By Francesca Lawrence
Let’s talk about collage.
The dictionary describes collage as:
Collage – noun
1. A technique of art creation made by sticking various different materials such as photographs and pieces of paper or fabric on to a backing. Collage is an art form in which compositions are made out of pieces of paper, cloth, photographs, and other miscellaneous objects, juxtaposed and pasted on a dry ground. Any work, such as a piece of music, created by combining unrelated styles.
If you’re like me, the last time you did any sort of collaging was probably at school, or at a long forgotten kids craft club. Am I right?
For example, I remember making laminated bookmarks from argos catalogue snippings. I also covered my school books, folders, and diaries with ephemera and pictures of things I deemed ‘cool’. Most of us have done it before, and most of us left it behind along with scrunchies, Walkmans, and our love for the Backstreet Boys.
But then lockdown happened.
Ah lockdown: that magical unknown territory of stillness and surrealism.
From the end of March through to mid July, the UK was placed into a nationwide lockdown due to the spread of Covid19. For some people, lockdown wasn’t too stressful or hard to deal with. In fact, for some people like me, it became an unexpected time to self focus and flourish. I felt incredibly happy, calm, and motivated during those months, finding time to pursue a host of leisure activities that I normally wouldn’t have had time to do.
The forced time off work allowed me to fully unmask, free of societal pressure, and was the breathing space I needed to work on a lot of different things. My little autistic soul honestly thrived during lockdown. This is where the subject of collage comes back. I, like many others during lockdown, tried to take up hobbies and pastimes to fill the long warm days.
I decided to try collage after seeing a competition online hosted by one of my favourite artists, Maria Rivens.
She had invited people to make a lockdown collage with anything they already had in their homes, and then submit them online to be judged. Five winners would be selected, and sent a copy of her new book Extraordinary Things to Cut Out and Collage. I jumped straight to the challenge and found an old Tesco magazine in the kitchen, a few leaflets in the junk mail pile, and a box of old postcards. Grabbing a pair of scissors, I set to work and created a silly collage featuring cake fairies and flying sweets. It was thoroughly enjoyable and creative.
I snapped a photograph, posted it online with the appropriate tags, and went about my day.
A couple of weeks roll by, and a notification pings on my phone that someone has tagged me on Instagram……
I clicked it.
I danced around the living room.
I had been chosen by Maria herself, which was about the most thrilling thing that had happened to me in ages!
My prize arrived in the post soon afterwards and I immediately began to cut out every single image from her beautiful book ready to collage with.
I wanted it all there and ready to go, so that I didn’t waste creative flow on cutting items out as I needed them! I invested in an art scalpel, a cutting matt, and a better pair of scissors. I then commandeered the dining room table and organised the hundreds of images into little heaps according to subject matter, ready to pick from and piece together in whatever manner came to me. I flexed my fingers, took a seat and began to collage my heart out.
I honestly haven’t stopped since, creating over 300 pieces so far and amassing a following of 2000 people on my instagram art page.
I’ve even started selling my designs via Redbubble.
It’s the easiest artform I’ve ever tried, with almost instant results and gratification.
I trawl Facebook marketplace, eBay, Gumtree, carboot sales and charity shops for material every spare chance I get, and have recently branched out into the world of digital collage too. It is such an incredibly creative and almost limitless medium, which absolutely has its place in contemporary art. It makes you explore different concepts – rendering each cut-out element as detached from its original meaning, and therefore open to reinterpretation.
Your imagination can go absolutely nuts creating new relationships and perspectives between images in surreal and playful ways. As a creative Aspergers female, I LOVE it. The best thing about it, is that it’s so inclusive that anyone can do it. If you have any magazines, leaflets, postcards, papers, posters, or catalogues just laying around, try it. YOU are already a collage artist, you just don’t know it yet!
So how about it? Will you give collage a shot, and see if you enjoy it? If you do, I would love to see your collage art so feel free to tag me @pesto.frankie on Instagram so I can see your creations!
My name is Francesca Lawrence
I was officially diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as an adult in 2017. After a lifetime of knowing I was somehow different, but never having answers as to why, my diagnosis was a liberating and validating experience for me. I feel blessed to be neurodivergent, and focus on all my qualities rather than the difficulties which previously set me back.
I am married and live with my husband, two sweet rats, and two curious goldfish by the beach in sunny South Devon, UK. When not working, I spend my time travelling the world, writing, collaging, tending to my plants, reading, hiking, watching movies/series, and collecting all things Nicolas Cage! I have a BSc (hons) in Physical Geography, and a DipHe in Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies.