Monday, 21 January 2013

On my work table.

As I was working on new collages this past couple of weeks, I took photos of my work table from time to time.

When I'm working on a series of collages, or in this case two series, I usually lay out a few of the canvas or wooden supports I'm going to use as well as the boxes of materials: papers, scraps of fabric, antique photos, pressed flowers and leaves, antique letters, glass beads, old keys...



For the first few days I experiment, placing items here and there, trying to come up with combinations that make sense to me: the feel of a certain key with the handwriting on a certain hundred and fifty year old letter...




I fiddle with scraps and bits, leaving them for a while and coming back to them, exchanging items or starting from scratch.



Once I'm in the midst of things, I usually give up trying to maintain order, finding that too stifling of the creative process at this point.  




This is - of course - loads of fun with a kitten present.  





The ones with the antique photographs take longer.  I've decided to start with eight of the photos I bought in London's Spitalfields antiques market in November.  They are all women, which wasn't intentional, but I found that as I was looking through the countless boxes of old photographs they had, it was the women - and girls - who spoke to me.  They intrigued me. Each looked like she had a story to tell.







With these, it's not just the composition of the collage that I'm after, it's also the line of story.  I jot down notes, ideas, and images in a notebook.  Once I've found the right one for each woman, I print them, cut them out, then stain the paper with water colours.  So far I have words for six of the eight. Finding just the right line for each photograph is, I think, my favourite part of the whole process.  (Yes, that is Molly in the bottom left of the photo.)



Once I'm certain about the composition of a collage, I paste all of the pieces onto the support with acrylic medium.

Here are the first two non-photo collages.  These belong to the "Nostalgia" series which I've popped into my Etsy shop.

(15 x 15 cm.)


(15 x 15 cm.) 


Here's the only one of the women I've finished so far.
Her line is:  "She kept the hearts of her loved ones pressed in a book on her topmost shelf."

(10 x 10 cm.)


She looks quite at home on a bookshelf herself.



And...as I write this, Molly is in the process of trying to un-make some of my collages.  I do have a door to my room, but can't bear to hear her meowing on the other side to be let in...




24 comments:

  1. Molly is a work of art in herself I think! I always love blogs which detail the process of creativity so thanks for 'opening up' your studio in this manner, it made for a cracking good read! :-)

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    1. She really is a delight - when she's not being a complete pain in the backside!
      I also love reading about, and seeing, other peoples's creative process. Glad you enjoyed it, Kate!

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  2. All of this looks absolutely delightful and delicious. I'd be like your kitty but with all the things you are making art with! LOVE. :)

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    1. I get as squirrely as Molly does, Louise! I've always loved paper, so scrounging about with my boxes of different types of papers - as well as wonderful antique items like the photographs, old letters, keys is paradise.

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  3. I collect antique photographs as well. They are so fascinating. It started out as me picking them up as reference photos for paintings, but pretty soon I just acknowledged the fact that I love the look of the old photographs and am fascinated by the faces of the people in them, so I collect the ones that strike me now. I want to know what their stories are, whether they were happy in life or sad with their lot.

    Your kitty is just too cuuute! I'm sure she's a big help isn't she. :D

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    1. It is amazing how striking some of the faces in old photographs can be, isn't it Grace. I went through shoeboxes at the antiques market and many of the photos didn't "speak" to me, but those that did *really* did. They suggest so many stories - good and bad.
      And yes, Molly is a *big* help! Kitten + hundreds of bits of paper = grrrr!!

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  4. Thanks for the peek into your process... I love to see a messy work table! And that kitty-face... oh MY! She's a sweet one!

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    1. Glad you liked it, Valerianna. I always start off very neat and organized, but it turns into complete and utter chaos part way through. It's the only way I can work! And it seems, no matter how big my work space, I will take up every square inch.
      Molly is a joy. It's amazing the difference having a cat can make.

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  5. I wonder if all collage artists work the way you and I do... sorting, moving around, placing, removing, subtracting, adding.. making a visual delight of a mess.. thanks for sharing your process.

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    1. My guess is that they do, Donna. It's so different from painting, isn't it? I love it when I've been moving elements of a collage around for days and suddenly the pieces come together and the collage is done. Something magical about that moment. It can be as simple as moving something from one side to the other, or snipping a quarter of an inch off a strip of paper...And I do love being in the midst of all that creative mess! Glad you liked the peek!

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  6. Thank you so much for that post, I can't tell you how much I enjoyed it! It is always such a delight to be offered an insight into someone else's creative process - especially as so much art (as writing) is made usually in solitude and privacy.

    I like the way you work and the way that you reconfigure these elements of lost stories onto new and meaningful moments and narratives. Wonderful stuff!

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    1. So glad to hear you enjoyed it, Austin! I'm with you - I love being given insight into other peoples' creative process. And I'm very happy to share mine.
      You've put the process brilliantly: "reconfiguring these elements of lost stories into new and meaningful moments and narratives."

      On the topic of creative process - I really enjoyed being a fly on the wall to the conversation in the comments of Katherine's (Langrish) blog between you and she and Jane - many thanks! Great insights into the story telling process. Oral story telling is something I *wish* I had the talent for.

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  7. Boy are you making me want to organize my work space! It really does help. and that kitten is pretty damned cute too. Great work!

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    1. I agree, Lari! I do have to start with an organized work space, though it certainly doesn't stay organized for long. There's a period of productive creative mess, but once that gets out of control, it becomes counter productive, and I have to start the cycle over again by tidying up.
      Molly does do the cute kitten thing like a pro!

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  8. Hi Lynn,

    That's one of the things I love about being online - you never know who is listening in! I'm delighted that you enjoyed that conversation and do chip in next time - why not?

    You know I haven't done it for quite some time but I used regularly to run storytelling workshops for people of all ages and walks of life. My basic premise (which I should add was proven time and time again) is that EVERYONE can tell stories. Really. That is one of the beauties of all the folk arts - they belong to the folk and anyone can do it. You certainly don't have to be educated or literary (although you also have that advantage, I imagine) as our storytelling ancestors certainly weren't. If you have ever said to a friend or family member something like, "Do you know what happened in the supermarket today? You'll never believe it but I saw..." then you're a storyteller. It's a tiny leap of confidence from that natural storytelling to the telling of an older folk tale. The trick is simply to make the story your own, experience it alive in your imagination. Then there is no need to remember a lot of words. You just remember the story - seeing the images, smelling the smells, hearing the sounds in memory just as you would with what happened in the supermarket - and tell what you already KNOW.

    Try it. Start by telling a story to your charming little cat. I'm sure she'd love to listen.

    In any case, you are already a storyteller in your collage work. You could try holding up a piece (maybe one of the photographic pieces) to Molly and just start. "You see, Molly, this is a photograph of Edith Bucket. Now, she lived a long time ago. And do you know what she did?" and off you go!

    Kindest regards,

    A.

    PS: thanks for correcting my typo in your quotation!

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    1. I will chip in next time! Though it was fascinating reading the thoughts of three very accomplished story tellers in that exchange. Terri's (Windling) blog is another great one for the discussions that her posts inspire in the comments. (I have been enjoying the poetry exchange between you and Jane there!)

      It's funny, I love *writing* stories and find I can delve into my imagination and our collective "story-soup", but when it comes to *orally* telling a story, I find that extremely difficult, and tend to feel very self-conscious. Occasionally, I've tried it with my sons (who are now 11 & 8) and I have actually enjoyed it - but I think for me the problem is with "getting it right." With my writing, I can edit a piece inside out before anyone else reads it. With oral story telling, that's not the case. That said, I do think my boys enjoyed the rawness of those attempts. It's different from reading a story directly from a book. Something magical happens when a story goes directly from one person to another - without the filter of words on paper. I should really give it another go. Maybe I will start with Molly!


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  9. what lovely collages and very nice too to have such insights into your process. Molly looks like an adorable crafting companion!

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    1. Thanks, Juliet, glad you enjoyed the glimpse.
      And Molly is a good companion - most of the time!

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  10. Lynn, it's wonderful to see these old images coming to life in the light,like a sort of reincarnation.

    Molly is beautiful....and growing so quickly!

    Ruby

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    1. It is like a reincarnation, Ruby. And there is always a touch of the otherworldly in the collages. Can't seem to help it.
      Molly is growing like mad! We were looking at a couple of photos of her when we first got her and couldn't believe how small she was.

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  11. I feel really privileged seeing your process in such detail. My favourite is "She kept the hearts ....". Every few months I create few weeks of daily 10 minute collages (using magazine tear-outs) just for fun. I'm inspired to lay out 10 to work on at the same time. Thanks for the interesting post!

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    1. Thanks, Robin!
      I love your idea of daily quick collages.
      Working in multiples is the only way I can do it. I find that the collages seem to inspire one another.

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  12. Lynn, thanks for coming by--I am enjoying noodling through your images and words this morning.

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    1. Thanks for your visit, Marly!

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