Over the past year, I was searching for a way to find peace and flow amidst the fragmented and utterly surreal nature of the global pandemic. The disconnection from friends and loved ones, the temporal disorientation that came from staying at home, and the consistent flood of fear and anticipation about what would happen next, all led me to develop and refine my creative practice of collage.
It began with the stack of various magazines that were piling up in my bedroom and my living room. Overwhelmed by the volume but eager to engage with the content that documented the gravity and history of the time, I set my sights on creating a scrapbook devoted to my favorite articles, photographs, cartoons, and illustrations. I created a sort of time capsule as I slowly made my way through each issue, cutting out the content that moved me, and finding an anchor as I reviewed the events and stories of a lost year. As my scrapbook began to thicken with tangible layers of glossy paper and glue, the sense of loss started to dissipate. I cut out the pictures, stories, and articles that inspired or interested me the most, but along the way I was enthralled by the little snippets of paper that would fall off my scissors or the content on the reverse sides of my chosen pieces. I would often come across a particularly artful sentence, a corner of an advertisement, or a dense section of an article that may not have initially caught my eye. With every snip, my world became larger, and my inspiration and imagination became broader.
Soothed and steadied by the slide of the scissors and the meditative nature of cutting and pasting, I expanded my practice and began creating small vision boards (or rather, vision vignettes) in my sketchbook. At the end of 2020, I quit my stressful job as a Finance Manager for a production company, and committed myself to a six-month “creative sabbatical” to find the next step in my career. For each page, I focused on a theme – my autonomy, my environment, or my future, for example. With each image, my aspirations for the future began to show up on the page with remarkable clarity and in the most tangible and satisfying way. I was struck by the power of these projects and how effective they were in focusing my mind. I no longer was constantly asking myself “What’s next? How will I make money? What if I never find satisfaction in my career?” Instead, I was comforted by my practice; and more swiftly than I expected, the answers to these questions revealed themselves.
Collecting and curating. Cutting, pasting, and assembling pieces of a page into something beautiful. I realized that these actions themselves characterized what I love to do. All my life, I had dabbled in different creative projects, and entertained different interests. I painted, I sewed, I studied literature, I sang, I crunched numbers, I played piano and guitar. I never stuck with one thing for very long, but all of these things created a patchwork of experiences that led me to where I am today. As I reflected on this revelation, I remembered how I often collected seashells and rocks as a kid, laying them all out on a table when I returned home to study their unique characters and colors. I pondered the life of my grandfather, a design nerd and an endearing packrat, whose similar nature was illustrated by his crowded garage and his penchant for stopping on the sidewalk to peel off an interesting sticker from a streetlamp.
Some time ago, several years after entering the working world – it became clear to me that I was not cut out for climbing a corporate ladder or working for someone else. While I was a good employee and a hard worker, I inevitably found myself feeling stuck and dissatisfied in my jobs, time after time. My true desire was to open a small gift shop and create my days in the way I saw fit – gathering objects, creating interesting displays, and engaging with people in a manner that felt authentic and validating. After just a few months of refining my collage practice, I’ve begun to see the analogy between what I’ve been doing with my hands and a pair of scissors, and what I want to do with my life. At the end of the summer, I’ll be realizing my long held dream of opening a gift shop. The next few months will require focus, attention to detail, and an eye for the beautiful and unique, all skills that I luckily have become well practiced in. Collaging, in a way I never expected it to, represents how I want to live my life, and has ultimately led me to my own version of creative destiny.