Monday, March 31, 2008

Cigar Box Assemblage

Cigar box assemblage workshop was one of the most wonderful classes i have ever hosted. I can't really say i "taught" the class - i just gave guidance and direction a big workspace and a great atmosphere and 4 1/2 hours to play. Oh yeah, and STUFF. Lots and lots of stuff. I suggested a parallel between playing with my copious craft supplies, to playing with your neighbour's Barbies when you were 7. Hers were always better. Or maybe not better but different. My next door neighbour Sharon Wilson never ONCE lost a Barbie shoe.

If you read my blog or have taken my classes you know i am big on "kits". A carefully selected assortment of background papers, focal point images, and embellishments, each packaged lovingly for the students. Not so for this class! "Kits? We don't need no stickin' kits..." I felt this class really needed more creative rummaging. Each student had to select the elements that spoke to them. Who was i to determine that? But since my moto is to supply EVERYTHING you need in class - i had to bring well, just about everything. My husband will tell you that it was quite the undertaking transporting my stuff to the nova studio for the class. He almost couldn't help me because we didn't both fit in the car!

But we did and he was there to carry in all the treasures and help set up the training room. Oh - but to have the space to teach classes at home so that my supplies don't need to be packed up and organized and transported to another town.... So perhaps you already have three totes of rusty metal things from places like Urban Ore, and a huge glass jar of porcelain doll parts from eBay, and rolls and rolls Cavallini papers, and boxes of estate sale ephemera - but I bet it was really cool that you got to dig into MINE for a day!

I started off by having the students select a box - small, med or large - really just varying depths. The deeper the box, the more stuff you can fit inside. Pretty much most of the students were returning altered book enthusiastes, so they welcomed the opportunity to take their collage to a 3-D level. Certainly that's why i wanted to try it.
The class followed the following structure: P-S-C-A (just try saying that outloud to yourself!)
P - Preparation
S - Selection
C - Composition
A - Assemblage
For Prep, we lightly sanded the boxes, applied a thin coat of gesso and then covered the boxes with old dictionary paper using matte gel medium.

Before the selection or "shopping" part of the class, i gave a brief demo on turning a copy of a cabinet card into a realistic looking reproduction. Then the students were let loose on the two tables holding supplies. Really would have been better to spread it all out, but the full class used up all the other tables in the studio.

I presented two potential themes - which interestingly ended up blended by the students. One was Cabinet of Natural Curiosities - or you know - the whole bird-nest-egg-butterfly organic thing so popular today. The other theme was Historical Journey, using vintage photographs, old letters, postcards and bits of old toys to tell a story about days gone by.
This was when the teaching more or less stopped and the glue expert took over. One of the complex parts of assemblage is knowing which adhesive to use for each element. Glue dots for small things, pop dots for creating space between papers, E6000 for heavy metal, and a hot glue gun came to rescue for really stubborn situations. The class spent about 2 hours on composition and assembly - most choosing to finish off their pieces at home. In the end we had a lovely opportunity for show and tell. Sorry i don't know which boxes belong to which students - but if you write to me in the comments section - i'd be proud to give you credit!

This is my box - i went with the vintage theme - choosing a cabinet card image of a young girl i decided to name Annabelle. I picked out the block with an A because i liked the colour - her name came later! Then imagine my surprise and delight when rummaging through an old bag of jewellry i found gold pin "A", which i added to the cover. Well that's your serendipity right there, b'y. One student found a Bakelite button she told me to put aside and sell on ebay. She was amazed that i told her to keep it. (god please don't let rare bakelite buttons be worth $10,000....)

Here are some of the students fine work:

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