Finding Source Material
Finding source material can be as rewarding and as thrilling as creating the final artwork. In every instance, there's a degree of intuition, know how and good old dumb luck. Of all the questions I get asked about collaging, "where can I find source material?" is the one I hear most often. I think a great place to start is to ask yourself "what kind of collages do I wish to make?" - abstract? political? colour and form based work? nature themes? mechanical?
Once you have a rough idea of several possible themes, it's time for you to step out into the world in pursuit of ephemera. Personally, I prefer using books as my source material over magazines for several reasons. Books offer a better quality paper stock - I've found that the older the book the better the stock in many instances. Try to avoid hi-gloss finishes on your imagery - it will pick up the naturally occurring oils from your hands quicker than yesterdays' newspaper absorbs the grease from an order of hot chips. Alternatively, you can buy a pair of cloth gloves, as I've seen several artists use.
Books are also likely to offer a more unique array of pictures as opposed to a lot of people's chosen go to - the ubiquitous National Geographic magazine, of which there were there were millions and millions of issues published. How people use material is always unique, and I do have a stack of Nat Geo's that I will access at some stage, but I believe books deliver a more obscure and interesting goldmine of visual wealth.
So where do I look for these "interesting" books? Here's a list that will help you find material in your local area:
- Thrift Stores - thrift stores, opportunity shops, charity stores...different names that all offer essentially the same thing - cheap books! Within a 5km radius of your house, there will be at least 2-3 stores of this nature. Find them on Google maps, get familiar with them, visit them regularly.
If there's a staff member you meet more than a few times when you're at the counter buying books or magazines, get your phone out and share a few of your collages with them and tell them that's what you collect the books for. People working in charity shops are often volunteers in possession of good hearts. Share with them and often they will share with you. A lady who worked at my local thrift store would allow me to go into the back room to look through the books that hadn't hit the shelves yet. In return, I'd sometimes bring the actual collages in with me to show her what I'd made from the books. It's basic kindness and karma!
Usually there will be a central depot that acts as a sorting station to send "stock" out to all the other branches of that particular thrift chain. Find out where it is - you won't believe the Aladdin's Cave these places can be.
- Second Hand Book Stores - the same applies for second hand book stores as above. become a regular and don't be afraid to introduce yourself to the staff. Be warned, these stores usually charge at least 3 times as much as a thrift store, but the payoff is that you will most likely find some really interesting obscurities here if the staff are savvy and know what to buy from people.
- Garage/Yard Sales - There's always somebody wanting to get rid of old books at a garage sale. People are big on de-cluttering and going digital, which is to our advantage! Don't be afraid to make an offer if you want to buy more than a few books - that's the nature of the beast at these events.
- School/Church Fetes - Fetes can be a real goldmine for source material as a lot of donations are made by older people who have been stockpiling a serious collection of books you won't find elsewhere. A few I've been to allow you to fill a bag with as many books as you can physically carry for a set price.
- Markets - most towns, suburbs or cities have a variety of markets. Craft markets, food markets and the one to look for, second hand markets. The market is an amalgamation of all of the above places I've mentioned but can be hit and miss depending on who has rented a stall on a particular week and whether or not their material is interesting and fairly priced. Again, communication is key and don't be afraid to ask for a discount if you are buying in bulk.
- Facebook Groups - Something I've yet to utilise but I've seen growing in popularity is the rise of "pay it forward" or "free items" pages on Facebook. These are usually locally based groups that would rather see an item go to somebody who wants it rather than ending up in landfill and making a negative impact on the planet. A great idea and one I'll be investigating. One thing to bare in mind is that to recieve, you should give back, so have a look around your place and see what you could gift to somebody before simply taking.