Resolve to Make More Found Object Art This Year

4 Jan 2013

It's a new year, and perhaps one of your resolutions is to be more earth-friendly or to use what you have rather than acquiring new stuff. Well, I have the perfect role models for you. Susan Andrews and Carolyn Fellman (known collectively as the Oiseaux Sisters), have to be two of the most inventive found-object art creators I've ever encountered. They see artistic potential in almost everything, as you can see by their mixed-media assemblages.

foound object art assemblage oiseaux sisters
'Paint Tube Babies' by the Oiseaux Sisters. This series
of assemblages re-uses old paint tubes that would
otherwise have been thrown out.

Susan and Carolyn are very conscious of the environment. They are careful to avoid bringing too much extraneous material into their home and studio, use every possible item they can to avoid throwing it out, and scout out other people's trash for unappreciated treasures to use in their assemblage art.

Finding objects for assemblages is easy once you train your eye, say the artists. "Found-object art is not so much about technique. It's a worldview--a way of seeing. And once you turn your mind to re-imagining what you're looking at, it is the world itself that is altered and art will follow.

Susan and Carolyn suggest that once you acquire something, you should "really consider the possibilities before tossing it in the trash or recycle bin."

Ask yourself: "Can you find a way to take advantage of the very nice paper in that catalogue? Can this molded plastic bubble pack be cast with papier-mâché or plaster and turned into an appealing form? Can those plastic bottle lids become a handy way to store small quantities of paint?"

Once you start seeing the possibilities for reusing items in assemblage, you'll start getting assemblage art ideas everywhere you go. Here are some of the sources of art/assemblage fodder the Oiseaux Sisters rely on.

The garden and seashore: Susan and Carolyn tend a garden in upstate New York during the warm months and fly south for the winter. In both environments they collect natural items for their assemblage art projects, including roots, shells, vines, broken or worn-out implements, and dug-up bottles.

Old books: Rather than send excess paint down the drain, the sisters paint out their brushes on old book pages. Later, they have lovely colored, crinkly paper to use in collage and assemblage. They also cut up the covers for substrates and mini books and use whole books in assemblages.

found object art assemblage oiseaux sisters
An assemblage from Susan's 'Little Librarian' series.
One old book is used as a base. The figure's skirt is
cut out of another old book with painted pages.

Construction sites: Wood scraps and metal bits that would normally be thrown out can be yours for the taking. Be sure to ask permission first.

Local businesses: Susan and Carolyn say they get wonderful paper and aluminum offset plates from their local printer. "Sometimes a business will put aside scraps we are particularly seeking. Sometimes we buy them for the recycler's price," they say.

Your own art: Susan and Carolyn often recycle parts of artwork that no longer appeals in its current state. Think about using parts of unfinished or abandoned artwork in your mixed-media art.

Art materials: Used-up paint tubes, a palette, a paintbrush painted down to a nubbin, a dried-up whorl of heavy gel medium-they all have potential in found-object art.

I think it's particularly clever how the artists turn used paint tubes into little people. The series "The Secret of Happiness/Paint Tube Babies" captures the energy that resonates from past use of treasured art materials. The heads were fashioned with Paperclay®.

So, the next time you're about to throw something out, ask yourself: how might I use this in art? Once you start thinking that way, you'll be surprised at what your imagination can do with "trash."

For more advice from the Oiseaux Sisters, plus projects for assemblage art, collage, and mixed-media art, download Mixed-Media People, Part II.

P.S. What's your favorite source for found objects? Share in the space below.


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Comments

on 4 Jan 2013 7:19 AM

My sister , a terrific artist, checks all parking lots looking for pieces of metal that have been  squashed and rusty. She finds all kinds of great usable items and onetime found a $20. bill that had blown out of the big parking lot and was under a tree. It was a great find, she could buy art supplies.

on 4 Jan 2013 9:15 AM

I love these ideas. In a recent blog post, I described ways to use packaging:

creativeupcycling.blogspot.com/.../joy-of-packaging-tips-for-upcycling.html

One of the challenges of living this kind of creative life is finding a way to STORE all the reusable treasures before you use them. I'm afraid that my house will be taken over by all the bottle caps, plastic bags and other items I'm saving to use for some fun project. Anyone have ideas about how to store and organize these things?

on 4 Jan 2013 4:21 PM

I have a found object story.  Many years ago I was preparing work for an exhibit and decided to only use what I had in my studio and what I could find.  Every morning I would take a walk and say to myself "Today I am looking for colorful objects, etc."  One morning I was looking for objects that would be useful for little feet on a box shape.  I had stopped at a corner and said to myself, "wouldn't it be great to find a knob to a drawer because it would be a great foot".  Before I crossed the street, I looked down and there in the gutter was a knob!  It still gives me a shutter thinking about that serendipity!

on 4 Jan 2013 4:21 PM

I have a found object story.  Many years ago I was preparing work for an exhibit and decided to only use what I had in my studio and what I could find.  Every morning I would take a walk and say to myself "Today I am looking for colorful objects, etc."  One morning I was looking for objects that would be useful for little feet on a box shape.  I had stopped at a corner and said to myself, "wouldn't it be great to find a knob to a drawer because it would be a great foot".  Before I crossed the street, I looked down and there in the gutter was a knob!  It still gives me a shutter thinking about that serendipity!

ctutt wrote
on 5 Jan 2013 3:56 PM

LOVE the paint-tube people! Can just hear my hub-unit: 'What the h***, why are you saving all this stuff out of the garbage?' Have two tabourets with drawers full of 'trash' already…not counting cardboard, styrofoam, stiff packing paper, and my personal favorite, OATMEAL [or any cylindrical shape] BOXES.  ;-)

Qatpaw wrote
on 6 Jan 2013 11:12 AM

I always watch the ground when walking anywhere, you never know what you'll find.  My granddaughter does the same now.  She picked up a rusty piece of metal and when asked why she was picking up dirty trash she said "for Nana's art projects".  Love that girl!  We also go treasure hunting at the thrift stores.  Sometimes they give me the broken bits and pieces of toys for free.  Yard sales are also great.  Once I explain that I'm looking for broken, unusable items for art, they are more that happy to load me up with all the stuff they probably wouldn't sell and would end up tossing in the trash.