Using Found Objects in Assemblages

Collage artists and other artists and crafters looking for a change of pace may want to try their hand at an assemblage.

An assemblage moves beyond the two-dimensional restrictions of collage. An assemblage is considered sculpture rather than a type of paper art. Collages are traditionally created from scraps of paper from magazines, newspapers, old cards, handmade paper, or other materials.

In an assemblage, you create a three-dimensional composition using discarded, found, or recycled objects including bottle caps, flattened metal, broken tile, clock pieces, screws, bolts, wire, pieces of glass, broken pottery, rusted metals, buttons, beads, or nails or marbles. There is no limit to the types of materials that can be incorporated into an assemblage.

Why Make Assemblages?

There are a number of reason an artist may want to make an assemblage. For traditional collage artists, adding a found object or two is an effective way to add texture and depth to a collage, or to add a funky appeal. Another reason two-dimensional artists may want to create anassemblage is because it is a non-threatening way to explore making sculpture. For others using recycling, discarded or found objects into an assemblage, may be a way of making an environmental statement.

If you’re ready to make an assemblage, you need to find some discarded objects.

Finding Objects for Assemblages

Finding used and discarded objects for assemblages can be fun and they can be found in a number of places. One place is in your house. Check the bottom of a sewing kit for old buttons or zippers or check the tool box for old and unusable screws, nails or hinges. Even old watch, clock or computer parts can be useful finds for the assemblage artist.

Another place to find discarded objects for assemblages is in driveways and on sidewalks. When you are out for a walk, even the most tidy communities offer findings of discarded and rusty bottle caps, mysterious metal pieces and other interesting objects. Use a glove or plastic bag to pick up objects and have a canvas bag or other durable bag for items which may be sharp from broken edges. Once you’ve collected your found objects they will need to be prepared before you can use them in an assemblage.

Preparing Objects

There are several steps involved in preparing found objects for use in assemblages. First brush off any loose dirty or rust flakes. For sanitation purposes, the objects need to be cleaned with rubbing alcohol, either by soaking the objects in a bowl or tub of alcohol and water, or rubbing down each object with an alcohol-soaked cotton ball. Once the objects are dry, apply a coat of gloss medium varnish or gloss gel medium. The mediums will dry clear.

Supports for Assemblages

Because assemblages tend to be heavier than pure paper collages, you will need to use a sturdy support. Standard choices are stretched canvas or heavy watercolor board. You could also use wood or gesso-covered cardboard.

Creating an Assemblage

Either create your collage or assemblage and add the objects at the end, or attach them in the beginning, making them the focal piece of your assemblage. Use gel medium to adhere an object or objects to the support. The objects may be painted or left in their natural state.

Using objects is a way to recycle used materials and other object that might otherwise be considered trash. Artists have a way of making the mundane and the discarded seem beautiful or intriguing. And there is no way to predict what you may be inspired to create with found objects.

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