for me. Especially when I know I’m writing something with the intent to burn it.

The Healing Power of the Written Word

The written word is especially cleansing and purifying, or cathartic. Even when I don’t think I have much to write about, once I get into a rhythm, words just pour out of me. If I catch it, I can feel that stream of consciousness as energy moving from my body to the page.

In my experience, naming what’s going on inside me or around me on paper has always invited me to a conversation with myself. I can understand reasons why you may not want your writing to be found. Or maybe you’re not ready to have the conversation about what your world is actually like. That’s okay. You don’t need this handmade book to be able to write a wish or a memory and burn it. Just make sure you do it safely.

If you really hate writing, I understand. The pages are sturdy enough for painting, drawing, and ink washes. Even better, you could give writing a try and then draw or paint over it. It’s your book, after all.

But Why Burn It?

Fire is transformative. One fact that stuck with me from middle and high school is that when something burns, its chemical makeup changes. It becomes something else. As does whatever we’ve shared from ourselves in the pages. And when we return the ashes to the earth, the earth neutralizes them.

Covers for the Handmade Burn Books

Once I knew these books were being made to burn, I wanted to create covers that someone wouldn’t mind burning. I painted a large piece of mixed media paper crimson red. Using a flat paintbrush, I wrote “The Burn Book” in Roman Capitals across the whole page. I also used a folded pen and gold watercolor to write the title all over the large page. The messier the covers were, I thought, the better!

After the big page was dry, I tore the paper down to size for the covers. I chose which pieces I wanted to be the fronts and sewed them with the hand-torn signatures. The set of books sat on a shelf in my studio for months. I didn’t have the black thread yet to act as a closure.

Finishing the Handmade Burn Books

Image of a Handmade Burn Book by Renee McAdam

Later in 2021, I got bit badly by the sewing bug (see my Calligraphy Pen Rolls). Magically, I now had black thread. I attached it through the back covers before gluing them together. The thread wraps around the book 5 times and each cord is made of 3 threads tied together.

Buy one of the 2 Burn Books Left!

Image of a Handmade Burn Book by Renee McAdam

Handmade Burn Book

— 6″ x 4.5″ x 0.5″ handbound book — Coptic Stitch binding — hand painted covers in calligraphy — US shipping included The act of writing is healing; fire is transformative. We created these books to help you participate in your own healing process. With 32 pages of mixed media paper, you’ll have plenty of space to write, draw, or paint your thoughts and experiences. When you’re ready to release them, wrap the entire book in the black thread connected to the back cover and set it ablaze. Return the ashes to the earth, and be done with it. ** Please observe safe practices when burning your Burn Books. Burn yours in a heatproof container in a clear area. Be sure to extinguish all embers when the pages have been consumed.