Book Review: Creative Collage

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Creative Collage: Making Memories in Mixed Media by Marie Browning. 2008. New York: Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. ISBN 978-1402735097

Creative Collage: Making Memories in Mixed Media is a how-to book for people interested in exploring collage through projects other than traditional wall art. Some people make a distinction between "art" and "craft" and, I suppose, this book falls more to the craft side of things. However, many of the techniques outlined in the book could be applied artfully to wall art to great effect.

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The book starts with an overview of collage. Like most who give a "history" of collage, the author begins with Braque and Picasso. However, unlike other books I've read, Browning points out that collage techniques have their roots in art forms much further back in history: prehistoric societies used items in nature to make masks (e.g., seeds, straw, feathers), twelfth century calligraphers decorated their surfaces with paper and fabric to change the textures of their brush strokes, andRenaissance artists decorated their coats of arms with bits of paper and fabric. Hobbyists took to collage in the 19th century. (p. 9) Cutting materials into little bits, making use of found objects, and reconstructing them into something completely new seems to resonate with people from any culture or historic time.

Browning also provides readers with a glossary of terms, which I haven't seen in other places. She makes a distinction between altered art (collage "created on a variety of bases that alters the surface with papers and embellishments), assemblage (a collage "with three-dimensional objects"), and mixed media (an art object that incorporates more than one medium). I think it's possible for one object to overlap into all three, but I definitely appreciate the author's attempts to define what collage can mean.

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There are plenty of lists for supplies and instructions to make the collage process go easier. Browning gives lots of space in the book to help people figure out what tools they'll need, what basic supplies to gather, and what design elements make for strong pieces. From Chapter Four on, Browning gives step-by-step instructions on how to make greeting cards of varying types (wax, tissue paper), framed mirrors, paperweights, sewing boxes, serving trays, candles, and other objects.

I really enjoyed this book. Right now, I am focusing on wall art for my collages, but a few of the projects got me thinking about smaller, more functional objects that would be a blast to create. I suspect some of the ideas I read about in this book will, eventually, find their way into my art.

If you read this book, please let me know what you think!


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