From Object to Project: Making mixed-media art from your hoard

flea market find collage
'The Daily Program' mixed-media collage.

cate pratoFound objectsvintage, architectural, industrial, natural, and ephemeralare all around us, and don't you just love finding unique things? I do!

Trouble is, I keep finding them. And hoarding them.

I so enjoy the thrill of the hunt, and this week there is a hunter's paradise less than an hour from me: the Brimfield Antique Show, the largest flea market in New England.

But going to Brimfield when I already have a stash of old keys, painted tin tiles, vintage children's books, and goodness knows how much fabric is getting more difficult to justify.

So I decided that I would have to make some things from my hoard before I could entertain the idea of even going to Brimfield, let alone bringing anything new home from there.

To give myself and my piece a focus, I first decided on a theme. Although it's an obvious choice, I picked back-to-school; we just dropped our older daughter off at college for her sophomore year and our younger child just started high school.

Now that I had a focus and a story in my mind, I could rummage through my stash to find things that might work with my theme. I went first to my stash of used books. I have one on teaching children to study that has some interesting graphs and charts in it, so I pulled that from the pile as well as one with a school-bus yellow cover. I used a craft knife to score and separate the back panel of the second book from the binding. It came away with some very nice fraying at the edge.

Then I sorted through my little bins of assorted whatnot and culled the following: mini Scrabble® tiles, a pencil nub, old keys and lock hardware, bitsy doll shoes, and a variety of papersanything I thought might make say "school." I also grabbed some basic collage supplies, including paint, mediums, glues, and scissors.

I decided to use the book cover panel as my substrate. While I was gathering supplies I had come across a roll of Japanese washi tape. Just for kicks, I held it up where the two colors of the book cover met; I liked it so much I decided to lay the tape down along the seam. This immediately shifted my composition away from strictly vintage and affected my future choices. In my stash of "stuff" I had the knob end of a curtain rod; the bottom edge created a nice stamp, so I dipped it in black acrylic paint and stamped randomly on top of the yellow portion of the book cover.

flea market find collage
I used a 10-cent bangle to highlight
the schedule.

Originally I was going to spell out "school" with my Scrabble tiles, but the look of my substrate now required something with a little more edge. I took three bottle caps from my stash and put a tile in one to frame it, but it seemed too small and plain, and also too deeply set in the cap. I remembered something Jenn Mason had said on her Cloth Paper Scissors WorkshopTM video "Mixed-Media Medley" about using a small block of wood to lift a feature out of the depths of a box or frame. Fortunately, these little tiles came with square, sticky-back foam attachments. I painted the interior circles of three caps black and when they were dry, used two of the sticky attachments on each letter to spell out A, B, C. With my finger, I added a little black paint to the outside edge of the caps to make them pop a bit more.

I played with several images and pages from teaching books and children's readers, before selected the images I used. I wanted to tell the story of children going back to school, juxtaposing the carefree children in the picture with the schedule and the words "The Daily Program." Behind the schedule I used a background of what looks to me like computer programming paper.

I glued the papers down with matte medium and the heavier pieces, like the bottle caps, vintage bangle, and pencil nub with heavy gel medium.

I like the way all the circles and colors work together and how the washi tape mixes with the vintage elements. In the interest of time, I've explained my process as though it all flowed beautifully and easily from my brain, but it actually took three days of experiment and frustration mixed with joy and aha moments. Some things happened spontaneously and others were carefully planned out.

What helped me a lot was hearing Jenn's helpful tips from her video in my head whenever I got stuck or was afraid to try something. Using her advice on exploring the possibilities in "Mixed-Media Medley" helped me finish this piece, use some of my hoarded items, and paved the way for me to head to Brimfield this weekend guilt free.

Thanks Jenn! (I think. )

P.S. Do you like flea market shopping? What's was your best score?


Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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