Collage, from the French word ''coller'' (to stick), is a technique that incorporates fragments of paper and collected or found objects into artistic compositions. The National Gallery of Art credits Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso with legitimizing collage as fine art. Today any material fixed to a surface may be termed collage.
As usual, the guys get all the credit! At the risk of generalizing I think women have a genetic proclivity for collage and have been creating it since time began.
Women tend to arrange and organize, rearrange and reorganize, until they see a composition that is pleasing to the eye. Women do this with home d cor, their dinner tables, their closets, their makeup, their apparel, you name it.
Men, on the other hand, tend to leave things where they lie, find organization in disorganization, have little concern (and may exhibit actual annoyance) if you ask them to pick up after themselves or put things back ''where they belong so you can find it when you want it, Dear''.
Women's genetic tendency to artfully arrange things explains the current rage for scrapbooking which has evolved into a very advanced form of collage. Also in the collage category are shadow boxes, photo collages, collaged cards, framed family history or theme collages, and of course collage art (-for-art's sake).
1. Any collage starts with a theme or group of somehow related objects. So look around you. Get the shoebox of family memorabilia out of the attic. Keep your eye out for objects that appeal to you and are mountable. Just a few suggestions: beach glass, shells, small pieces of driftwood, dried flowers and leaves, jewelry parts, charms, doll house furniture and accessories, machine parts, e.g. gears from a watch or small motor, kitchen utensils, or old silverware.
You may have several groups accumulating at once; and objects may be moved at whim from one group to another. Once you have enough in any one group, lay them out on a table and arrange them. Let them talk to you. Leave them for a few days, glancing at them from time to time and moving items around until you are satisfied with the arrangement. Or if you're really inspired, you may be pleased with your first arrangement! It happens sometimes.
You may want to enhance or alter some objects for a special look. Paper can be ''antiqued'' by carefull singeing the edges and/or washing over the paper with tea. Some items can be painted or shellacked. You may want only part of a photo. Tear or cut away the unwanted portion or create a pretty mat from textured paper in a coordinated color. Objects can be painted or colored: polka dots on a scrap of metal, a stained glass design painted on clear glass, a matte finish on one item that would otherwise clash with all the glossy ones - or vice versa.
2. Depending on the size and weight of your arrangement, choose your substrate. If the collage will be large and heavy, consider masonite, hardboard or wood, at least 1/4 inch thick. It is a good idea to glue two firring strips to the back for support, both while you work and when you go to hang your collage. Metal can also be used and is very effective in combination with objects welded to it.
If you are scrapbooking, your substrate is most likely 12 X 12 inch paper and your items need to be lightweight. Other possibilities are stretched canvas, cardboard or wooden boxes, poster board, or for cards - any type of cardstock or decorative paper including handmade papers.
3. Prepare your substrate if necessary. For example, you may need to shellac or seal if you are using wood. You may want to put a wash of color or sponged pattern as a backdrop to your theme.
4. Decide what you will need in order to mount your objects. Choose glues appropriate for the object and the substrate; preferably ones which dry transparent. Try to avoid any glue seeping out from the edges by carefully placing and spreading the glue and letting it come to a proper tack before placing each object on the base. Follow the manufacturer's label instructions. Be sure the adhesive is permanent and, if you are working with photos, also acid-free. Some consumer tapes, glue sticks and liquid adhesives are not permanent or may react with photographs and cause them to deteriorate. Some of these adhesives contain acids and other materials, such as plasticizers or softening agents, which can migrate onto a photograph and cause discoloration, fading and brittleness.
Other possible fasteners are nails, tacks (especially decorative ones such as upholstery tacks), pegs, bolts, glue dots, stick pins, wire and tape. Or you might take up welding. You wouldn't be the first woman to do so!
If you are a woman looking for your artistic or profitable niche, I recommend you give some type of collage a try. It just comes so naturally to most women that you may find it feeds the soul, as well as the pocketbook.
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The Artful Crafter
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