The Mixed-Media Assemblage that Snowballed

snowman mixed-media assemblages
Sue Pelletier's original snowmen.

 cate pratoI'm probably in the minority here, but I generally find snowmen more scary than endearing. Maybe it's their exaggerated features (soulless coal eyes, crooked grin). Or maybe it's the way they inevitably slump into a sad puddle.

Not for me the jaunty "Frosty" tune where your friend melts off into the sunset, literally, singing, "Don't you cry, I'll be back again someday." Sure. I prefer Rudolph's zero-to-hero refrain.

So you won't see snowman images decorating my house in the winterwith one exception: I adore Sue Pelletier's sparkling mixed-media snowmen.

In this I know I am not alone. When these mixed-media assemblages hit the cover of the November/December 2008 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, copies of the magazine started flying off the store shelves and the emails and letters rolled into our office like an avalanche.

Not all the comments were positive. A small but vocal segment thought the snowmen were "too crafty" for an art magazine like Cloth Paper Scissors. But a lot more readers thought they were one of the best holiday art projects they'd ever seen. For months afterward, they sent in photos of their own snow people families, Hanukkah snow people, and even a snow bride and groom.

Sue, herself, was astonished at the response. The first snowman she'd ever made was the one she sent Editor Pokey Bolton and the staff as a thank-you gift for publishing another of Sue's articles. Upon seeing that snowman, she was assigned the how-to article.

mixed media artist sue pelletier
Sue, left, and fellow artist Barb Pezza Brown look over goods at a local flea market.

"First, let me say that it was a complete surprise to be on the cover. A friend who had seen the magazine called and told me about it. I was so thrilled!  I immediately started getting emails from all over the country (at the time I did not have a blog) with people telling me how much they liked them and asking questions about materials, etc.," Sue recalls.

"I also began receiving photos of the snowmen that other people had made. My favorite all-time photo and story was about a family from the Midwest who sat down after Thanksgiving dinner and as a large group all created snowmen together. The picture showed 13 or 14 people around a big farm table working on their snowmen. The most endearing part was that several of the people were 65- 75-year-old farmers. I thought that was so sweet. My feeling is that crafty or artsy, inspiring a 75-year-old man to create anything that involves glitter is all good, in my book!"

snowman assemblages
A more recent array of Sue's snow
people, ready to find new homes.

Sue now makes and sells her snow people at art fairs and gift shops. At this time of year, she has a glittery array of bottles, bobs, and baubles covering her worktable and most of the floor as she fills orders. I asked her what she thinks makes the snow people so popular.

"I think the snowmen are so popular because they make people smile; they are quirky and whimsical. People look at them and see the unusual materials and found objects used to create them and immediately they are drawn to that idea of creating something fun from the unexpected," says Sue.

On a recent trip to a flea market with Sue, I watched, amazed, as she haggled for salt shakers, old bottles, and tiny trinkets to use in snow people production.

"I want to point out that I never spend more than $1 on anything used to create a snowman. For me, it's all about the thrill of the hunt. The bottle (for the body) must be less than $1, the hat, etc.  My favorite find for the snowmen was a set of 35 metal vintage frosting tips bought at a flea market for $3, total. I used them to make hats. That would be less than 9 cents a hat!"

The tutorial for making these glittery guys and gals was included in that issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, and Sue has also taught classes in making them. But she doesn't worry about people stealing her idea.

"I do teach classes, and I would feel uncomfortable about someone else teaching my exact project. But as for making them, the snowmen are what they are, there is no secret, and no two would ever look exactly alike. I am happy to have people creating them," she says.

If you missed the "Snowman Issue," as we've come to call it, it is now available as a digital download.

P.S. So what do you say about snowmen? Love 'em? Not so much? Leave your comment (and a link to any snowman art you've made) below.


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


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