I’ve been making art for a long time. And, I’m a “saver.” Together, those things result in a good deal of accumulation. Then, with changing sensibilities, a more discerning eye and limited storage space, I end up with a lot of rejects. Complicating the issue is the fact that I hate to throw anything away.
A sheet of handmade paper could be rippled, but still have redeeming qualities. A collagraph print might have poor registration, but still have beautiful color and texture. A drawing or painting that is not strong in composition can still have value as raw material. In my studio, technical failure rarely leads directly to the trashcan.
I have boxes, folders and envelopes full of used papers, waiting to be put into service again. Old drawings, covered with paint that partially obliterates the original subject matter, often become the basis for collage. I think the “pentimento” adds a welcome layer of interest. Handmade papers, as well as cut or torn bits from prints and paintings on paper, become collage materials.
I have been, for several years now, on a mission to recycle and use up every bit of scrap in my studio. It is a herculean task. Sometimes it seems like I generate more than I use, with every single project! Still, my efforts continue. I imagine large basket-like hanging forms, similar to the nests made by paper wasps, but with color and texture still visible, hinting at the past life of the materials they are made of. To that end, I’ve been experimenting with various basket-making techniques, mostly with little success.
Some good things, though, come from the most uncomplicated ideas. I have an on-going series that expands very basic weaving techniques. I think the strength of the finished pieces are in their graphic simplicity. The process is a little more complicated, however.
First, I go through my stacks of “rejects” to select pieces similar in weight, and with colors that work together. I trim the edges, cut them to size, and put them through the paper shredder. They have to be picked through, sorted, and spread out on the drafting table. Usually, I select one color for the vertical lines, and an assortment for the horizontal weave. Sometimes it’s all just based on random selection. I make more weavings than I will need,, so that I’ll have choices later.
Next, I prepare the surfaces that the weavings will be mounted on. I like the background to have its own interest, but I keep the nuances of color and texture subtle enough so that it will balance, not compete with, the graphic pattern. Eventually, the surface will be coated with a thick layer of polymer gel, and the woven grid will be set into that. After that has dried, I have my starting point.
From this point, the piece will dictate what else is needed. Sometimes that is easy, sometimes not. It may involve embellishments of ink, collage elements, or layers of paint. I am not above peeling, scraping and sanding the surface of a piece to get to the place where it is finished. When it reaches that point, it seems to announce “Done!” Or, as sometimes happens, “Ruined!” In which case, it joins the collection of failures waiting to be repurposed!