Sunday, November 4, 2007


Today, I was lucky to participate in a collage workshop at my alma mater. The event was sponsored by West Egg Literati, a student organization that produces an awesome journal and it was lead by my former advisor, Deborah Keenan. While Deborah considers herself a poet first, she is also a pretty accomplished collage artist and each year she runs this workshop.

It was great because it was a no pressure, creative event, like most workshops run by Deborah. All we had to bring was 30 words of writing, 3 backings, and scissors and a glue stick.She gave us a little intro where she discussed her approach to collaging, what works for her. Her approach is interesting because she collects mountains of collage material throughout the year and then when she goes on vacation, she works on her collages. She works with both words and imagery and tries to integrate both into the finished product, although they don't always end up combined into one piece.

After reading some poems, she sent us off into our corners. Once we got to work, we got to pick through her scrap reserves, which had a great combination of modern and older stuff. I found myself drawn to mostly black and white images, and religious iconography (for some reason), and I spent most of my time on the first one. It was very much a fluid, instinctive experience, although I don't know how I feel about the finished product...or what it says. When she gave us the fifteen minute bell, I realized I hadn't used much of my haiku that I brought, so I put together the more spartan second piece. I like it because it has more texture, although again, I don't know if it's done.

Finished or not finished, quality or crap, I enjoyed the process of cutting and trimming and gluing together these pieces, and I think that I want to spend more time collaging.

So, my question for you collagers out there, especially those with limited work spaces: how do you organize your scraps? I normally go through my magazines on the day that I collage, but I find that it creates kind of homogeneous pieces. I want to collect, but I'm limited on room. Any advice on organization would be appreciated!


Catherine said...

I like the look and feel of these, though it's hard to read the words on the screen, so I don't know how well they fit. I think it's a pretty good first effort, though. And I imagine you found the process quite absorbing.

Linda said...

What a cool idea! I'm going to steal it to use with my poetry-writing students. I really like what you did! ~Linda

Jessica said...

Thanks Catherine! I used two of my own haiku in the larger piece, which you can see here and here. In the center, it has two folk remedies: "A nip of brandy takes the chill off" and "Butter soothes a burn" from a book on folk mythology.

The second piece says "Heaven" underneath the orange eyes, and "Seeing halos around lights at night is a sure sign," which is also from the folk remedy book - about glacoma, but I left that out. On the left hand side are lines from the Rae Armantrout poem called "Heaven" which is in the current Tin House magazine: "It's a book/full of gohst children, // safely dead," Underneath the creepy teenage girl it says "Guess" and in the center it says "Today We unbury" from my haiku. I know the photos have poor visibility on the words -- I need a scanner. :)

Thanks for stopping by Linda -- I think this would be a lovely exercise for poetry students, because the process of searching for an image to put into words and cutting out an image to paste into a larger pastiche feel very similar.

Jo said...

These are both wonderful, I'm very impressed, especially as I am hopeless with such things.

Jeannine said...

I love the work you've done here! Poetry and collage go together like peanut butter and jam (sorry for the silly metaphor, but you get my drift).

As for storing collage items, I used to divide my stash into piles by theme and/or color and I kept them in ziploc bags. The problem with this was I got too wrapped up in keeping everything organized instead of making collages. Now I still have those ziploc bags, but I mostly work from a shoebox sized plastic tub I keep on my work desk. Whenever I'm working on a project and pull out something from a ziplog bag, I don't refile the scraps when I'm finished. I just put all the scraps in the plastic bin. It gets full very quickly and I like working with all those scraps because it makes for interesting visual juxtapositions that would not happen if everything was filed neatly away.

Looking forward to seeing more or your collage work!