Sunday, April 27, 2008

We Assemble for Assemblage

Today the participants in "Assemble Yourself" met at SCRAP at noon, just as the store opened. We found lots and lots of very cool stuff and carried much of it back to The Art of Your Life Studio for a workshop on assemblage. Participants chose a cigar box from my collection as a support and base for their assemblage. Penny decided to use a scavenged cork bulletin board instead.

Assemblage is a collection of lots of different kinds of stuff, usually united in a container or on a support. It's kind of a 3-D collage, but each assemblage turns out to be unique to the creator. It's amazing how a bunch of junk can be put together into a beautiful and meaningful work of art.

Two of the participants had taken my classes before. They each brought a new person to the Art of Your Life. Janene brought her friend, Jodi, and Nell brought her mother, Penny, who is visiting from out of state. Penny said the day was a great mother-daughter bonding activity!

Penny wanted to celebrate a dream she and her husband are in the midst of achieving. They are creating a small farm where they will have cows, chickens, and pigs. This was Penny's first assemblage. She experimented a lot with placement and rejecting some items she had chosen and adding others. Like I have, she found that an assemblage can be more powerful with some pruning of elements, difficult though it may be not to use some of your favorite items! (The answer to that is, of course, to make more assemblages.)

Below she works on her assemblage, trying out different placements. She used a barn red background, straw-like paper, and a colorful design of chickens, which was part of a napkin set I found at SCRAP a few weeks ago. She found a vintage picture of a girl with a huge straw hat which I think represents herself becoming a "farm girl" at last. She "floated" the picture of the girl on a small piece of soft foam to make the image stand out from the background.

Penny tries out placements

Janene chose a palette of soft pinks, ochers, and black and white. She combined text, images, and paint treatments, to make an elegant statement. She also included a piece of a vintage dress pattern.

Janene's work in progress

One aspect of art creation we discussed today was the need for contemplation in the midst of the process. Participants found it was helpful to see their work at a distance periodically. It was also helpful to sit and stare at the work in progress, letting their minds relax and look into the work.

Janene ponders

Jodi contemplates

Nell lets her intuition guide her

Having had Nell as a participant in a previous workshop, I knew that she prefers abstraction to representation in her own art work. I thought this would be an interesting challenge for her in terms of assemblage. Most assemblages I've seen have a clear theme, so I was curious to see what she would come up with.

Jodi's theme was "Hatching Hope." She built an exquisite nest out of many elements, including Easter egg grass. She wanted to age the grass and was curious to see if she could do this using re-inking liquid. She dabbed some "Espresso" onto a wet paper towel and used just the right amount of color to age the grass believably. She wondered a few times if part of her assemblage was too "busy" but fortunately, she went along with the rest of us when we shouted, "No, it's perfect!"

Here's Janene's piece, almost finished. If you've ever been in her shop, Paperdoll, you know that this looks "just like her." This is so magical.

Here's Jodi's delightful nest, just waiting for its occupant. She's going to add a bird image she has at home.

A close up of Jodi's assemblage

Here's Penny's completed Farm piece. I think she should hang this in her farm office when she and her husband get things up and running. It's a whimsical, vintage looking work, full of fun and children's dreams of farm life.

Detail of Penny's assemblage, showing the farm girl, straw, and "eggs." The eggs are a piece of costume jewelry with rounded white globes in a nested bezel. Penny wrapped these in straw to represent the eggs her hens will provide.

Nell pulled off an evocative abstract assemblage with rich colors and a dreamy quality. She used transparent starry fabric in the upper right of the piece. The horizontal and vertical accents on the right side are colored with rich re-inker liquid and medium.

Detail of Nell's assemblage, showing the many complementary layers she used.

Some of the materials used today were: acrylic paint, re-inkers, mediums, old postage stamps (SCRAP), tissue and other decorated papers, reproductions of old letters, wood, fabric, old book pages, old jewelry, scrabble tiles (from Goodwill), alphabet stamps, old containers, feathers, twigs, colored stones (SCRAP), broken up tile (SCRAP), found objects I can't identify (SCRAP etc.), foam packing material, buttons, polished stones,and vintage sewing patterns.

Thanks to all the participants for a creative and joyful day!

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