What the Pros Know

osborn vintage scrapsI'm pleased, and honored, to say that I have been with Cloth Paper Scissors since its very first issue. But the learning curve when I began was steep.

As a collector of vintage fabrics and a lover of all things paper, I wasn't completely unfamiliar with the realm of collage and mixed media. And I definitely knew my way around a jar of Mod Podge and a pair of scissors.

But I did have some gaps to fill.

Gel medium, for example. I kept looking for the "gel small" and "gel large." Image transfers were a mystery to me. And ATCs? What were those: all-terrain cars, maybe?

Over the years, I've learned so much about mixed media, mixed-media fiber art, collage, etc. Every issue I think, well, now I've seen it all–and then the wonderful artists who contribute to the magazine come up with something completely new.

But there are certain lessons and techniques that have really stuck with me, and there are articles I refer to again and again when I'm in my studio. Here are just a few of my favorites.

  1. Paper and stitch mix. I had no idea you could stitch paper back in 2004, but after I saw some examples from contributing artists i thought, why not? One of my favorite examples of combining stitch with paper, paint, and collage is Kelli Perkins' "Thread Sketch Journey" in the September/October 2007 issue. I like it not just because of the technique, but because she explains how she got there. The process involved her art journal which brings me to…
  2. Keep a journal and do it your way. Countless artists have extolled the virtue of keeping an art journal. It's good for trying out ideas, recording what you see, and experimenting with no one looking. But still, many of us are intimidated by the prospect, which is why Dawn Devries Sokol's "Art Journaling, Pages in Stages" series beginning in the May/June 2010 issue is so freeing.
  3. No scrap is too small. OK, I will admit that this one gets me into trouble, because I'm constantly saving things like a tiny copper safety pin and a teensy piece of lace edging, and the cancelled postage stamp from a package sent in by a reader in Australia. But still. When I see an article like Jen Osborn's May/June 2010 piece on creating treasure booklets from vintage scraps and photos, I feel completely justified.
  4. mason gelatin printsThere's always room for gelatin prints. The first time I ever heard about gelatin prints was in the January/February 2008 issue in a "Workshop" article by Jenn Mason. It looked like a ton of fun on paper, and I am happy to report that making gelatin prints is an absolute blast in reality. It's easy, you can do it with tools you have around the house, and you can't screw it up. The great prints stand alone and the ones that don't quite make it can be used as backgrounds, found papers, or even wrapping paper.
  5. Get a grid. If, like me, you have trouble figuring out where to start on a collage composition or how to give your piece of artwork a sense of rhythm and balance, start with a grid. If, unlike me, you are already adept at those design principles, a grid is a great way to use up scraps or make a variation on similar images. Dorit Elisha's "Get Griddy" article in the May/June 2009 issue has been invaluable to me. 

    Even though every issue is available to me at the office, I keep a full set of Cloth Paper Scissors back issues at my home studio so I can go back to my favorite techniques, project how-tos, and the encouragement of the contributing artists who have been there, done that, and want me to succeed like they have.

Is there an issue of Cloth Paper Scissors you go back to over and over again? Or one that has a technique, process, or philosophy that changed the way you approach your art? Share with the class, please, and leave a comment below.

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