Creating Collage Using Daily Life Ephemera:

Untitled, Collage Journal Page, February 11, 2011

Untitled, Collage Journal Page, February 11, 2011

Yesterday, I gave a visual journaling workshop at my friend/artist Wendy Southin’s studio: Dragonfly Dreams.  Here’s a fun exercise we tried using recycled bits of material from our daily lives to create journal pages.  This method was derived from the work of twentieth century German Dada* artist, painter and collagist: Kurt Schwitters

1. Over a period of a week, collect/gather daily life ephemera (flyers, ticket stubs, labels from goods, receipts, stamps, envelope pieces, your drawings, your kid’s drawings, fragments from newspapers ie. comics, your horoscope, ads, coupons, etc.) and keep them in a container.

Note: in 2 weeks I gathered 20 pieces of material as well as leftover scraps from my art projects… the following week, I got so good at it I’d collected at least 50 more items!

2. Spend 20 minutes selecting and simultaneously glue sticking pieces of these things onto a 5 x 7 inch journal page.  If you feel the need to add other elements of colour here or there (with crayon, colour pencil, marker, or dab of paint), go ahead!

Imposing a 20-minute time limit gives you little time for conscious reflection and puts the onus on action and reaction as well as trusting that your gut feelings will help you conjure up something interesting and revealing about yourself.  This time limit is great for people like my friend Wendy who said she never knows when to stop (!) or for those of you who have precious little time to journal. 

3. When completed, ask yourself… What kinds of split decisions were made in choosing certain pieces to compose your page?  Did the process allow you to see a new side of yourself?  Has it opened up a new set of possibilities for creating art?  If someone from the future were looking at your page what would it reveal about your life or the type of character you are?

Next time, take your time with the same technique, and also vary the vary size of your journal page and see how that affects your approach and decision making.

I liked the way my page turned out; it was composed of 12 items.  I ended up selecting things that had to do with finance, education and religion – factors that are playing an important role in my life at the moment.  I’ve never done this exercise before… it was like reading my palm or tea leaves – it revealed so many facets of my life in such an intriguing way.  Now that I’ve done it, I think I’d like to incorporate it at least once a week into my journaling practice – it would be so interesting to see a whole month’s worth of this method of journaling.

FYI: Materials I used: patterned inside of an envelope, handmade paper scrap, postcard bits, a postage stamp, theatre ticket stub, bus transfer, advertisement from cell phone bill, price tag, tea bag string with label (thanks to friend Diane Salter… the lemon tea was great!) taped with a piece of packing tape (Oh God Olive, this one will never make it to the National Gallery!) and a restaurant receipt which I scribbled on with a red grease pencil.

So go ahead and give it a whirl… if you’d like to share your pieces with me I’d love to see or hear about them.  If you’ve tried this method before, are there any daily ephemera items you really thought were cool to use? … please let me know.

*If you’re interested in learning more about the history of collage, it’s really worth exploring the Dada art movement.

6 comments to Creating Collage Using Daily Life Ephemera:

  • Wonderful ideas here! I like Schwitters’s work, and get what you meant surrounding Dada in this context. I tend o collect ephemera, down to things I spot lying on grass or pavement. I have a unique set of “stamps” made of bits of rubber paraphernalia i had time to encounter at one point. In other words, I love what you do, and can really identify with that process you mention here. I’ll be back by, you can be sure.

    • Michelle

      Hello Rose, Thanks so much for adding your ideas and thoughts! It’s great to encounter another Schwitter’s fan. Once I had to do a presentation on his art and fell in love with his working method — I was immediately compelled to explore the Dada spirit/movement further. I love that you find your materials on pavements and grass… these are equally inspiring places to hunt for things… when you think about it, any place we go is great fodder for adding to our art materials supplies. I’ve picked up a few items in those spaces as well like flattend beer bottle caps and odd pieces of interesting looking plastic and dried paper — I don’t find them dirty either… something about the way they have been aged by the elements makes them almost jewel-like. Your set of “stamps” sounds intrguing! Would love to see what you’ve done with them. Hand-made stamps of the kind you have fashioned are a rare gem of a tool to have. Thanks for visiting my site… I’d love to hear your thoughts on future posts. I had a chance to check out your site Plush Possum Studio and some of the amazing images you offer free to visitors… I’ll be back there again myself, too. Best in your creative endeavours, Michelle

  • Zoraida

    I really like this. I usually do pages sometimes in my journal with scraps of cut papers that are left over from collages I have done, but I had never really thought about using any type of stuff that might come along. This seems really interesting. To be on the look out for almost anything that could end up in a collage piece at the end of a week or month that sounds fantastic. Thank you so much for having this blog. I am deffinitely going to keep coming back for more ideas. Zoraida.

    • Michelle

      Dear Zoraida… what a beautiful name you have! Thanks for dropping by and leaving your thoughts. I’m so glad you found the daily life ephemera entry interesting and useful. You know, one of the reasons I love it is because it’s such an easy way to get yourself going creatively… it also reveals so much about you and your life at the time through the the bits and pieces of life you choose to collect and include on your pages. It was so easy for me to get into the swing of collecting bits and pieces of my life… now I have a small basket that is almost filled to the brim with all the daily ephemera I’ve been hoarding over the last few months! I hope you have fun trying it out… I’d love to “see” one of your pages when it’s done if you feel comfortable sharing. Best to you! Michelle

  • I remember the day, I was out with my husband. We were in a parking lot, facing the road, where there was alot of traffic. As my husband was busy doing an errand, I decided to wait in the car. I looked out my window and saw a neat piece of plastic with numbers stamped into it sitting on the part of the driveway and sidewalk. I wanted that piece of plastic, and was so embarrassed though thinking whether anyone would see me that was in the traffic, wondering what on earth was I picking up, junk on the road. Yup, I did it, I got out of the car and picked it up. I have it in my ephemera!

    • Michelle

      Hi Crystal, Wow how brave of you! I understand how you felt… this week while I was doing my daily 20 minute walk at a mall, I saw a beautiful shiny black and white clothing tag that had fallen off a suit outside the edge of a fancy men’s clothing store… I walked passed it, then quickly back tracked, checked to see if the coast was clear of observers and snatched it up in my purse!… I noticed a man on a bench looking at me funny, but was pleased with my new found ephemera treasure! It was a beauty… I can’t wait to use it! It was so nice to hear from another kindred spirit — thanks for taking the time to review my posting. Michelle

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