Assemblage Art: Tips for Getting it Together

About a year ago I mentioned that my husband, Nick, had become interested in assemblage art. Although Nick is an accomplished draftsman, he also likes to tinker. He's Mr. Fixit around our house (and other people's), and likes nothing more than to fiddle with things to make them fit together just right.

found object art piece by nick prato
'Hand-held Contraption #1' assemblage by Nick Prato.

He recently finished his first piece of found object art, submitted it to a local juried art show, and it was accepted (along with one of his drawings). The assemblage sculpture, entitled "Handheld Gadget #1," is composed of odd bits of wood, glass, plastic, and metal.

As Nick is particular about making things fit together in a stable and elegant way, I asked him to share some of his techniques for putting his assemblage together.

"It was tough!" says Nick. "I had to be really creative." He used wire, airplane model glue, screws, tape, and even grout to make sure each element stayed in place. His experience as a carpenter and model maker came in handy.

Nick says his toughest challenges came when trying to affix one material, such as glass, to another kind of material, such as plastic. The same kind of adhesive might not work well on both. For example, he had to mount a plastic jewel at the end of a metal piece. He used airplane glue for that and says he knows the adhesive worked well, "because I dropped it and the jewel didn't fall off."

Of course, not only did the parts of the assemblage have to stay put, they had to do so in an aesthetically pleasing way that was appropriate to the art. To make some metal pieces fit properly and look good, Nick wielded his Dremel tool, sanding and shaping the metal.

Here are some other tips for getting your assemblage together.

Wire it. Loop wire through a hole in the object and attach it to the next object (or base). Or, wrap the wire around the object, cage-style, then attach the wire to the next object or base. You'll need wire cutters, and a pair of pliers can help.

Glue it. If you're attaching metal objects to a board, a canvas, or heavy fabric, you can often use glue. Heavy gel medium works for most objects, but if they are very heavy you might want to opt for a heavy-duty adhesive like Gorilla Glue, E-6000, or two-part epoxy.

Screw it. If the metal is very heavy, large, or in an awkward position relative to the base, screwing the pieces together is a good choice. You will need a solid base such as wood or medium-density fiberboard to attach the piece to, however.

Stitch it. Metal and wooden pieces can be attached to canvas and fabric with heavy-duty thread, embroidery floss, or yarn. Either pass the needle through a hole in the object or couch the object by crisscrossing the thread over it to hold it in place.

Chain it. Jewelry findings like jump rings can be used to attach a piece of metal in an assemblage. You can even use broken jewelry parts such as chain links for this purpose.

Ready to turn your own found objects into mixed-media assemblage art? Download one of our eBooks to get instant access to techniques for collage, assemblage, and mixed-media art.

P.S. Do you have a go-to method of attaching found objects? Leave your answer below.


3D Art and Assemblage, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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