First I would like to tell you how inspiring your collages pieces are to me and I would love to hear your stories on them and also your own collage making process. Let's start with the questions, shall we?
1. I used to know collage when I start making zines, therefore my understanding of collage is like a paper art. But then as time goes by I notice that apart from paper there are many other material we can use. How about you and collage in general, how did it start?
Well, when I was a kid, I was home schooled --- and for me, that meant I spent a lot of time at home doing all kinds of things other than studying books in the pursuit of ‘learning’… cooking, sewing, painting, building… I always liked cutting up paper, I made my own paper dolls and then began to do a lot of decoupage. Eventually I went to art school and drew, painted and wrote --- in the end I got a degree in interior design and began my ‘professional’ career. Interior design is definitely on the more creative end of architecture, but even as a designer much of my time is spent doing technical work and the phases of concept and creativity are few and far between. A couple of years ago, in an effort to balance out my creative life I stated making personal reverse ‘picture frames’ for family and friends… taking a small personal picture and building a art piece around it on wooden boxes and basing the piece on the essence of the person --- I used a lot of the same materials I use now, paper/fabric/shells, etc. --- eventually these personal pieces turned more towards what I do now, landscapes and graphical pieces that are more straight forwardly artistic and hopefully more assessable than the personal art pieces I started out doing…
2. So when you start to combine paper and wood and metal in your collage? Are there many trial and errors first before you nail them?
I am a big fan the contrast that can be created by using ordinary elements out of context so I really enjoy mounting rusty saw blades or old hardware in my pieces… I think the combinations of disparate things like the fragility of paper and the strength of metal can be quite beautiful, especially if you are interested or used to thinking about things in terms of color and texture first and the actual materiality of the items is not as important when assembling a composition.
I started using metal and other found objects in my work only in the past couple of years... Using metals and found objects has actually been quite a natural process and has worked out really well without much of a trial and/or error period --- this might be because the materials work so well with of my tendency to build up layers in the ‘landscape’ portions of my pieces and also to, often, create some kind of a sun or moon-like focal point on my horizons.. The metals I use are usually pretty flat or lightweight and lend themselves well to creating a 3D presence in the pieces without causing technical difficulties in the construction of the work. I have a couple of pieces where I’ve drilled holes to accommodate objects or to ‘tie’ them down in a more permanent way. The piece called Any moment now… is a good example of this.
3. One most awesome part about your collages to me is the usage of those wood block as the medium and also metal. How do you deal with those materials so that they stick really good to the wood surface?
The wood boxes I use have top surfaces that are primed for oil painting (called gesso, or hardboards), the nice smooth surface is really easy to adhere to and has the added bonus of being an archival surface so the paper will not get damaged over time. I use a combination of permanent glue and sheet adhesives for the papers and have tested the strength over time… The metal was a bit more difficult --- I used several adhering methods before finding a product that is quick dry and very, very good at sticking metal to paper without warping the paper below or compromising the bond to the metal.
4. Apart from paper and metal, are there any other materials that you've tried on those wood pieces and how do they go?
I use fabric, old keys, metal washers, door hardware, watch parts,… Some of these are more tricky than others but I’ve learned to look for things that have a flat(er) edge to them (easier to adhere to the boxes surface). Of course I always make exceptions! I have this beautiful, big, heavy red metal sea horse with peeling paint… I may never get to use it in a piece the way I currently construct my art because it’s so heavy! But it has inspired me to eventually try construction my pieces in the reverse of what I do now, inside of boxes (recessed) instead of on top of the flat raised surface.
5. Is there any special tips that you would like to share if someone would like to make one too?
Hmmmm… I think if you are interested in making pieces like my ‘Paper Geography’ series of landscapes then patience is incredibly necessary! It often takes hours and hours to cut up the strips and pieces and then hours more to arrange and weave, and then hours more to glue/adhere everything down and finalize the piece! But gosh it’s so worth it when the piece is completed and is full of detail and depth that you are happy with. Collage and mixed media in general I think are really good for following you inner muse, ‘cutting and pasting’ can be a quick and dirty exercise of expression or it can be labor intensive and very articulated culmination of a thought out internal concept. I think that’s a major reason why I love mixed media, it has so much of a range of possibility in it inherently. I would also say --- have fun treasure hunting! I spend a lot of time looking for the elements I use in my pieces --- I go to flea markets, junk yards, salvage warehouses, paper shops, antique stores… being inspired by the cast offs of our everyday lives is another vast arena of possibility!
6. Anything else that you would like to share with us like your shop, online gallery, flickr, etc? There are many places to visit me if you are so inclined; I have an Etsy shop: www.lethacolleen.etsy.com, a art and design blog that I really love keeping: www.lethacolleen.blogspot.com, I adore Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/lethacolleen/ and if you’d like to be a ‘fan’ of my art and get updates about it I have a Facebook business page: www.facebook.com/pages/Seattle-WA/pursuit-of-happiness/51866981867?ref=nf
Thank you so much, Letha! For sharing all these and being so inspiring,