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Category: Collage

Does Making Collage Help Organize Your Mind?

Does Making Collage Help Organize Your Mind?

Shortly before the beginning of March, the leader for my local art group sent us an email asking for ideas for projects for the next meeting or two. I reminded her about the time our group had fun making collage by starting a piece, and then passing it to the person on our right, who would add some elements until time was called, and the piece moved again to the right.

I provided 11” x 11” watercolor paper for the substrate, and brought an assortment of printed papers, old book pages, maps, corrugated cardboard pieces, and fabric scraps. Members were told to bring scissors and glue of some kind.

Several of our new members had never done collage before, but quickly got the hang of adding a scrap of color here and there before passing it on. We did this until we got our own piece back, with a chance to add some finishing touches.  I should have taken a photo of the collage I came home with, but I didn’t think of it until after I added a few more pieces.

Orange 3-D fan shape

I had started out with some large pieces of aqua colored paper sprinkled with white star shapes, and a page from a foreign language book. When it came back to me, someone had added a 3-D orange fan shape out of some stiff vellum, a small dark red shape topped with a yellow button, and a good size purple bird shape made of crumpled tissue paper. Someone added a fairly large piece of purple netting. Another member had found my name on one of the papers I brought, cut it into pieces and scattered them about.

Crushed tissue paper bird

At home, I sat it up on the end of my work table for several days, so I could glance at it through the day. What could I do with all these bits of color and shape so it didn’t look like the world was flying apart?  Eventually, I added a few dark pieces along parts of three edges, as well as a layer of green tissue paper over two sections to try and “pull things together”, which allowed the purple bird to be the main focal point.

Everybody added something collage

I must admit there are some days when my mind feels like this collage!

Two weeks later, our group met again and we each worked on our own collage. Some members had thought about what they wanted to make, and had brought papers to create their vision.

I didn’t plan ahead. I rummaged through papers when I got to the group and selected them mainly on colors that appealed at that moment. I paired them with some of my yellow handmade paper, torn into shapes to go with the large pieces. The paper substrate I was working on had a few black lines someone had painted long ago. I decided to let them show between the pieces I added.

Once I had the main elements pasted down, I couldn’t decide what to add next. Someone in the group encouraged us to use some tissue paper she had painted with watercolors. Adding a random piece to connect my larger shapes produced a really exciting element. After I got home, I added a small rust colored image about one third down the left side. Up close it is a set of keys tossed on a small tray.

March 2019  – Where Is Spring?

By April, our leader was full of new ideas for the group. Perhaps working with collage has an organizing effect on the mind.

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Decisional Conflict

Decisional Conflict

One of the companies making premium art mediums is Golden. They have Reps who give demos of their products to groups of artists at stores that sell their stuff. I’ve actually been to two of these, but it was some years back. The Rep talks about each medium, showing on a canvass board, what it is designed to do. This sample is then passed around the room while she demos another product.

By the end of the presentation the audience has oh-d and awed at the beautiful colors, the creamy gels, and special effects that can be produced. What we don’t see is how to integrate these products into a complete work of art.

I have a drawer of different gels in matte and gloss, with beads, will crackle, make a raised image with a stencil, or shine a different color in a certain light. I have papers, canvas, brushes, stencils, stamps, and almost anything else you can think of, but I rarely know with any certainty what to use to get the effect I have in mind.

During our rainy winter, I began reading a book about using these mediums and paints which is written like a workshop, so you can follow along step by step with the author. She started by covering her work surface with a variety of papers to provide texture, such as a page from an old book, a photo copy, corrugated cardboard, and crumpled rice paper. She also added some stencil images.

Section of collage showing title

I rummaged through my scrap box for similar items. I found some pages from a psych-nurse’s pocket guide, one of which was titled “Decisional Conflict” which in normal language means the person can’t decide between two or more options. I experience this quite often in my studio. I also found some corrugated paper from a cookie box, a strip of rice paper I could crumple, and a single Tarot card. They didn’t look like what was in the book, but close enough.

Arranging them on the paper was easy now that I have been doing a lot of collage.

The next step was to add paint. The book’s finished collage was crimson and orange with white and black accents. I had paint, just not the colors she was using. So I used what I had that I thought might be close to hers. Didn’t quite work the same way. The red color was close, but the yellow was too intense. She used a transparent yellow color which I didn’t have. The white paint she added to lighten up some areas was zinc white, which I also didn’t have, so I used an Iridescent Pearl.

Section of collage showing crumpled rice paper

One of my goals is to use up the acrylic paint I have so I can get some new paint. Of course, the colors I really like are pretty much gone. I rarely use reds and yellows, preferring greens and blues.

The yellow paint over the dark photo copy and the black on the Tarot card turned a green shade. I liked how that went with the red and yellow, so I added some paint in a lime shade here and there.

Completed collage “Decisional Conflict

Over all, I was pleased with the finished product. Looking ahead to the next project in the book, I saw that the author continues to use the zinc white and transparent yellow. In order to alleviate some of my “Decisional Conflict”, I have ordered them online because they are not available in Stockton.

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The Dark and the Light of Growing Older

The Dark and the Light of Growing Older

For the second project in the online class I was working on in January, the instructor told a story about her grandfather, using photos of him as a boy and later as a man. She said she heard he had some troubles as a young man, and to illustrate this she pasted copies of the two photos she had on separate light backgrounds and mounted them on a dark board, leaving a space between them to represent the time in his life when he had troubles.

As I tried to think of a similar story in my family, nothing came to mind, but I have been aware recently how my own life is changing in ways I don’t like. At the same time, I have many things that I am thankful I can enjoy. I decided to tell my story of how things are right now.

Front side of box to hold the cards.

I didn’t want to make a book with these cards, so I borrowed an idea from Seth Apter, where he uses kid’s flash cards, works on both sides, and makes a case for them.

For the cards I used stiff cardboard from the back of watercolor tablets, cutting blocks that are roughly 4.5” x 5.5”.  I used pages torn from old books with printing and diagrams, to cover them on both sides using matt medium, and folding the sheets over the edges as the instructor had demonstrated.

After they were dry, I laid the eight cards on newspaper and covered them with black gesso on one side, let it dry, and used white gesso on the other side. On the sides with the white gesso, some of the printing on the paper shows through.

I made a list of what I wanted to put on each card. For each less than happy development on the dark side, I chose a positive thing about my life at this time.

The hardest part of this project was finding images to illustrate my situation. Magazines are loaded with young women. Even ads for products that older people might need rarely have a person who appears old unless they are face down on the floor and can’t get up!

I glued the carefully trimmed images to the cards with matt medium. I didn’t coat them with matt medium, but I probably should have.

I feel like my arms have gotten shorter.

One of the cards was about not being able to reach things in cupboards and closets, and not feeling comfortable on a ladder in the yard sometimes. On the back side, I acknowledge that I’m feeling ready to let go of things I don’t use, but I keep because they belonged to someone in my family.

 

After the images were glued, I printed out words to go with them. These were trimmed close and glued with Yes paste. The gessoed background had a bit of a gritty texture, so I decided to finish the cards with a layer of encaustic wax. I like the feel of the waxy surface.

Cards get a layer of encaustic wax

However, some of my images became transparent when I waxed them. The print from the other side came through, as on this image of a robe. It seemed to happen with images taken from a monthly publication from a nearby shopping center that uses a newsprint type paper.

Image about getting to sleep late

On this card you can also see the printing on the paper that was the first layer on the left side behind the clock, and on the right side behind the robe is a piece of a map.

While I was waiting for things to dry, I created a case for my cards. I have a big old garage with lots of storage, where I have a closet of small and odd size boxes and containers. I painted the box with black gesso, added some images and words, and covered it with a coat of a gloss gel medium.

Back of the box holding cards
Making art with friends

 

 

This was not a project I intended to put on display somewhere. It was a way for me to get my irritable thoughts out of my head, and remind myself of all the aspects of my life that I can celebrate. I get to stay home in bad weather, wear what I want, sleep late if I need to, read all kinds of things, and make art with my friends.

 

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Telling a Story with Collage

Telling a Story with Collage

Grape vines and Strawberry patch

For the last three weeks, I’ve been working my way through an online course from the Jeanne Oliver network (Jeanneoliver.com), called “Art as Allegory” which offers instruction in several collage techniques which may help you tell a story. The instructor shares a story from her childhood which she is still telling people to explain why she feels she needs to work extra hard sometimes. She encourages course members to recall a similar story that they often relate to people, and perhaps find a way to let it go.

Since I told most of my childhood stories in my eBook “Looking for Connection,” I had to find a current story that I keep repeating. The most obvious is how the time required to care of my yard prevents me from making art in my studio.

Thankfully, we have had a good number of rain days this month, and I have completed one of the two projects suggested in this course. Of course, my work doesn’t look anything like what the instructor showed, but that’s the point of these courses; showing techniques and helping you generate ideas in your own individual way.

We started by making a set of 4” x 4” substrates out of foam-core or cardboard, to be made into a book, or mounted on a backing. The boards were covered in plaster gauze, (which I had never used), and when dry, given a coat of Plaster of Paris, allowed to dry, followed by a light coat of acrylic paint, most of which was wiped off. I used cardboard, didn’t smooth the plaster as well as the instructor did, and didn’t wipe off as much paint as she did.

In between rain showers, I walked through the yard taking photos of plants and sections that require significant amounts of work throughout the year. I picked up a few sticks, leaves, and seeds to add interest. I printed out color prints of my photos on regular paper. The printer I have now has ink that does not run when it gets wet, so I could adhere the prints to the squares with matt medium and cover the whole block with a coat of it.

The green paint on each square adds to the feeling that this is a garden. One block shows my grapefruit tree and berry bushes, another, the strawberry bed and grapevines in the photo at the top of this blog. These two are in the center of the finished piece because they are the reward for the labor.

Bird feeder upper left, fountain lower right

 

Around these are photos of the bird feeder and fountain, and invasive plants that need to be removed annually, lest they take over the garden. I show the sycamore leaves that accumulate everywhere, vines of ivy and honeysuckle that need to be trimmed back, and the palm fronds in my driveway from the neighbor’s trees.

 

The crack where the water gushes out from a leak.

 

 

Also, I have the sage that feeds my hummingbirds during the winter, the iris bed where these beauties are gearing up for spring, and the sprinkler system that has sprung a huge leak somewhere under the patio cement.

 

 

And, not to be forgotten, a photo of the pile of branches that were left after I picked up sticks from storms this month and couldn’t fit these into the green waste bin .

Photo of branches too large to go in green wast bin from last two storms.

I located a 16” x 20” board with an old painting that I acquired somewhere, and loosely covered it with a coat of dark brown paint. I mounted the twelve squares to this board with heavy gel medium, leaving half an inch space between them. I weighted it with bags of rice, while it dried for a day or two.

I picked up a frame at Michael’s using my 50% off coupon, and actually hung the finished piece up on Sunday. Finding a good place for this in my house took some doing, as all my walls are well filled.

The finished collage

I’m really delighted with the outcome. If I should have to leave this property when I get older, this collage will hold many fond memories and stories for me.

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If You Don’t Give Grandma Gift Ideas, She’ll Send You Something Silly!

If You Don’t Give Grandma Gift Ideas, She’ll Send You Something Silly!

Pipe cleaner butterfly

At the beginning of November 2018, I was cleaning up my studio area after completing on online class, and noticed five small substrates I made during the summer, lined up on a rack, waiting to be used. I quickly decided I didn’t want to see them there in 2019, so I laid them out on my work table, hoping for an idea to come my way.

I thought back to the art retreat I went to in 2017 in Santa Rosa, where I spent two days learning how Finnabair makes her fascinating creations. I hadn’t made anything like that since I came home. I looked at the experiments I had been doing with handmade paper, wire, and palm bark. What would happen if I added these materials to what I learned at the retreat?

I had to find my notes from the retreat to recall how we began the piece I made. I didn’t have the finished item from the retreat because I had given it to my granddaughter for her High School Graduation.

I cut up patterned paper into small squares, pasted them to each substrate with gel medium, and coated them with soft gel, through which I dragged a comb to create texture. When that layer was dry, I added torn strips of handmade paper and a small piece of palm bark to each substrate. I was making a series so they all had a small amount of each material.

At this point, I realized I needed a focal point in each piece. While looking for something else, I had recently come across a box of curious animals made of coiled pipe cleaners. They had been in that drawer for years, since I added my mother’s craft stash to mine. They looked like the things she made in Florida at the mobile home center. There was a caterpillar, a mouse, two bears, and one I couldn’t identify, which I decided would be a butterfly.

Pipe cleaner caterpillar

I added garage junk: nuts, screws, paper clips, washers, and odd metal and plastic pieces using  gel medium for the glue. I highlighted the metal with metallic paint. I was having such a fun time, but what was I going to do with them when they were finished?

I hadn’t done any Christmas shopping because I had no idea what to get my three granddaughters. Why not give each of them one of these creations?  The little animals were made by their great-grandmother. This was just the incentive I needed to get them finished soon even though I was cleaning up the yard every day, too. The next logical thought was that the mouse should go to my son.

Full view of butterfly collage

To the caterpillar and butterfly pieces I added some dark green paper leaves and flowers. I tried to highlight the leaves with some shiny paint, but it didn’t work out well, and I couldn’t remove the paint.

These were both on wood substrates.

 

 

Brown Bear on cork base with silver highlights

 

The brown bear is on a cork substrate which was glued to a piece of craft wood to give it stability. I liked working with the cork. It made a nice texture for adding paint, and the gel medium stuck to it well. The dark brown mass in each collage is the palm bark. The tan area is the handmade paper which was torn into odd shapes. This piece has silver highlights.

 

Pack Rat in his nest

The mouse is actually a pack rat as can be seen by all the junk in his nest. The next is made with the palm bark. On the bottom below the bark is a strip of black woven mesh, probably nylon, which I picked up in a garage at an estate sale. The metal pieces were highlighted with brass metallic paint. His corrugated cardboard substrate was glued to a craft board.

 

Panda

One of the substrates was made on a piece of cardboard with the lower right corner cut out. I resolved this by mounting it on a piece of light weight craft board that was slightly smaller than the cardboard, painted that corner with a pink metallic paint that I used for highlights on the piece, and glued a small shell to the craft board. The green diamond pattern on the bottom and right side were made by using thickened gesso with a stencil. After it was dry, I applied green paint and rubbed most of it off. This has a little panda bear sitting in the palm bark, surrounded by tiny fabric roses. He has now joined the menagerie in my bedroom

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Odds and Ends

Odds and Ends

The apple mystery from last week was solved Wednesday morning.

Caught

I generally write my blog on Monday or Tuesday and schedule it to post on Wednesday at 7:00 a.m. When I got into the kitchen last Wednesday morning, there was the culprit.

I believe he got in through the cat door, decided he would stay in the warm house, and was camped out under the dishwasher. The apples were too big to take through that small space.

I put the finishing touches on the collage series that I have been working on the last few weeks. I decided to use them as Christmas gifts, and will post photos of them in January.

Panda

I am keeping this one which was made on an odd piece of cardboard with a lower right corner missing. I glued a heavy cotton fabric on the cardboard and put white gesso on the fabric. The pattern on the bottom and the right side was made by spreading thickened gesso through a stencil. After the gesso was set, I painted with diluted, green, acrylic paint.

The panda is sitting on palm bark, under which are some odd scraps of printed paper covered with soft acrylic gel that was scratched while wet. I added more paint, and three fabric roses. The panda was made out of pipe cleaners by my mother more than thirty years ago.

I mounted the whole thing on a 1/8 inch thick piece of balsa wood from the craft store. This filled in the missing corner, which I painted, before adding a shell fragment.

Last Saturday, my basket making group had their Christmas potluck. We have a custom of distributing the handmade gifts we brought, where the wrapped items are set on a table and we draw numbers for the order in which we select a gift from the table, or from a member who already has chosen a gift. The gift can be “stolen” up to twice before it is opened.

I came home with “yard art” in the form of a bird house made from a gourd.

New Yard Art – Birdhouse from a gourd

I had a perfect place for it. Some years ago, I attached a copper hook to an arbor set among trees, with plans to hang a hummingbird feeder there. All it ever drew was ants—my hummers want the real deal.

Coming up this week is another potluck on Thursday. And, I will be putting up window lights in the form of (electric) candles, one to each window. This is a custom I have had since I lived in Tidewater Virginia, where every house had candles in the windows. They make the house glow inside and out.

As you prepare for the holidays, may your heart be happy.

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Illustrating Opportunity

Illustrating Opportunity

Fly like the Eagle

The forth circular collage in this series features a picture of an eagle soaring above a coast line with snow capped mountains in the background. This center image is ringed with beads that become a counterclockwise spiral going around three times, with beads becoming larger in a variety of colors.

When I arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1978, I soon discovered an enormous arts and crafts community of weavers and other fiber artists. There were guilds and small neighborhood groups, annual conferences, classes, and vendors of supplies.

Six years later, I became a full time college student at a price we could afford. A new basket-making guild was forming and I was invited to their meetings. At that time, I could drive to almost any meeting place or college campus in forty-five minutes from our home in Livermore. The doors of opportunity were open to me.

So, this circle represents that time of trying new things, weaving tapestries, exhibiting my work, getting an education and a profession, and getting a job. I eventually left my marriage and learned to make my own choices and decisions.

Love After Fifty

The fifth, and last, circle collage looks similar to the second one, but there are no beads around the edge of the picture of daffodils with a butterfly. The paper is sewn to the ring with turquoise embroidery thread. The beads in the center of the paper are organized on either side of a rippling line made of those tiny 3/16ths inch beads. The beads attached to the brass ring are various shades of pink.

By the time I made this series, I had been in my house with the big yard for eight years, and had a new man in my life, who continues to provide me with all kinds of adventures I could never have imagined.

Collages on My Wall

 

The five handmade paper collages hang in a vertical row on the wall next to my bed. I enjoy seeing them. I would not have the time or patience to make them now, so it is a good thing I made them when I did.

One of my goals this year of weeding through things, is to get to a place where, if I get an idea, I can try it out soon, instead of adding it to a list and losing track of the list. This goal is still a work in process, but I think I’m getting there.

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Thankful for Many Times and Places

Thankful for Many Times and Places

The second piece in my handmade paper series is based on the early years of my marriage, and when my sons were little. I was thankful I had the opportunity to marry Ray, who had an engineering degree. He didn’t want me to work and he had jobs that paid well enough that I could attend to the household, the children, and enjoy weaving and other crafts.

Wife and Mother

The circular collage features a photo of flowers (now faded), in a center circle on oatmeal colored paper that has flecks of white and other colors throughout the paper. This was sewn onto a brass ring with a cross stitch. The flower picture is circled with small beads, and then a ring of larger mauve beads. Farther out on the paper, the beads are a variety of sizes and colors somewhat randomly placed.

The gray scalloped shapes are made with narrow glass beads about 3/16ths of an inch long. The faint pink marks were made with a marker and have also faded. I have a thing about the color pink. In actual flowers, like roses I enjoy pink, but it is not a color I wear or use in my house, unless it is darker, sort of a rose color. A small amount of pink paired with larger amounts of green is nice also.

In this piece, I wanted some pink to represent my enjoyment of having a husband, a home, and children. I was thankful I didn’t have to live in Cleveland where I grew up. During these years we lived in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Missouri near Joplin, Nebraska in the southeast corner, and Portsmouth, Virginia.

I had been raised in the Lutheran Church, as had Ray. During our time in Virginia, I made a personal commitment to Jesus, and became close to some members of our church, and believers from other churches as well.

Jesus In My Life

The third circle in this series honors this time. The brass ring is sewn on top of the handmade paper with very fine dark thread. The image is a drawing from a magazine, looking down on the head of Christ with the crown of thorns.

I don’t recall any specific meaning for the arrangement of the beads streaming out from the center circle, but they make a dramatic looking piece. There are some faceted crystal beads sewn onto the ring, which don’t show up well in this photo.

After six years in Virginia, we were outgrowing our house, and Ray wanted a different job. An unexpected job offer came from California, where a huge world of opportunity awaited me.

At Thanksgiving, I sometimes struggle to name specific things I’m thankful for because there are so many. It is good to look back and remember all the experiences and blessings that have brought me to this moment.

Wishing you a joyous day tomorrow, wherever you are.

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Handmade Paper Series

Handmade Paper Series

“Don’t Live”

When I retired from my full time Creative Arts Therapy job at the beginning of 2005, I spent that year resting and recharging by playing with my art supplies.

I made small baskets out of daylily leaves from my yard. I spent two weeks during the summer making handmade paper on the patio.

I had been in a workshop learning to make paper some years before, and one of the Recreation Therapists from Palo Alto VA came to Livermore and we made paper with the veterans at the nursing home. That was a lot of messy fun, but when you are facilitating an activity it is not the same as making it yourself.

If you have never made paper, it can be an easy and fun outdoor activity. I shred junk mail and old financial papers to make the base pulp. The shredded paper is placed in a blender – get a used one at a thrift store – add water and blend. Pour the pulp onto a screen with a frame around it to drain off the water. Turn the residue onto a wad of newspaper to dry.

You can add colored paper before blending, and you may get a paper with speckles depending on how much you add to it. Add glitter. Color the whole batch by adding a small amount of liquid poster or acrylic paint in the blender.

The screen is called a mould and deckle, and is usually a rectangle shape. You can see demos of this on the internet. I didn’t want to bother to make a deckle, so I put screen cloth into an embroidery hoop, both of which I had. Of course, this resulted in round sheets of paper.

I also experimented with adding vegetable fibers to the mix. I went to the grocery and bagged up loose onion skins to add to one batch of pulp. After the two weeks of playing, I had a huge stack of paper circles. Then the challenge became what should I do with them?  I’m still working on the answer to that.

“Treasure”

 

 

I made some fragile baskets by stitching several sheets together. The director of the Art League gallery would not accept them, because she was afraid they might get damaged. The item at the left has faded from a lovely turquoise color.

 

 

I had some eight-inch brass rings I had acquired somewhere, so I stitched a sheet of my paper to one of them, and added some beads and cutouts from a magazine page that was popular that year. I was quite taken with it, because it reminded me of how I felt as a child and teen.

“Don’t cry”  “Don’t play”  “Don’t eat”  “Don’t stand”  “Don’t work”   “Don’t kiss”   “Don’t live”

We’ve all heard them:  Stop crying or I will give you something to cry about.  Don’t play with your food.  Don’t eat anything before dinner.  Don’t stand there, help me with . . .  No you can’t get a job, because I don’t want to have to haul you there and back.  Don’t you dare kiss anyone, you’ll get pregnant.  So, buy the time we are teens, we hear  “Don’t live.”

This is the first of five circles I made to represent stages of my life.

 

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Rise Above

Rise Above

Rise Above

This is the companion to the collage I showed last week. I worked on them at the same time, and they have many of the same elements, like the lace, a piece from the boiled book, and a strong black line of ribbon with gold highlights.

One of the ladies in my local mixed media group asked me what the paper in the upper left came from. It is a warm brown with a light pattern. I tore a piece off the bag from fresh baked French bread that I bought at Food 4 Less.

A few weeks ago, one of the other group members asked me, “What do you throw away?”, after I had mentioned some other odd item on a collage I had made. I thought for a few seconds and said “The butter paper.” I know it should be used to grease up a casserole, but I rarely need to do that at the time I put out a new butter quarter.

I do keep a lot of things other people discard because they might be just what I need someday. My friend, Robert, tells me about once a month, that when I can no longer live here, my sons will come in and put my whole collection of junk in a dumpster. That’s fine, I won’t need it then.

On a more serious note, what I did differently on these two collages than I usually do, was to lay them on my work table side by side, and try out different arrangements of the items I thought I would use in the second layer. The first layer had already been completed and can be see in the Oct. 17 blog titled “Shifting Gears.”

When I had arrangements I thought I liked, I left them on the table into the next day, and looked at them again several times as I passed by the table. I was not in a hurry to finish them until I had a settled feeling about them. Then, I glued the loose pieces in place and put them under weights for about two days. The lace part took a long time to dry. After they were dry, I mounted them on heavy cardboard and weighted them again.

I had a good feeling about these collages. The best description I can give you is that I’ve felt like I’m out in the woods trying to find the trail that takes me out of the trees. I’ve tried some paths that looked promising, but didn’t go anywhere. Now, I feel like I’ve stepped onto the beginning of the trail that leads to the destination I have in mind.

To stay on this trail I will have to “Rise Above” my old habits. Like wanting to get something put together quickly. Like trying to squeeze the work in between house and yard chores. I need to tune out of the noise of our contentious culture and listen for the voice of my inner being, until I feel that sense of “Yes, this works.”

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