I have been making collages for years and years. It probably started when I was a kid, when I would make dummy newspapers, magazines, and once even a sewing pattern, that combined pictures and text and silly headlines that I made up for presents.
But my serious adult collaging began when I was a law clerk in Chicago. A friend was taking the bar exam and I wanted to send her something fun and distracting. I was flipping through a magazine that featured a story on barware called “Stocking the Bar” and I found myself obsessively looking for the word bar in everything I could find. The resulting collage was a search and find–instead of “Where’s Waldo?” it was “Where’s the Bar?”– with pictures of wheel BARrows, Ellen BARkin, BARns, and so forth. Try your hand below
Many such collages followed, decorating wedding invitations and birth announcements or simply celebrating, like so:
When my nephew, Theo, was born over a Thanksgiving holiday, my husband’s whole family joined me in making a collage for the new parents. We had just been to a bunch of antique stores, and I picked up some old magazines from the forites to use in the collage. The difference was stunning–the crazy old ads, the textures, and colors brought the collage to a new height, and I was hooked on repurposing the old and new together.
Fast forward to my previous job and perplexity about what to do for birthdays. First, I made some birthday collages, but I wasn’t sure I really knew everyone well enough to make things personal. I brought in a small IKEA mirror, a pile of magazines, scissors, sponge brushes, and Mod Podge and convinced my team to start collaging. As one friend said, she thought I was nuts, but the minute she started flipping through magazines, snipping headlines and images to create something new, she was hooked. In the 5 1/2 years I was there, collages became a team building event, a going away present, and most recently, a party activity.
This time it was my turn for the going away party, and to my surprise and delight, my friends and colleagues threw a work party that included a “decoupage room.” It was great fun to watch the broader staff of our organization sit down and start cutting and pasting. Another friend who had never participated in our collage ritual said that she loved it–and was going to do it with her daughter. Several other people talked about how peaceful it felt to just do some art as a break from work. And yes, several people (I am talking about you, Walter) made fun of us, but sat down and did it anyway. My friend, Wendy, who organized the decoupage activity, enthusiastically explained the steps–create a background, find words and images that make you think of thecraftylawyer, and when we have enough, arrange and plan the order, layering images and text over each other, sandwiching it all together with mod podge. The results were fabulous and heartwarming.
And the thing that made me the happiest? Seeing a group of wonderful, intelligent, but usually very serious people, let a bit of art guide their day and making something beautiful in the process. It is proudly hanging in my new office