A collage workbox developing

It is late.  I have come to the end of a day in which both my body and my spirit have wandered far.  I have accomplished several weighty tasks from my ever-growing list, and am preparing myself for the work to come.

There has been a collage piece I have long thought of doing. It presents itself often to my mind’s eye in shades of white, gleaming with pearl and glinting with silver.  At last, I am ready to create it.  Over the last few days, my desk has blossomed a workbox that has received contents from my frequent studio visits.  I have browsed my collection of objects, papers and ephemera and have begun to build a ‘set’ for this piece.  This is how I work.

What comes next is the connection.  And for this piece, the love has begun.  A warmth builds in my chest as I respond to the materials.  There is a story hidden in these objects, and it is my job to tell it.  With textures, with objects, with words.  I have returned repeatedly to gaze at the box contents, and to feel the story growing in my heart, in my fingertips. 

Not yet ready to begin, I took the day off today to make a trip with a couple of fellow mixed media magpies.  We drove down to visit the widely-reputed antique shops of Nanton, AB.  We spent several blissful hours scouring the corners of these well-ordered shops for the real loot, those hidden finds that had value only to us.  An object here or there garnered my loyalty.  Yet the after-lunch visit to the largest and finest of these emporia finally brought my steps to the true treasure trove. 

A bag of ephemera, letters and manuals and oddments, $2.  I sifted through the contents slowly, turning over seed catalogues and old letters offering loads of potatoes for sale.  Tucked underneath was a night telegram addressed to Miss Florence M. Porter of Oak Park, Illinois.  Intrigued by the wonderful red and blue envelope, I slipped the telegram from within it and read . . . dated October 25, 1912: 

“I love you little girl coming home to you soon.” 

It was signed simply “Ralph”.  A thrill shot through me and tears pricked my eyes.  How beautiful.  How simple.  I purchased it, along with a tiny envelope addressed to “Mr & Mrs R. M. Walker” dated August 1915 and containing a tiny birth announcement. 

When we returned to the car for the drive home, we shared our finds.  Reading these items again, a story peeped at me around the edge of the telegram.  I turned back to the lovely old photographs I had picked up earlier.  Sifting through them, suddenly there was the handsome young soldier in his uniform.  And here was the pretty girl in her lace-edged sleeves, holding a teacher’s pointer.  And there, in my lap, lay the story to be told by the white and shining collage:  The love, the separation, the return, the marriage, the child in years of war and ravage. 

Just as suddenly, the piece to be created has taken on a different form, a different flavour.  It has taken on shape and substance and waits for me only to lay it down. 

This is how I work.

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