How to Attach Metal in Assemblage Art

When my husband returned from a trip to Hawaii last month, he brought home coconuts for our daughters, a pair of earrings for me, some Kona coffee, and three odd looking, rusty pieces of metal he found on the ground.

metal assemblage wreath
Metal assemblage wreath.

Yes, Nick has joined the found object assemblage art club. Now, everywhere he goes, you'll find him looking down. He doesn't want to miss out on some undiscovered treasure he can reuse.

Nick has always collected odd stuff; he likes to fix things, and bits and pieces always come in hand. But he got inspired to make some art when he saw a book about Steampunk contraptions. Now he works on found-object contraptions in his basement workshop for hours at a time.

I also like to think he was inspired by this metal and found object wreath assemblage I made for the holidays last year. For a couple of hours every night for a week or so I sat with boxes full of metal, broken jewelry, and other found objects I've accumulated, attaching the bits and pieces to vintage bedsprings strung together in a circle. Some pieces were old and grungy, others new and shiny or new and aged to look vintage.

Metal assemblages are fun to make. And you don't need a lot of special equipment (though if you're handy with a blow torch and a soldering iron, go for it). Here are some ways of attaching metal in an assemblage.

Wire it. For my wreath, I used copper craft wire to attach most of my found objects. Most often I looped the wire through a hole or opening in the object and then wrapped the wire around the bedspring wreath. If the object didn't have a hole, I wrapped the wire around the object, cage-style, then twisted the wire onto the wreath. 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.

Pre-cut metal pieces and metal
stamping tools.

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. This is my husband's attachment preference for his found-object contraptions. You will need a solid base such as wood or medium-density fiberboard to attach the piece to, however.

Stitch it. Metal 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.

If you'd like to add metal to your artwork but don't want to spend all your time looking down at the ground, scrounging for old objects, you can find ready-to-buy rusty metal blank shapes and reproduction vintage hardware in the Cloth Paper Scissors shop, along with hundreds of other mixed-media and collage books and supplies.

Otherwise, keep your head down!

P.S. What's your favorite place to look for found objects? Do you prefer old metal, bits from nature, or some other kind of object for assemblage. Tell us about it below.


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