“As a plant produces its flower,
so the psyche creates its symbols.”

 

✧ Carl Jung

All of my collages are made by hand without the use of Photoshop or any other digital aid. I salvage discarded bits of paper and other remnants and weave them into something wholly new and uniquely imagined.

 

Like retrieving buried treasure, the process of creating can, at times, be like crawling on hands and knees through a dark damp wood, drawn onward by faint glimmers of inspiration, glimpses of a many layered tale wanting to come to life. As if plunging hands down deep into the earth, I uncover, one by one, roots, misshapen pebbles, broken sticks, teeth and tufts of wolf fur.  Until finally, after sometimes disappearing altogether, I re-emerge holding between my fingers a single gleaming pearl that becomes the central image, a luminous core for the tale to organize itself around.

 

A picture that catches my eye and sparks my imagination might be a woman’s body contorted at an uncanny angle or as she offers a single gesture that speaks volumes; a fierce eyed child hugging a bear or a silver haired grandmother in rags; or, quite often, a wild animal of exceptional grace with a glint of an Other World in their eyes.

 

I call these moments of discovery miraculous, for they are a shift from grasping and overthinking to a still point, an opening to Creative Flow. I live for these encounters; I show up again and again in order to be present when they arrive. And then, in devotion to this enchantment, I begin the necessary work.

 

Each and every fable seems to arise from a deep and mysterious well, channeled through me, yet somehow native to another place that exists in parallel to this one. As if each character, once brought through and captured in a single frame in this world, continues on to even fuller and greater expression in the next … or so I like to imagine.

“You must give birth to your images,
they are the future waiting to be born.”

 

✧ Rainer Maria Rilke

The Anatomy of a Found Fable

Found Fables SourcingI source the lion’s share of my material from discarded magazines, antique botanical illustration, anatomical guides, Renaissance and Art Nouveau books, old calendars, alchemical texts, daguerreotypes and weathered photographs from another time. I find a lot of these in recycling bins or on dusty thrift store shelves, in flea markets and free boxes or sometimes through friends who generously save bundles of interesting papers and periodicals for me.

 

After scouring stacks for random pictures that call to me in some way, I then organize the fragments I harvest into categories such as braids, branches, bones, birds, and so on. Once in a while, if I need a mirror image or an enlargement, I will make a photocopy onto recycled paper but this is rare. Most of what I use in my work comes from what has been cast away and forgotten. I search for eclectic beauty blooming in unlikely places and have always had a fondness for stories of heroines spinning straw into gold. My work reflects a love of treasure hunting and also a passion for sustainability and metamorphosis as I reclaim “waste” and transform it into something magically other.

 

I also gather and press ferns, wildflowers and leaves that I come across on my many walks through the forests, fields and coastlines. Often, I weave these natural elements into the work lending dimension and infusing a spirit of the natural world.

This particular part of the process is very free, intuitive and fun as I allow myself to play and experiment without being too precious about the outcome. Creating a background for a piece is like setting the stage for the characters in a story to come to life, an invitation, a backdrop to a marvelous play about to unfold. Once I am able to feel the energy of a new piece, I can sense a particular color palette and that becomes an invisible guiding force. Some examples of materials and tools I have used in the creation of my backrounds are: sheet music, wallpaper, lace, an occasional moth wing, watercolor, salt, blood, thread, sponges, gold leaf, acrylic, denatured alcohol and steel wool, spray paint, newspaper, weathered wood, aged metal, crackle paste, sandpaper, cheesecloth, cardboard and eggshells.

One finished piece may represent hundreds or even thousands of cuts, depending on the level of intricacy. Suffice it to say, blades of many sizes and descriptions are very good friends of mine! I own a handful of scissors, some antique with glistening gold handles and tarnished silver screws, others are small and slick with zebra stripes and a razor sharp edge, but my closest tangible ally in this work, by far, is an exacto knife. Using a matt board as the surface, I make many tiny cuts with #11 blades as I isolate hooves, hats, twin braids, and colorful wings to set free. Sometimes it feels like performing delicate surgery, since in most cases, there is only one of any given image so each turn of the blade can either liberate a line or sever it beyond mending. Though, even a seeming mistake in the slip of the knife can be a sublime gift as it may cause me to adjust course and entertain possibilities that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen or considered. Fortunate accidents, I call them.

In deference to the continual “morphing” that occurs during the collaging process, I almost never glue the various pieces down permanently until there is a sense of completion, nearing the end.

 

I use Soft Gel Medium from Golden to adhere all the shards of paper and other bits to the surface. I love this versatile substance because it can also be used as a filler to add height or pliability to various facets within the piece such as cloth or clockworks. I also use it to add texture to acrylic paint and, because it dries transparent, to seal the final collage and add a slight satin sheen.

Because I love language so much and believe in the power of words and also because I feel such a maternal attachment to each of my found fables, arriving at a name for each is a holy process for me, a christening of sorts.  After so many hours immersed in the creation of a particular piece, there is an intimacy that flowers between myself and the signs and symbols that emerge in the mirror pool of the collage, and ideally, the essence of that affinity crystalizes in a single word or phrase. Time and again, a title has mysteriously arrived as naturally as breathing and in its own time, even mid way through the work as with “The Ascension of Gypsy Saint Lily Milena” and, other times, it is the crowning jewel at the very end, arrived at through much contemplation as in, “The Dawning of a Golden Age”.  My intention with naming is to enhance the tale and allow for a deeper entrance into its secrets. An invitation scrawled in letters. Come, my darling, Come with me ….

Found Fables Collage Detail