I have a new favorite word: “collage.” It is derived from the french word “coller,” which means to glue. Many historians claim Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso coined the phrase “collage” in the beginning of the 20th century, as they expanded their art to include incorporated images. I have tended to view collage work as a derivative work of others, rather than an original creation. How wonderful that I expanded upon my understanding of this simple word during my recent maiden voyage to Ashland, Oregon as I learned from artist/teacher Dianne Ericson (several of you will remember I participated in two of her Design Outside the Lines retreats in Taos) and participated in a two-day workshop hosted by JoAnn Manzone of Dreamweaving Designs with textile designer Melissa Arnold.
I had never been to Ashland before but heard it is a Mecca for artists, felters, sewists and other creatives with a similar bent as me. This time of year, the hills, mountains and fields have a brilliant display of blossoms. It can boast the presence of a Shakespearean Theater, numerous restaurants, the amazing Lithia Park, as well as drivers who bring their vehicles to an immediate stop if a pedestrian is spied near a crosswalk.
Melissa Arnold‘s workshop began with an evening description and viewing of her twelve years of working on textiles for designer Catherine Bacon. Alas, I did not have my cell phone so no photos of the beautiful fabrics she has created during that endeavor. It was fascinating.
All day Saturday and Sunday, six of us (all professionals in other fields now following her own creative path) assembled to learn Melissa’s felted collage technique and to make our own felted collage collars and cuffs. I have admired Melissa’s creations on her website, but had only the most tentative sense of how she accomplished her beautiful results. The process begins with a pre-felt to which the artist attaches and lays out light pieces of wool roving and torn or cut silk, threads, yarns, whatever. You then attach a dissoluble stabilizer and stitch like a maniac all over the combined fabrics. Then you dissolve the stabilizer, felt through the layers by hand and finish with a little stitching and a little stretching.
Melissa thoroughly walked us through this process, step by step. Her direction was thoughtful, the exchange fun and witty. Each collage creation was its own beauty.
Now, collage as a verb. My Ashland time first began with a visit to Diane Ericson’s studio, which she happens to share with JoAnn Manzone. I have blogged about Diane’s Design Outside the Line retreats numerous times. She is an artist who works in many media but she is also aware that one of her roles in the world is to help others find their own creativity. Her studio is like Diane, well-lit, fresh, whimsical touches and oh, so practical.
Diane had prepared for my visit with ideas, handouts and even a couple of “hands on” activities. I showed her some of my failed creations. We talked and identified options … Diane’s technique is to always have 2 or 3 solutions to each issue in design. including thoughtful, quick sketches of possible solutions. She made sure I understood the technique by having me do it on the sewing machine. Other techniques included draping fabrics and partially created pieces on a mannequin, turning fabrics upside down and inside out before concluding their placement, and creating reinforcements for my most delicate fabrics. Everything has many options; don’t rush to conclusion. Drape, pin and study.
Every aspect of this shared creative time is my verb “collager,” to join together, to glue, to show, to tell, to incorporate, to try, to listen, to assimilate ideas, evoke talents and create insights with another. Nous collagons (we collaged).
Collage and collager. C’est importante, this new noun and verb to enrich Whispirit’s lexicon.
Til next time. Sandy