May 24, 2007

the art of finding



And she shows you where to look
Among the garbage and the flowers...


If I were to name one artist that had the greatest influence on me, it would be Joseph Cornell. It was not only the solitude in which he worked that fascinated me, or the incredible influence he’s had on more famous artists like Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, etc., but specifically his love of the found object. His accumulated a basement full of found objects, odds & ends, and papers that he procured by rummaging through bookstores and nickel & dime stores for countless hours.

I wonder what a person like Joseph Cornell would have thought of a place like Paper Source or Michaels. Would he have cringed or been enthralled with the vast arrays of papers and stamping and cutting devices? We live in an age when people often do not have (or find) the time, resources, or patience to search for and accumulate objects, papers, etc. that inspire them.

What I find so wonderful about Cornell’s work, as well as many collage artists such as Camilla Engman and Gracia Haby, is their use of everyday papers and found objects. Not only is it unique in its origin but it also documents a time or place. The act of some documentation in artwork has been a long time fascination of mine and drawn me to artists who collect and document like Candy Jernigan.

Collage can be a wonderful medium to begin an exploration into the art and craft world. It can also be a way to think of art from a green perspective by using recycled materials that have not been made specifically for scrapbooking or collage. People often ask me where I find papers to collage with, so I thought I might suggest some tips on where to find interesting vintage, recycled papers and objects to inspire you.



Library: Generally I believe it is sacrilegious to cut up a book but sometimes you can find books that are falling apart to cut up or scan old books for digital collages. I often find old books at local library sales. After perusing the $1 + books for real reads, I head straight for the cheapest books for collage. Books like Readable Relativity probably are not going to be read again, are usually out of date, and often have beautiful handwritten notes inside of them.



Thrift and Antique stores/Flea Markets: It is amazing what you can find at thrift stores... old books, clippings & such, postcards, playing cards, stamps, National Geographics, etc. Keep your eyes open and I guarentee you will find little odds and ends that will be wonderful to work with. I also often find fancy Fiskars punching tools, scissors, etc. while I am at it!



Garage/Estate sales: These are often mecca for the collage artist. Combing through an estate or garage sale can give you a little glimpse of a piece of history because it is all from one person or family. It always makes me a bit sad to see their objects sold away but in a way there is somethign karmic about using something so personal for art.

Ebay: I use this for specifics. For example, I am really inspired by old science textbooks. There might be something from your childhood or experiences that you’d like to use for collage. These types of objects tend not to be expensive on ebay but beware of shipping costs!



Your everyday: This is where people usually don’t look for objects or papers to work with, yet your everyday is perhaps the most interesting place to look. I never pass a pile of papers in the trash or boxes of stuff by the dumpster without a quick check. Any time our department is throwing out old junk, they know to check with me first. Keep an eye out… that laundry ticket could be the beginning of something beautiful.

23 comments:

eshu said...

gwen, your posts never disappoint.

this is excellent, inspirational really as i've been thinking a bunch about old books lately (sparked by an antiques roadshow episode)

Melissa Haworth said...

This is a great article. Thanks! I love to reuse collage materials esp for scrapbooking. I picked up some boxes of vintage flashcards at a garage sale and I'm waiting for the right project. I also scoop up little piles of old card catalog cards from the library whenever I go. The card catalog is outdated and they moved to computer so the old cards are out for recycled scratch paper. I have a mini collection going--let me know if you need anything. Many are sciency because it's a university library.

jessica said...

thanks for great and fun ideas. i love to collage cards and send them.
have you any ideas for business cards? i have collected many over the years. what do with them?

cally said...

i should forward this to my mother who rarely sets foot in my house as the collections, bags and boxes of papers and found objects for art and collage drive her insane.

great post and it's always nice to hear who other people are inspired by.

tracy said...

ah. i think that this post could be "the beginning of something beautiful"! thanks for the inspiration! xo

theflyingmum said...

I especially love the idea of scanning old book end pages - I have a scanner, and a fair printer, but I'm sure the quality could be better. Can you recommend a printer that gives reliably good results? Any help would be appreciated

orangefishy said...

This has been my favorite sew green post thus far (not that I haven't enjoyed all of the others...)

Great ideas and lovely imagery. Keep up the good work. :)

gracia said...

Thanks, Bugheart... for a great post, a peek into your process, and for including me as a link alongside Cornell and Fiskars and more. I'd be lost without my sharp pair of Fiskars scissors. Speaking of which they need a sharpen... those blades have been getting quite the workout of late. And, what's that I spy on their web site? Scissors to give the impression of a deckled edge? Marvellous!
Happy collaging to you, g

nikkishell said...

I feel the need to rummage now. Thanks for a fabulous and inspiring post.

louise said...

Thanks bugheart for bringing up this topic, and also I agree with you that Joseph Cornell rocks as too does Miss Gracia and Camilla.

Being a green artist is something I've been giving a lot of thought to lately. My tools... paper, pencil and waterocolour are manufactured and shipped to Australia.

I hope though some of the green concerns I try to address in my work will compensate for this carbon footprint.

Ali said...

Thank you so much for all these cool links.

Friederike! said...

Hi bugheart,
how cool a sew green blog! I´m just at the beginning of my organic journey and it has become an addiction already.
Love your article of recycling paper. I have a big collection of thrown away papers (and other things in my studio, as I always have to save things :o)
Love your collages! Sandra

Kristin said...

You have to get up to Salem, MA this summer: there's a Cornell exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum through August 19.

http://www.pem.org/exhibitions/exhibition.php?id=60

Dutch Girl said...

Gwen you rock.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. I did a double-take at the first photo: it looks just like my desk. I've been collecting bits and pieces for a while: I especially love the effects of age and the way old ephemera reflects changing styles of language, typography, imagery, etc. The fact that a lot of art materials are pretty hazardous and toxic is hard to face. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ellen

Belinda said...

Thanks for the great post Gwen.
I am from Melbourne in Australia, and really enjoying reading everyones posts on the blog, near and far.
I have a few questions I hope you could comment on...

What type of glues or adhesives do you use to stick down your images?
Also do you apply a coating of some sort to protect the collage when finished, or leave au naturale?
Any tips, ideas on displaying or framing would also be great.

Thanks so much, hope this isn't too many questions!

mimulus said...

isn't it sad that cursive handwriting seem to be dying out? No one i know writes like my grandmother used to (she died 10 years ago).

Nikki said...

thanks for this inspirational post and all the great links you included with it...i'm a collector already, but you gave me a few new ideas!

Scrapmommy said...

Love the ideas - Ali Edwards sent me, and I love that you quoted Leonard Cohen.

A COLLAGE A DAY said...

I like finding old books that are marked discarded or a book that a child has marked through. Those are wonderful finds. I like giving them a new life.

r.

Neda said...

I am thrilled to have found your blog. You echo so many of my views about collage. Your art is amazing and your writing even more so. Keep up the inspiration and thank you for keeping the playful spirit of collage alive. I will be visiting often!

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martyweil said...

As someone who blogs about ephemera, I found this to be an excellent primer on the joy of searching for old paper--truly a moving and informational piece, which I plan to link to--and suggest my readers visit--on my blog in a coming post.