How To Create Assemblage Art
Assemblage Art - by John Norman Stewart
Finding Your Ingredients
You can find your basic materials anywhere....probably the best place to start is in your attic or garage. My garage has never had a car in it and has boxes and more boxes of "junk" or what I prefer to call "Interesting Objects". I like visiting thrift stores like the Salvation Army, or Catholic Services or a myriad of other places in any town. It's amazing what you can find there.
Another great source is metal scrap yards, second hand stores and even antique stores (they tend to be pricier). A little on the edge, but effective, is "Dumpster Diving" - it's amazing what you find - both good and bad. Flea Markets are a good bet, along with neighborhood garage sales and special community fund raising event sales.
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My First Assemblage Project
I think that possibly my first assemblage project might have been a Christmas tree piece. I started with a piece of hardwood that was about 6 inches wide by 14 inches high. I painted the shape of a tree very simply using flat black acrylic paint. I had a box full of clock gears and parts that I had found in an junk shop and I started gluing and nailing them to the painted surface, until it looked pretty full. The black background set off the metalic surfaces of the clock parts all in contrast to the beautiful grain of the wood, made for a nice looking wall piece. I put a hanger on the back and it was ready to hang.
Attachment Methods and Misc. Tools - How to stick this on that.......
Adhesives that I Use:
2 or three kinds of 2 part epoxies: metal epoxy, all purpose epoxy, exterior epoxy.
Elmers Glue All
Super Glue (minimal use)
brass and copper brads
Various sized wood screws
Various sized sheet metal screws
Various sized nuts and bolts
wood dowling in different sizes
sandpaper in different grit sizes
wet and dry sandpaper, fine
Any and all basic hand tools and
various power tools depending on
the project. A Dremel set can come
Various brushes, flats, pointed,
stripers, tiny 00 for details.
Acrylic paint set.
Liquitex gloss varnish
Various gemstones or artificial gemstones
Gold leafing materials. (I especially like 24k gold leaf)
White beach sand and Contractor's sand
Of course we know that tools and materials will depend on what you are specifically doing in your art project, so we can't list them all here.
It Began With A Box......... - ECOLOGY BOX
The picture (above) is of a piece that I made called "Ecology Box". It began with an old Electrician's tool box that had 3 compartments in it. So I immediately thought to myself "TRYPTIC", and it started.
The theme was industrial greed and polution (I lived in Los Angeles smog at the time). I had an old black respirator that I used as a scenic artist for the film studios, a pair of goggles, and 2 one dollar bills. This was the central focal point. I had these two large clear plastic bricks and I burned the top of one of them and mounted a drawing behind it. I painted the back of the other one with acrylic colors and then drilled into it from the back side to create a couple of three dimensional floating objects. I countersunk a depression in the bottom block and epoxied a large ball bearing at that point. Then I glued two brass chains to either side of the top block and just let them drape there.
I had picked up a hologram of a seashell at a sci-fi convention years before and mounted it to the front of the top block. (later I mounted it off to the right). Mirrors were added to the inside edges of the box and to the floor to give multiple reflections.
ECOLOGY BOX (2)
Compartment #2 (left side)
The left compartment of "Ecology Box" was to be a large mask of "The Spirit of The Rain Forest" floating above a peaceful Shibui garden that had a large rock in the middle of raked sand. To accomplish this I took a simple 1 x 4 inch piece of laminated plywood which became the basic head structure, which I attached by screwing through the back of the tool box. I had two large bronze splashings that I tacked and glued to the board, which became the forehead of the mask. Then I located two large clock springs and drilled and screwed them to the plywood board. Then I added three hardware brass pieces to make the nose and mouth and a forhead accent. I painted the edge of the clock springs to emphasize the eyes.
The floor of this compartment was next: I epoxied a nicely shaped, flat stone to the floor. Then I carefully brushed some white glue around the stone and sprinkled contractor's sand around it. I mounted a long screw just above the stone and glued a glass ball to it, giving a floating effect. I also mounted a real pearl and a glass bead to the mouth. (see picture below)
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ECOLOGY BOX (3)
ECOLOGY BOX (4)
Compartment #3 (Right Side)
The right compartment had to do with writing to the "Powers That Be", so I had this antique bronze finished perfume bottle that became an ink well when I added the Peacock Feather pen. I floated the "ink well" on a block of wood that was glued to the back of the box. I had another antique decorative finding and I mounted it to the back panel. Later (not shown in photo) I added mirrored interior walls to add a little mystery to the piece. The inside flaps that cover the left and right compartments were gold leafed on the inside and painted with bright colorations on the outside. When the box is completely closed it can still be hung on the wall, looking like a big black tool box.
ECOLOGY BOX (6)
It actually hangs on the wall like this and then you can open it in two stages. I recently put this one up for sale at Saatchi Gallery in London.
Pick A President (aka: Heads of State)
This is a humorous political piece that has various elements: a real bullhorn, a genuine fossil, a political platform and a party anima. It is interactive in that the viewer selects a little wooden head, then watches as it rolls through the sculpture. Music plays as it descends into the bottom tray. It was fun to make and was difficult in that I had to build it from scratch. It has been exhibited widely. It seems to appeal the most to children (of all ages).
A Political Platform
The Heads Will Roll......
A Party Animal.....
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Interior "Church Box"
Assemblage With Scraps of Wood
Instructional DVD's on Assemblage Art
I created this piece years ago. I consider it to be assemblage because it is made of hammered bronze and copper, welded bronze, gold leaf and has a large emerald inside of the crown.