Thursday, July 10, 2014

Pure fun

Untitled 2014

Before designing clothes, jewelry and handbags, there was collage and assemblage. I'm unsure when my love affair with paper began but I know that by the age of 10 I felt it necessary to save certain things.  Inside a box in my upstairs closet sits the November 22, 1963 Fresno Bee from the day of President Kennedy's assassination. Beneath it lies the Beatles captioned photo book I received for my 10th birthday.  Tucked even deeper is the worn, faded spelling book cover made from a brown bag and covered with the signatures and doodles of my fourth grade classmates. I've always saved letters. My favorite ephemerae are true finds- an old paper Sno-Cone cup hidden beneath a vintage photo album from a garage sale. A graphic design textbook full of interesting paper samples and fonts, water stained at the spine but a steal at $2.00. These collections were my first foray into "art" although I declined to call it that.  Later in life, as my interest in collage grew, I was walking down the street in LA, and saw pieces of paper falling from the sky. I looked up to see a man on a billboard tearing off the existing ad while the highly pixelated remnants fell down like big colorful snowflakes. I scrambled to pick up as many as I could.  I used them judiciously in my work,  as a jeweler works with 18K gold.

This love of paper evolved into a line of handmade greeting cards with collaged images stitched to heavy kraft paper.  It became a business. Greeting cards transitioned to cigar box handbags with Bakelite bead handles. Which transitioned to experimenting with image transfer on other surfaces. Which transitioned to Bakelite button jewelry. Which transitioned to collaged vintage tea towel designs. Which transitioned to dresses and tops.  The list continued. My creativity evolved from one thing to another but the consistent theme was an eclectic mix- a collage of one kind or another.  And it was always about business.

Assemblage continues to be the only medium that I do purely for myself- for the simple joy of creating.  Perhaps that's why I enjoy it so.  There's freedom in doing something that is not commerce-driven. Something that doesn't need to reach an end consumer. It starts and stops with me.  It feels pure and fun. When I first started working in assemblage someone mentioned Joseph Cornell. I had no idea who he was.  So I did whatever we did in the late 1990s before Google (Ask Jeeves?) and was overjoyed with what I saw. Simplicity and mystery within the confines of a box.  He had succeeded in doing what I was reaching for.  In a box! My first major project was a set of boxes each one referencing one of the five senses. Vintage sewing machine drawers held ephemera related to sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.  I designed this collection in 1997- to this day, they are my favorite pieces. Perhaps because they are my own?  Without a price point and the scrutiny of others?

The Five Senses 1997

Detail "To Smell"
Detail "To Touch"

Detail "To Taste"
Detail "To Hear"

I recently began to feel the pull toward assemblage.  I pulled out my boxes of "stuff" divided into metal, wood, stone and paper (much lighter after the major cleanse and purge of 2013) and began to assemble.

Each little segmented box ... a life of its own
My little Bakelite man now has a home

Vintage wooden bobbins an homage to stitchery

A separate, closed box to house the monkey mind

Feelings of freedom and joy immediately returned.

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